This policy applies to marine preserves owned by UW and under the management of UW FHL, specifically False Bay and Argyle Lagoon located on San Juan Island, and Parks Bay on Shaw Island. It is adopted in conformance with Washington Administrative Code.


Management of FHL marine preserves includes prohibition or limitation of certain activities as set forth below.


This policy is to protect UW False Bay, Argyle Lagoon and Parks Bay marine preserves. Preserves are established to help “protect and conserve fragile or unique habitats, species, and culturally historic sites, enhance fisheries abundance and biodiversity” (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). The UW Marine Preserves have the overarching goals of maintaining and restoring native biodiversity and ecosystem function, and facilitating education and research that is consistent with these goals. Preserves have many more specific functions. For example, they may: provide important nursery areas for crabs and other commercial species; protect natural processes by providing areas where organisms and their environment can interact in the ways for which they evolved, such as connectivity between terrestrial and marine habitats; and provide a baseline against which to measure the effects of activities outside them. Reasons for prohibiting or limiting specific activities and rules related to each are set forth below.


In 1923, the San Juan Archipelago was first designated a Marine Biological Preserve by the Washington state legislature, and the Director of the [UW] Marine Station was given responsibility for preservation of its marine resources. In 1969, the Washington legislature reiterated this control of “marine biological materials” to the Director of the UW FHL, except those gathered for human food, in the “salt waters and the beds and shores of the islands constituting San Juan County.” This regulation was updated in 2003. Collection of foodfish and shellfish in the County is under the jurisdiction of WDFW and is prohibited in the marine preserves.

UW owns the tidelands in a number of areas within the San Juan Archipelago, including the tidelands in False Bay (approximately 300 acres purchased at auction in 1974) and Argyle Lagoon and its saltwater creek (12.3 acres purchased in 1984 after leasing from a San Juan Island family since 1965). UW also owns tidelands along the south and western shore of Parks Bay, Shaw Island (2,315 linear feet). All of these properties have been managed as biological preserves since UW took ownership. In addition, False Bay and Argyle Lagoon became two of the five Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fisheries preserves established in 1990, known collectively as the “San Juan Islands Biological Preserves”; that portion of the WDFW Preserves at False Bay extends 500 yards offshore at the mouth of False Bay.

Prohibited/Limited Activities

(unless otherwise stated, all are applicable at each UW marine preserve)

1. No taking of any plants or animals or disruption of their habitats except for scientific purposes. This includes a prohibition on hunting in the preserves. It also includes such activities as digging in the sediment and trampling in any habitat. Collecting or disturbing marine organisms in their natural habitats is in contradiction to the preserve values described above and makes it impossible to conduct controlled observations and experiments.

2. No installing of structures (permanent or temporary) except for scientific purposes. Man-made structures (floats, anchors, sheds, beached boats, etc.) can disturb the sediment, shade the bottom, inadvertently trap mobile animals, or alter shoreline characteristics, all of which can affect organisms and natural processes. Bringing such structures or materials into preserves also creates an avenue for colonization of invasive species such as the cordgrass Spartina, which can permanently alter the ecological values of the preserves, and which then has to be removed at considerable cost.

3. No recreational boating or swimming in Argyle Lagoon, which is so small that human activities on the surface threaten the ecological integrity of this preserve. Argyle Lagoon is used as a calm-water resting and feeding habitat for numerous seabirds. These birds are scared off by any human presence on or in the water.

4. No dogs. Dogs running loose scare away the shorebirds that rely on places like False Bay as essential feeding and resting stops during migrations, as well as resident feeding and roosting birds such as herons, and mammals such as mink. Eagles and other protected species also forage on or at the edge of the bays. Young harbor seals are vulnerable to dogs when they are left unprotected on the shore while their mothers forage offshore for food. See also FHL Dog Policy adopted December 2016 for more details.

5. No drones, except for scientific or institutional purposes. UW policy on Airborne Vehicles may also apply where it does not otherwise conflict (policy is under development as of this date).

See these websites for more information:

WDFW – False Bay Marine Preserve
WDFW – Argyle Lagoon Marine Preserve
WAC 478-128-030 – Animal control

Adopted: December, 2016

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