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A southern resident killer whale hunts a Chinook salmon. Photograph courtesy of NOAA.

Are the orcas starving? Scientists say it’s not that simple

The reported deaths this week of three more southern resident orcas have brought renewed urgency to efforts to save the critically endangered population of whales. Many scientists and policymakers are focusing on the orcas’ access to their main source of food, the Chinook salmon. Members of the orca population are appearing dangerously thin and malnourished. …

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Salish Sea toxics synthesis report

The Puget Sound Institute’s Andy James is the corresponding editor of a 2019 report on monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea. The report  from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program covers a range of case studies including the occurrence of microplastics and pharmaceuticals in shellfish, PCBs in river otters and new findings …

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 …