Patrick McEvoy
| 04/08/2020 | Parks & Shorelines, Plan Your Trip/Chambers of Commerce |   

Where On Earth Is The Salish Sea?

Less than half of the people in Washington and British Columbia have heard of the Salish Sea, even though they live alongside it.

That’s according to a recent study conducted by the SeaDoc Society and Oregon State University. The study reveals that only 5 percent of people in Washington and 14 percent of British Columbians can identify the Salish Sea—the marine ecosystem that spans the United States-Canada border and includes both Seattle and Vancouver.

The study surveyed 2,405 residents of Washington and British Columbia to measure familiarity with the name and geography of the Salish Sea, which is home to more than 8 million people. It spans from Olympia, Washington in the south to Campbell River, British Columbia in the north and includes Puget Sound, Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“The results of this study are both fascinating and sobering,” said Markus Naugle, regional director of SeaDoc Society, which is part of the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. “With targeted efforts in education, outreach, and collaboration, we have a tremendous opportunity to make great strides towards our goal of ‘everyone asked knows the Salish Sea.’”

What’s in a name?

How residents identify with and understand a place can inform their behavior toward that place, including efforts to protect it.

The Salish Sea is home to two of the fastest growing cities in North America alongside a marine ecosystem that is home to many charismatic species. These include endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, whose population has dropped to just 75 individuals, and the Chinook salmon they depend on for survival.

“When you have a sense of place, when you know and care about it, you are more likely to feel connected to it and then take steps to help restore and protect it,” Naugle said.  

For survey results, see the rest of SeaDoc Society's article HERE!

The power of place

The study was administered by David Trimbach, a postdoctoral research associate with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. He is currently housed at the Puget Sound Partnership, a Washington state agency.

“Geographic literacy and place names matter, particularly when it comes to mobilizing communities and decision-makers around complex place-dependent problems,” Trimbach said. “If communities are not sharing place names or understandings of place itself, such problems may be more difficult to collectively communicate and solve. By highlighting the power and potential influence of place, this project adds to regional efforts to improve the Salish Sea ecosystem.”

Creatures Of The Sea

Learn about the creatures of the Salish Sea and how you can protect them!

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