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Author: Christopher Dunagan

Low rainfall leads to an odd and changing year for salmon, killer whales and people

It has been an interesting year for observing the behavior of Southern Resident killer whales, chum salmon and humans in the Puget Sound region. Weather played a significant role. Two weeks ago, all three pods of endangered orcas spent four days together in Puget Sound, something we have not seen in years. Chum salmon, which …

Lawsuit seeks to block Southeast Alaska troll fishing to increase salmon for orcas

How much should Alaskan fishing be curtailed to provide more food for the endangered Southern Resident killer whales? It is an important question, enmeshed in conflicting federal priorities and provoked by a lawsuit brought by Wild Fish Conservancy, a Seattle-based conservation group. A federal court ruled in August that the National Marine Fisheries Service had …

Scientists dig into massive data collected during international high-seas expedition

Questions about where salmon go and how they survive when traveling far out into the Pacific Ocean have puzzled scientists for 200 years. But a new vision for piecing together this intricate puzzle has begun to emerge, thanks to sophisticated research tools deployed during an international expedition this past winter. Last week, scientists got together …

Killer whale census shows another down year, with three deaths and two births

Three deaths and two births. Over the past year, the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population has declined by a total of one, according to the annual census report submitted yesterday by the Center for Whale Research. Now the number of whales in all three pods stands at 73, down from 74 last year and …

Add-on structure will begin to address steelhead crisis at the Hood Canal Bridge

The Hood Canal Bridge, which connects the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, has proven to be a dangerous impediment to juvenile steelhead trout. As many as half of the young migratory steelhead in Hood Canal may get picked off by seals, birds and other predators as the fish try to pass under the floating highway, according …

New film about spring Chinook delves into history, culture and science in unique habitats

A new film, titled “The Lost Salmon,” opens with a video montage that takes us through some wondrous scenes: A wide aerial shot of California’s majestic Salmon River, moving to an underwater view of salmon swimming through the clear water and then to an action spectacle of wild salmon practically flying through the air to …

New orca calf confirmed amid serious health concerns and actions to protect the whales

A surprise visit by K pod on Saturday near Vancouver Island led to the official confirmation of a new orca calf born into the Southern Resident killer whale community. The new calf, designated K45, is the second baby born to the Southern Residents this year, as recorded by the Center for Whale Research, which maintains …

Green crabs in Hood Canal raise questions about invasion; further response is coming

For the past six years, a volunteer crew has been diligently visiting Nick’s Lagoon near Seabeck on Hood Canal, checking the waters for the destructive European green crab. The three citizen scientists have caught and released lots of native crabs — including thousands of hairy shore crabs. But, until May of this year, they never …

BPA toxicity debate approaches regulatory decisions at both state and federal levels

As Washington state authorities get ready to ban the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from drink cans and customer sales receipts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has agreed to take a fresh look at the potential dangers of BPA. Washington Department of Ecology has issued its “Regulatory Determinations to the Legislature,” which specifies that safer …

New Puget Sound Action Agenda will include revised ‘targets’ to express recovery goals

UPDATE, TUESDAY, MAY 17 / WEDNESDAY, MAY 18 Environmental review has been completed for the draft 2022-2026 Puget Sound Action Agenda, and the Puget Sound Partnership announced a public comment period for the SEPA checklist (PDF 818 kb) and determination of nonsignificance (PDF 134 kb), as required by the State Environmental Policy Act. Comments will …

Governor’s renewed salmon strategy faces decisive period in the current Legislature

State legislation designed to enhance salmon habitat by requiring protective buffers along streams has been set aside pending further discussions over the coming year. Meanwhile, several other salmon-protection measures proposed by the governor could move forward with decisive funding from the Legislature. The buffer bill (HB 1838), named the Lorraine Loomis Act, would prohibit degradation …

North Pacific expedition gets underway aboard four ocean-going research ships

A North Pacific research expedition is underway, with projects said to be bigger, bolder and more scientifically sophisticated than cruises in 2019 and 2020. Four research vessels carrying more than 60 scientists from various countries will span out across the Pacific Ocean to increase their understanding of salmon — including migration, environmental stresses, availability of …