Puget Sound's 2,500 miles of shoreline bluffs, beaches, tidelands and estuaries are vital and vibrant. Ecologically, they are critical to the Sound's overall health. The shorelines provide a range of habitats and dynamic processes that support the Sound's far-reaching web of life. The shorelines are also important to people, connecting us to an inland sea that is at the heart of the region's cultural, social and economic identity.
However, Puget Sound's shorelines have been in decline for years, with thousands of acres contaminated by toxins, 75% of the Sound's salt marsh habitat destroyed, and one-third of the shoreline altered or engineered from its natural state. Only about 12% of the shoreline is accessible to most of the public. The quality and quantity of wildlife habitat along the shoreline has declined. Nine out of the 10 species listed by the federal government as endangered or threatened within the Puget Sound region use or inhabit the near shore environment. Even the health of orca whales, declared endangered in 2011, is connected to shorelines, because the shorelines are the basis for a food web that feeds salmon and, ultimately, orcas.
The region's economy is also affected by the Sound's decline. Between 1980 and 2011, nearly 30,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds have closed due to contamination. For these and other reasons, there is an urgent need to conserve Puget Sound shorelines.