Underwater In Smugglers Cove

 

On a blustery day in December, researchers from the Washington Department of Natural Resources and the Northwest Straits Foundation joined with Heritage Trust staff and volunteers at the Aiston Preserve to go underwater in Smugglers Cove.

Since the end of mining operations at the quarry, a patch of bull kelp has expanded just offshore. Was the kelp attached to the natural substrate or to large boulders that are part of the shoreline armoring from the mining operations? The Heritage Trust wanted to know if removing the armoring would negatively impact the kelp bed. After all, kelp serves as excellent habitat for fish and invertebrates.

The researchers spent several hours manipulating a remotely operated underwater vehicle or ROV to view and videotape the kelp bed. The ROV was lowered into the water and videos were made of the rocks and kelp. It was clear that the kelp was firmly attached to the large boulders. The videos also recorded eelgrass, Dungeness crab, pipefish, anemones, perch-like fish and even two sea stars. The videos will help the Trust decide how best to restore the shoreline at the Aiston Preserve while protecting the healthy kelp beds.

- Article and photos by Elizabeth Kilanowski
- Video footage by Chris Robertson, DNR Aquatic Restoration