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Port of Seattle and Seattle Aquarium Collaborate to Restore Kelp Forests in Elliott Bay

Project will study and map urban kelp forests throughout Seattle Harbor this summer
April 26, 2022

The Port of Seattle Commission approved a project for research being led by the Seattle Aquarium to study and map the presence of kelp forests along the urban waterfront of Elliott Bay as well as East and West Waterways of Seattle Harbor. The Commission championed funding to restore kelp forests in the Port’s 2022 budget.  The study will begin this summer with findings to be shared publicly early next year.

“Kelp forests are a foundation of the Salish Sea ecosystem, providing food, habitat and refuge for numerous species of fish, birds, and marine mammals,” said Fred Felleman, Port of Seattle Commissioner. “Kelp forests also absorb carbon from the atmosphere thereby helping to mitigate the impacts of ocean acidification. This collaboration between the Port and the Aquarium will increase our understanding of the conditions in which bull kelp exists in urban areas to better inform effective conservation and restoration efforts occurring throughout Puget Sound,” said Felleman.

“This partnership presents a unique opportunity to put the Seattle Aquarium’s expertise in kelp forest ecosystems, underwater survey techniques and technology to work to advance urban kelp forest restoration and is proud to partner with the Port of Seattle on this project,” said Dr. Erin Meyer, Director of Conservation Programs and Partnerships at the Seattle Aquarium. “Our highly qualified staff will use the latest research technology, including a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), to gather data translate results, and raise greater public awareness around kelp restoration.”

“We welcome the Port-Aquarium partnership as part of the much broader efforts to understand, conserve and recover critical kelp forests throughout the Puget Sound,” said Jodie Toft, Deputy Director of Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

The Blue2 underwater ROV isits ready on a pier in Elliott Bay The Blue2 underwater ROV is one tool used to study the kelp forests in Elliott Bay in Seattle
This underwater Blue2 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is one tool that will be used to study the kelp forests in Elliott Bay.

Urban kelp beds will be studied using a novel combination of an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and artificial intelligence along with scuba to characterize these critically important kelp forests and inform future restoration and/or enhancement efforts. The work will document urban kelp abundance and distribution while deepening our understanding of the environmental drivers of these kelp forests.

The project will survey in and around existing kelp beds utilizing the Aquarium’s Blue2 ROV to create additional subtidal monitoring sites for kelp in designated areas, and utilize existing spatially-fixed subtidal monitoring sites and tools, such as the King County water quality monitoring stations, to measure physical parameters that may influence kelp abundance. The information collected will help develop an understanding of the ecological structure of urban kelp forests as well as their potential contribution to coastal resilience and inform public engagement work focused on kelp.


Peter McGraw | Port of Seattle Media Officer
(206) 787-3446 |

Photos used courtesy of the Seattle Aquarium.

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