Remembering Ken Balcomb and his extraordinary life with killer whales

Share

I’m still adjusting to the world of killer whales without Ken Balcomb. Ken, who died Dec. 15 at age 82, was a constant presence throughout my career as an environmental reporter. His presence inspired many others among the so-called “killer whale community,” made of experts, observers and those who simply love and follow the stories of our beloved orcas. Ken, who I called the dean of killer whale research, founded the Center for Whale Research and established an amazing 46-year record of every birth and death among the Southern Resident […]

The quest continues for a nutrient reduction plan

Share

The quest continues for a large-scale plan to reduce human sources of nitrogen and improve the health of Puget Sound. This article is part of the Puget Sound Institute’s effort to explore the technical uncertainties related to the science of Puget Sound water quality. The project, jointly funded by King County and PSI, includes online workshops and discussions, along with informational blogs and articles. By Christopher Dunagan Human sources of nitrogen in Puget Sound have been blamed for increasing the intensity of algae blooms, lowering oxygen to critical levels, and […]

A network of computer models is predicting the future of Puget Sound

Share

A new $4.8 million dollar project led by the Puget Sound Institute links together a series of computer models to explore future scenarios across the watershed. Some of Puget Sound’s biggest concerns hold the greatest uncertainties.  Will we have clean water? Can the ecosystem sustain species like endangered salmon? How can the region continue to grow and still maintain healthy habitats for wildlife and people? What, in other words, is the future of Puget Sound? No one can travel through time to answer these questions firsthand (science has its limits), […]

As winter approaches, salmon and orcas are still a commanding presence

Share

With salmon and orcas still on the move and facing ever-changing weather conditions, I thought it might be time for a brief update to my blog post of Nov. 21. At the time of the last report, the Puget Sound region had gone through a 13-day dry spell, which followed a period of brief and limited precipitation. Low stream flows were making it tough for chum and coho salmon to go upstream when they should have been at their peak of spawning. Many unfortunate fish were dying before they could […]

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

Share

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 the whales feed upon in the fall, appeared to be on a stop-and-go migration schedule because of the unusual rainfall pattern. And, as always, the activities of people must be noted within this ecological context. […]

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

Share

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 violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in its approval of salmon harvests in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery. That fishery harvests Chinook salmon originating from streams as far south as […]

Event celebrates the anniversary of the Clean Water Act and new funding for Puget Sound

Share

It could have been mistaken for a foggy morning along the waterfront, but the occasional coughs and burning eyes among the crowd of 60 or so people gathered here last Wednesday told a different story. Like much of the Northwest, Tacoma was shrouded in a haze of smoke from a spate of forest fires giving it and its neighbor Seattle the dubious distinction of having some of the worst air quality in the world, topping places like Delhi and Beijing. A group of policymakers, tribal leaders and elected officials were […]

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

Share

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 in Vancouver, British Columbia, to share their preliminary findings and to brainstorm the next steps in a collaborative effort to solve some of the great mysteries of Pacific salmon. Researchers from multiple countries provided wide-ranging […]

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

Share

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 declining from 98 animals the past 25 years. The births of J59 last February and K45 in May have been widely reported, along with the death of the much-loved K21, a 35-year-old male named Cappuccino. […]

Six things that people should know about ecosystem modeling and virtual experiments

Share

The Puget Sound Institute is facilitating a series of online workshops and discussions to explore the technical uncertainties related to the science of Puget Sound water quality. As part of the project, we are publishing informational blogs and articles, including this look at how computer models are becoming increasingly important to our understanding of the natural world. The project is jointly sponsored by King County and the Puget Sound Institute. By Christopher Dunagan If you are planning a hike, picnic or other outdoor activity, it might be wise to take a look at the local […]

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

Share

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 to studies. While a permanent solution may be years away, the first step at reducing predation at the bridge may be just around the corner, as construction crews prepare to fabricate a floating structure that […]

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

Share

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 surmount a rushing cascades. The filmmaker, Shane Anderson of Olympia, merges passion, culture and science in this documentary that premieres tomorrow on public television. The project culminates years of investigation and filming, as Shane follows […]