Scott Mazzone, shellfish and marine biologist for the Quinault Indian Nation, and Melissa Minder, research associate and Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) database manager, work to inventory all the species of life in the plot on the Quinault Indian Nation reservation. Surveying the plot annually will help QIN establish a baseline of marine life and note changes.

For the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN), it is a grim truth that to protect the marine resources that sustain them, they must meticulously inventory those resources.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska graphically demonstrated the need to quantify baseline populations of marine and intertidal life. To accomplish the task, QIN and other tribal communities are using a common data-gathering method established by the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). MARINe is a partnership of agencies, universities and private groups committed to determining the health of the rocky intertidal habitat and providing this information to the public.

“QIN has been planning this kind of cataloging for years,” said Scott Mazzone, shellfish and marine biologist for QIN. MARINe has been conducting intertidal surveys for more than two decades, but has seen interest surge in using their methods to create a common method for collecting data. “What’s been really interesting is how the methods can be used by various entities to gather specific information that is of interest to them, but still contributes to overall inventory,” said Melissa Miner, research associate and MARINe database manager. She is also the Washington regional coordinator.

A 2-acre intertidal site south of the Raft River will allow QIN personnel to inventory a variety of species including sea stars, blue mussels and other sea life. By visiting the site once a year, Mazzone and QIN fisheries technicians can track the numbers of intertidal species and determine changes based on weather and ocean conditions.

“We’re also interested in climate change and its effects, but that’s a long-term study – decades really. But as the water gets warmer, we would expect to see mussels move higher up in the intertidal areas and see other southern species appearing,” Mazzone said. “As the ocean becomes more acidic, we would also expect to see fewer new barnacle sets because they have trouble forming shells.”

“QIN has been collecting some of this data for 25 years, but now we are doing it the same way as everyone else, and that makes it easier for everyone to share important information about the health of our marine resources,” said Mazzone.
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For more information, contact: Scott Mazzone, shellfish and marine biologist, Quinault Indian Nation, (360) 276-8215; Debbie Preston, coastal information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501, dpreston@nwifc.org