Leading a local community in appreciating, understanding, and protecting birds and their natural habitats.




Shell Discontinues Drilling in the Arctic

Seattle Audubon celebrates Shell’s decision to discontinue its Arctic drilling program. We firmly believe that the conservation community’s commitment to making our voices heard had a significant impact on Shell’s decision. Many people stepped up on this issue, including: kayaktivists in Seattle and Portland, Seattle Audubon and our partners in the litigation against the Port of Seattle, and the many citizens who voiced their opinions to local media. Our combined efforts had great effect!

Shell may be pulling out of the Arctic, but their leased vessels, including the massive Polar Pioneer drilling rig, will likely be returning to Seattle this fall for maintenance. We are still involved in local litigation efforts to protect Puget Sound by requiring the Port of Seattle to follow existing laws regarding public process and environmental review.

Photo Credit: Glen Tepke

Seattle Audubon continues in our efforts to block Shell's use of the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5. Along with our original partners in this fight--Washington Environmental Council, Sierra Club, and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance--we have appealed the July 31, 2015 dismissal of our case against the Port of Seattle. Earthjustice has filed this appeal to the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division I. Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman will once again be arguing this case for us.

While appealing this case may not prevent the Polar Pioneer's return to Terminal 5 this year, we do want to keep the focus on the Port's and Shell's subversion of public process, and on the environmental dangers posed to the Arctic and to Puget Sound by these vessels. 

Earthjustice filed the appeal on behalf of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Washington Environmental Council, the Sierra Cub and Seattle Audubon to the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division 1. 

"The Port of Seattle is supposed to be accountable to the public, but it has continually shut the public out of the process. The Port has circumvented the permitting and environmental review processes it is supposed to follow," said Earthjustice Staff Attorney Patti Goldman.

"We are compelled to resort to this appeal because of our ongoing concern for the health of Puget Sound. The lack of public process and environmental review by the Port creates concern that grave harm will come to these birds, whales, and other marine life in our waters from these oil industry vessels. We have no choice but to continue speaking to wildlife that cannot speak for itself," said Brian Windrope, Executive Director of Seattle Audubon.




King County Superior Judge Douglass North ruled on July 31, 2015 that the Port of Seattle was acting appropriately when it bypassed an environmental review and allowed Shell Oil's lease of Terminal 5. Seattle Audubon disagrees with this ruling and is discussing possible next steps - including an expedited appeal - with our partners in litigation: Washington Environmental Council (WEC), Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, and the Sierra Club.

Seattle Audubon continues to be very concerned about the risk of oil and chemical spills from these vessels, both while they are in the Arctic and also when they are in transit to and berthed here in central Puget Sound. If you have questions or comments about the litigation, please contact info@seattleaudubon.org.

On March 2, 2015, Seattle Audubon joined a coalition of conservation organizations to file a lawsuit against the Port of Seattle and the Port Commissioners, challenging the Port’s entry into a lease with Foss Maritime to open Terminal 5 to Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet without public proceedings or environmental review. Earthjustice filed the challenge on behalf of Seattle Audubon Society, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, The Sierra Club, and Washington Environmental Council.  

The lawsuit charged that the lease would change the use of Terminal 5 by converting it into a homeport for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet, which will need extensive maintenance and repairs after being battered in Arctic conditions. The lawsuit also charged that the Port has violated its long-range plans and its shoreline permit, which designate Terminal 5 as a cargo terminal, not a homeport and that it needed to conduct a public review of the environmental and community impacts of making this change. The coalition asked the court to vacate the lease because the Port violated the State Environmental Policy Act, its own rules, and the Shoreline Management Act.

The Seattle Audubon Puget Sound Recovery Program focuses on improving the health of this large estuary, which supports over 100 seabird species, 211 fish species, and 13 marine mammal species. Seattle Audubon is focused on promoting an ecologically healthy Puget Sound by advocating for oil and chemical spill contamination prevention, objecting to increased oil transport and terminal development, promoting watershed protection, and implementing proactive seabird monitoring through the Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS). Should an oil spill occur, the PSSS will provide baseline data for seabirds from 134 sites around the Puget Sound. Members of Seattle Audubon also engage in bird watching and other recreational and aesthetic pursuits in and around Puget Sound.

Allowing Terminal 5 (in Elliot Bay) to serve as a home port for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet may result in oil and chemical pollution due to the transit, transport, berthing, and maintenance of weathered, damaged, and contaminated oil industry vessels and equipment. Many migratory and breeding bird species that are already in decline use our waters as their homes and are at great risk from oil and other pollutants. By proceeding with this lease without environmental review and public engagement, the Port denied Seattle Audubon and its members the ability to help shape this decision. This is extremely troubling given how much work has been done to improve the health of Puget Sound and of the Duwamish Waterway.

On January 28, 2015, SAS signed on to a letter to the Port asking the Commissioners to reconsider their decision to proceed with an interim lease to Foss Maritime without complying with SEPA. In a letter to Earthjustice on February 11, Port CEO, Theodore Flick, stated that the Port had proceeded with leasing Terminal 5 to Foss Maritime, effective immediately. On March 2, the coalition organizations filed a lawsuit against the Port of Seattle and the Port Commissioners.

View the Seattle Audubon Society Board Resolution "Opposing Leasing of Port of Seattle Terminal Space to Oil Industry".

View Press Release for lawsuit.



42 Seabird Species: observed at six survey sites around Elliot Bay from 2007 – 2015

Survey Sites: Magnolia Bluff; Myrtle Edwards Park; Pier 70; Pier 57; Elliot Bay Water Taxi Pier; Duwamish Head

1 State and Federally Threatened Species: Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

6 Puget Sound Partnership Indicator Species for Puget Sound Health and Recovery: Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus); Rhinocerous auklet  (Cerorhinca monocerata); Pigeon guillemot (Cepphus columba); Surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata); White-winged scoter (Melanitta fusca); Black scoter (Melanitta Americana)

Oiled birds face several life-threatening issues. Birds rely on the interconnecting barbs of their feathers for waterproofing and insulation. Oil greatly compromises this feather structure, making temperature regulation, floating, and foraging more difficult. Birds that are not rescued for rehabilitation can die from hypothermia, drowning, an inability to escape predators, and toxicity due to oil ingestion from preening.


VOLUNTEER with the Puget Sound Seabird Survey: Participate in this program to monitor seabirds from one of 134 sites within the Puget Sound.


Seattle Audubon is nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Copyright Seattle Audubon.