Thursday, November 5, 2009


SALISH SEA: First proposed in 1990 as the official name for the grouping of Puget Sound, Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca. Salish refers to the Salishan languages spoken by many of the tribes in the area, collectively referred to as Coast Salish peoples.

The SALISH SEA is defined as extending from the north end of the Strait of Georgia to the southern extent of the Puget Sound. An area approximately 200 miles long north to south. Those of us who are sailors know these waters as Budd Inlet to Desolation Sound. The east / west portions of this newly designated sea is the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the eastern navigational reaches of the Fraser River Valley. This area includes the inland marine waters of northern Washington, USA and southern British Columbia, Canada.

Geographical locations in the defined area of the Salish Sea include the watershed of the lower Fraser River Delta and the Puget Lowlands as well as the Hood Canal, the Tacoma Narrows and Deception Pass along with the Gulf and San Juan Islands. Parts of Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula are included in the watershed areas. According to recent census over 7 million people live within the immediate watershed of the Salish Sea. Those communities include; Vancouver, Seattle, Victoria, Tacoma, Olympia, Nanaimo, Bellingham, Everett and many smaller ports of call.

I first heard the term of the Salish Sea when speaking with sailing friends several years ago. Slowly over the last few years the name has appeared on the internet, in different blog sites and marine activity sites. The Orca Network uses the term Salish Sea Orcas when describing the local pods of killer whales. The road to adding the name The Salish Sea, similar to the geographic name of the Great Lakes, was a long one. Nearly twenty years ago a Mr. Bert Webber of Bellingham proposed that Washington's and British Columbia's inland waters be jointly called the Salish Sea, a name that would supplement, but not replace, the names of Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait. At that time the Washington State Board of Geographic Names turned him down then, saying there was no interest or support for the idea.

During mid May, 2009 the board decided that Webber's newly submitted proposal was at least worth further public discussion. Webber, a retired professor of marine ecology at Western Washington University argued that the inland sea is made up of the sound and the two straits and is ecologically separate from the Pacific Ocean. Applying a common name connects the nature of this area, and reminds people in both countries of the Pacific NW that cross-border approaches are needed when dealing with salmon, pollution, water quality and other marine issues. Furthermore Webber represented that the name acknowledges the Salish tribes, the original inhabitants of this area.

The Washington State Board on Geographic Names voted on October 30th 2009 5 to 1 in favor of adding Salish Sea as an approved name for the body of water encompassing Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia and the many watery connections in between. It is a locality name embraced by citizens, legislatures, cartographers and the alliance of Coast Salish Tribal and First Nation leaders.
Board members approved the name to acknowledge the ecological continuum that spans the international boundary between Canada and the United States.

See you on the Salish Sea...

More info:
Here a access to a much larger version of the map I'm using here:

From the DNR publication 'Ear to the Ground':