Voluntary No-Anchor Zones

Port Townsend is a very popular destination for pleasure boaters in Washington's inland waters. During boating season, the nearshore area adjacent to the downtown waterfront is heavily used as an anchorage. It is also home to a flourishing, ecologically rich eelgrass bed. Jefferson MRC helps protect this eelgrass bed and two others by preventing significant damage from boat anchors.

Eelgrass beds provide critically important habitat for salmon, crab, invertebrates and other marine life. Juvenile salmon and other small marine organisms rely on eelgrass beds as places to hide from predators and to feed. Pacific herring lay their eggs directly on the plant's leaves. Crabs, nudibranchs, flatfish, gunnels and pipefish are some of the many species that call these habitats home. Damage to eelgrass beds affect threatened salmon, waterfowl, shellfish, and other animals, as well as the stability of our shorelines. Damage from anchoring is easy to see when vessels pull up anchors weighted with plants and mud.

Eelgrass Protection in Voluntary No-Anchor Zones


Outreach efforts include using on-line navigation apps such as ActiveCaptain which shows boaters where navigational hazards might be encountered and interpretive signs on docks, that visitors will see when they come ashore. The messages explain the importance of eelgrass and requests for voluntary compliance by anchoring outside the buoys. 

Protecting Shellfish Beds

The success of the project led to new voluntary no-anchor zone projects that protect shellfish harvest areas (and eelgrass beds) in Mystery Bay and Port Hadlock. There, large numbers of temporary boat-anchoring activities threatened closure of commercial shellfish beds as well as damaging nearby eelgrass beds. The success of these projects was the result of extensive collaborations with WA Dept of Health, Jefferson County, WA Dept of Natural Resources, Port of Port Townsend and others. 

Monitoring & Maintenance

Vessel monitoring over the last 15 years tells us that the marker buoys and outreach succeeded in achieving over 98% compliance within the no anchor zone along the waterfront. We continue to maintain these marker buoys to protect important marine habitats. A number of marine species such as barnacles, kelp and mussels attach themselves to the anchor lines, weighing down the buoys. These need to be removed periodically to keep the buoys floating high in the water.

Marine "fouling" on buoy anchor lines.
Regular maintenance is required.
Voluntary No-Anchor Zones