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Ecology, EPA now under the gun to adopt new water quality criteria for aquatic creatures

Long delays in updating state water-quality standards to protect orcas, fish and other aquatic species appear to have finally caught up with the Washington Department of Ecology and its federal counterpart, the Environmental Protection Agency. In a court ruling this week, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman of Seattle found that Ecology has “abdicated its duties” …

Understanding the cold-water needs of salmon and helping them to survive

Salmon need cold water. This general statement is something I’ve been hearing since I first began reporting on these amazing migrating fish years ago. Cold water is a fact of life for salmon, known for their long travels up and down streams, out to saltwater and back. But colder is not always better. Questions about …

Modeling “the blob” in the Salish Sea

Map showing a marine heat wave known as "the blob" which spread across the northeastern Pacific Ocean from 2014 to 2016. Image: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory, Data: Coral Reef Watch

In late 2013, a marine heatwave that scientists dubbed “the blob” began warming the ocean throughout the Northeast Pacific, causing temperatures to rise almost 3°C above normal. The disruption severely depressed salmon returns. Whales, sea lions and seabirds starved, and warm water creatures were suddenly being spotted off the coast of Alaska. In Puget Sound, temperatures also jumped, but the effects of the blob …

Recovery of Puget Sound species could hinge on better understanding of ecosystems

A recent report from the Puget Sound Partnership helps us understand the difficulty of restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem. What caught my attention in the State of the Sound report was that after 20 years of protecting and restoring streams, wetlands, shorelines and estuaries, we have not increased overall fish and wildlife populations, and some …

Puget Sound fish and wildlife populations fall short of 10-year recovery goals

A final report on the 2020 ecosystem-recovery goals for Puget Sound outlines habitat improvements for some streams, shorelines and wetlands, but it also describes ongoing declines among fish and wildlife populations that use those habitats. The latest State of the Sound report, released this week by the Puget Sound Partnership, summarizes the status of 52 …

Puget Sound meets 2020 bulkhead-removal goal; new indicators will chart the future

In a turnabout that offers hope for Puget Sound’s nearshore ecosystem, old bulkheads are now being removed faster than new bulkheads are being constructed, according to permit figures provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In fact, officials with Puget Sound Partnership recently announced that the agency’s 2020 goal for reducing shoreline armoring …

Conference highlights latest findings on toxic chemical in tires

Stacked tires. Photo: Kool Cats Photography. https://flic.kr/p/ChFgxf (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The International Conference on Emerging Contaminants (EMCON), hosted virtually this month by the University of Washington, focused on newly identified threats from chemicals and microplastics in the environment. The conference provided an opportunity to hear the latest research on the discovery of a tire-related compound deadly to Puget Sound’s coho salmon. The cause of what scientists …

Orca census shows some improvement, but many whales still die before their time

The annual census of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, submitted yesterday to the federal government, shows three births and one death from mid-2020 to mid-2021. Along with the new census report, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research sadly confirmed the death of L47, a 47-year-old female named Marina, who has been apparently …