Skip to main content


September 22, 2020

Toxics in Fish report cover.">

New guidance for cleanup of toxics in Puget Sound

An EPA-funded team of scientists and other experts has completed draft recommendations for the future cleanup of toxic chemicals in Puget Sound. The group’s Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy addresses pollutants such as PCBs and a slew of emerging contaminants that can affect species throughout the waterway. The strategy will be available for public review […]

October 9, 2019

Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) swimming upstream. Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY-NC 2.0)">

‘Early migration gene’ tied to unique population of Chinook

By Christopher Dunagan, Puget Sound Institute Recent studies have shown that Chinook salmon that spawn in the spring are genetically distinct from varieties that spawn during fall months. Experts are confronting the resulting ecological, social and legal implications of that finding. Each year, as the dark days of winter surrendered to the rebirth of spring, […]

August 9, 2019

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. […]

May 17, 2019

A southern resident killer whale breaches in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of NOAA.">

Federal lawmakers optimistic about Puget Sound funding

By Christopher Dunagan WASHINGTON, D.C. — Optimism, as related to a possible increase in funding for Puget Sound recovery, permeated discussions this week, when 80 officials from the region met with lawmakers in the nation’s capitol. “It’s the first time in several years that we’ve actually been in a position to direct more money to […]

March 22, 2019

The research vessel Professor Kaganovsky. Photo courtesy of International Year of the Salmon.">

Salmon expedition reports unexpected findings

By Christopher Dunagan After five weeks at sea, a team of 21 scientists from five countries returned Monday with some surprising findings about the mysterious lives of salmon in the Pacific Ocean, according to Laurie Weitkamp, a salmon biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore. “It was quite an experience,” said Weitkamp, […]

February 4, 2019

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 […]

January 22, 2019

Tidal forest as viewed from an inner waterway of Otter Island in the Snohomish River estuary. Photo: Jeff Rice/PSI">

The lost tidal forests of Puget Sound

Hundreds of years ago, old-growth cedar and spruce loomed over estuaries and bottom lands throughout Puget Sound, creating what are known as tidal forests. These forests were the Pacific Northwest’s answer to the Everglades — giant spongy swamps with a touch of saltwater that made up some of the finest salmon habitat in the region. […]

November 30, 2018

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, […]

November 16, 2018

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 […]

August 10, 2018

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 […]