Stories in Washington

Two-Minute Takeaway: Where Is the Salish Sea?

People in two canoes paddle amidst fog toward a forested coastline.
Paddle to Nisqually Northwest tribal canoes paddling at sunrise, Salish Sea, Washington. © Joel Rogers /

Welcome to the Two-Minute Takeaway, a quick explanation of scientific terms and concepts we use regularly in conservation.

Just as currents and tides know no man-made borders, neither do ecosystems. What the Coast Salish and neighboring Indigenous tribes have stewarded for generations, we know today as the Salish Sea. Composed of waters tucked alongside the Pacific Ocean, adjacent to British Columbia in Canada and Washington state in the United States, this unified sea encompasses the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia.

Map of the Salish Sea.
Salish Sea A map of the Salish Sea. © Erika Simek Sloniker/TNC

A defining feature of the Salish Sea is the interaction between salt water from the Pacific Ocean and fresh water from rivers that flow from the surrounding watersheds. This confluence produces a rich and diverse biological web that is robust, yet under stress. Overfishing, pollution and invasive species are among the many threats to the Salish Sea and the myriad communities that rely on it. Only through a cohesive and collaborative understanding of this unique ecosystem can we best work together to improve and safeguard its health.