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February 12, 2024

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The words ‘in common with’ were pivotal to Judge Boldt’s ruling on Native American fishing rights

Three common words and their legal interpretation a half-century ago helped set the stage for a cultural revival among Native Americans while propelling an environmental movement that still resonates today in Washington state. It was 50 years ago today that U.S. District Judge George Boldt handed down his landmark ruling, which resolved the meaning of […]


November 21, 2023

A carcass of a female coho salmon affected by the toxic chemical 6PPD-quinone in stormwater runoff in Seattle's Longfellow Creek. This salmon died before spawning, retaining nearly 100 percent of its eggs. Source: Tiffany Linbo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. | GAO-24-105687">

GAO report calls for strengthening of regulations on nonpoint source pollution

By Sarah DeWeerdt A new report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) is renewing calls to strengthen Clean Water Act protections against nonpoint source pollution such as stormwater and agricultural runoff.  The recommendation echoes findings made by the GAO in 2013 when it called for Congress to revise “largely voluntary” regulations for nonpoint pollution sources that […]

November 8, 2023

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Puget Sound ecosystem holding on, but recovery remains uncertain, says latest status report

Efforts to restore ecological health to Puget Sound have largely failed to meet recovery goals, yet fish and wildlife populations are still hanging on, according to a new report that describes many struggling populations as neither increasing nor decreasing to a significant extent. The latest State of the Sound report, released last week by the […]

June 28, 2023

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Prey and predators create varying life-or-death conditions for salmon, as shown with Atlantis model

This article is the latest in a series about computer models and their uses within the Puget Sound ecosystem. As scientists uncover more and more information about a particular ecosystem, computer modelers are often eager to put that raw data to good use in complex models tuned to local conditions. One highly acclaimed model, called […]

June 23, 2023

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Southeast Alaska troll fishing restored for this year by court of appeals pending full legal review

Fishing in Southeast Alaska by the commercial troll-fishing fleet will not be cancelled this year, as ordered by a Seattle judge, thanks to a last-minute ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Considerations for the economic damage that would be caused by shutting down the Alaskan fishery outweigh the “speculative environmental threats” that […]

June 8, 2023

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Health of killer whales examined through Bayesian network modeling and informed predictions

Qualitative network modeling, as shown in the previous post in Our Water Ways, is focused on actions that create either positive or negative results for actors in the model. This modeling approach is useful for considering the possible outcomes triggered by various actions, especially when data are lacking to develop mathematical relationships between the actors. […]

May 11, 2023

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Shutdown looms for Alaska summer troll fishery; court order aims to provide more salmon for orcas

Southern Resident killer whales, which frequent Puget Sound, are expected to benefit from more Chinook salmon later this year, as expressed in a court order calling for the suspension of a major troll fishery in Southeast Alaska. Alaska state officials are dismayed by the ruling, saying that closing this commercial fishery would have a devastating […]

December 10, 2022

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

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 […]

November 21, 2022

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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 […]