Port Gamble Bay once was home to one of the largest herring populations in Puget Sound, a forage fish that is vital to the marine ecosystem.
These forage fish are considered an indicator of the overall health of the marine environment. They are known for preferring nearshore areas containing vegetation and bay inlets, with priority habitat in sheltered bays.
However, from 1972 to 2012, the herring stock status in Port Gamble Bay went from healthy to depressed, with 50 percent of the herring spawning areas either modified or armored by 2014, according to the 2016 State of Our Watersheds, recently released by the treaty tribes in Western Washington.
The graph below shows the stock decline levels from 1990 to 2015 in Port Gamble Bay.
The concern is that development and other anthropogenic impacts within these bays will continue to remove healthy habitat for herring, especially with the unknown consequences of climate change. Also, because of high contaminant levels from the old mill site in Port Gamble Bay, a recent study shows that Pacific herring embryos survived significantly better outside the Port Gamble Bay than inside.