Bull Kelp Monitoring

Bull Kelp Monitoring

Bull kelp (Nereocystis leukteana) is the largest species of brown algae native to our region. This fast growing seaweed can grow as much as 60 feet in length in a single year and is an important part of the rocky inter tidal ecosystem of the Salish Sea.  Bull kelp provides a protective habitat for a number of species in the Puget Sound. Animals critical to the food web, such as herring, use bull kelp forests for protection and food during certain life stages.


Working in partnership with the Northwest Straits Commission, the Whatcom MRC conducts annual boat-based surveys of selected bull kelp canopies during low-tide events between July-September.  Using handheld GPS units and kayaks, volunteers map the perimeter of the beds and collect additional data such as water temperatures and bed depth estimates to provide valuable information on the status of bull kelp along the Whatcom County shoreline. The data is shared with the Northwest Straits Commission for comparison with similar information collected by other MRC counties.

Northwest Straits Initiative - Surveying Kelp from Transect Films on Vimeo.

Whatcom MRC Kelp Survey Sites

The MRC uses a standard protocol developed by the Northwest Straits Commission to simply and reliably monitor changes is existing kelp beds.  You can view data from each of the kelp beds surveyed at the links below.

Data graphics developed by: Leah Robison, Northwest Straits Commission



Photo by Jim Ramaglia
Bull Kelp Monitoring