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Six-month-old Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) seed. Photo: Benjamin Drummond/benjandsara.com

Return of a native: Olympia oysters are making a comeback

Prior to European settlement, dense assemblages of Olympia oysters covered as many as 20,000 acres, or 26.7% of Puget Sound’s intertidal zone. Today they occupy about 5% of their original range, prompting a slew of state and federally-funded restoration efforts. Sarah DeWeerdt reports on the comeback of Puget Sound’s only native oyster for our magazine …

Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Scientists from five countries seek out the secrets of salmon

The international salmon expedition will try to find out why so many salmon go out into the Pacific Ocean and never return. By Christopher Dunagan An international team of 21 scientists will embark Sunday on a wintry expedition that could help untangle some of the greatest mysteries surrounding Pacific salmon: Where do these migrating fish …

Scientists collect breath samples of an orca using a long pole with petri dishes attached at the end. Photo: Pete Schroeder

The Orca Docs: When should medical experts intervene to save a killer whale?

This week we present “The Orca Docs,” a two-part series from our senior writer Christopher Dunagan. The series focuses on some of the issues related to proposed medical intervention for Puget Sound’s endangered orcas. The death of a young female orca in September has sparked a discussion of how and whether scientists should step in …

Toxic pollution accumulates in Puget Sound's salmon, spurring debate over recommended fish consumption rates. Chinook salmon fillets photographed by pui wong {as*q}. Cerative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Debate over water quality standards takes a new turn

Many people thought the issue of regulating toxic chemical discharges into Puget Sound was settled when the federal government forced Washington state to use stricter criteria, but the debate may be underway once again. By Christopher Dunagan An unlikely disagreement between state and federal authorities over water-quality standards has flared up again. Two years ago, …

Southern resident killer whale breaching. Image courtesy of NOAA

Orca task force releases recommendations

By Jeff Rice The governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force released its final report and recommendations today, focusing on three key threats to Puget Sound’s endangered orcas: Lack of food, disturbance from noise and vessel traffic, and toxic contaminants. In all, the report makes 36 recommendations for recovering the fast-declining orca population, which now stands at …

Killer whale with calf. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Task force narrows list of ideas to save killer whales from extinction

By Christopher Dunagan The term “no silver bullet” has been heard again and again as dozens of experts from throughout the state examine ideas that might help avoid extinction for Puget Sound’s beloved orcas. The Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, created by the governor, is considering short-term actions — such as increasing hatchery production …