20th Annual MRC Conference

By Julia Luna, Communications Specialist

With the Strait of Juan de Fuca to one side and a spectacular view of Puget Sound and Whidbey Island to the other, Fort Worden provided the perfect location for the 20th Annual Marine Resources Committee Conference. The recent two-day conference convened 180 people, committed to protecting the waters of the Salish Sea, to learn, socialize, and share the many successes from the last year.

View of the sunrise at Fort Worden.

The seven Marine Resource Committees (MRCs) are county-based committees composed of local citizen scientist volunteers appointed by local elected officials and dedicated to preserving local marine resources. Each MRC has identified specific actions to undertake that reflect local ecosystem recovery priorities in their respective areas.

The conference kicked off with short success stories from each of the MRCs. One standout presentation came from the Snohomish County MRC. They piloted the MyCoast smartphone application, which allows citizen scientists to photograph, and document shoreline changes from tides and storms. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has adopted the use of MyCoast to create reports to make better-informed decisions about shoreline recovery. To see all of the presentations, click here.

Sheida Sahandy speaking about the Task Force recommendations

During the first morning of the conference, Governor Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force released its recommendations to the public at a press conference in Seattle. Meanwhile, at the MRC conference, the Partnership’s Executive Director and task force member, Sheida Sahandy, provided conference attendees with an update on the recommendations as part of a panel about Southern Resident orcas in Puget Sound. Dr. Joe Gaydos, of the SeaDoc Society, and Dr. Frances Robertson, of the San Juan MRC, also participated on the panel, providing scientific expertise, describing new research, and offering insight on the Southern Resident situation.

LEFT: Conference attendees peruse MRC presentations. RIGHT: Senator Kevin Ranker give keynote address.

A definite highlight of the two-day event was the keynote speech given by Washington State Senator, Kevin Ranker. He spoke at length about not “wasting a crisis” (full presentation here). Southern Resident orcas became the focus of international attention when the J-pod orca, Talequah (also known as J35), very publicly mourned the death of her newborn calf for 17 days last summer. Couple that with the state of climate change globally, and the future can look quite depressing. But Senator Ranker delivered an inspiring speech about seeing our situation as an opportunity, not a death sentence.

Sheida Sahandy put it nicely when she was addressing the conference, “I always leave this conference feeling inspired and refreshed.” There is no “silver bullet” to ecosystem recovery, she said, and the work that we do with our partners can sometimes move slowly, but taking the time to celebrate successes and progress at the 20th Anniversary MRC Conference gave everyone the opportunity to take a step back and see all that’s been accomplished over the past two decades.