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 until October 16th after which it may be revised and submitted to the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council for approval. The Washington State Department of Ecology is co-developing the strategy with the Department of Commerce […]
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, the Twana people earnestly waited for a unique type of salmon to return to the rushing rivers of Tuwa’duxq Si’dak, known today as Hood Canal. Throughout the Northwest, bands of native people followed their own […]
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. But is the drop in their numbers the result of a lack of Chinook? It is an increasing matter of debate among scientists. By Jeff Rice, Puget Sound Institute As the population of southern resident […]
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 Puget Sound programs,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, during one of many “Puget Sound Day on the Hill” meetings. With Democrats now in control of the House, they can draft a budget that […]
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, one of three chief scientists aboard the Russian research vessel Professor Kaganovsky. The groundbreaking studies of the past month became intertwined with the mixture of cultures from the international research team including the Russian captain […]
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 with medical care for distressed animals in the wild. Medical intervention has become routine for some endangered mammals, but scientists say Puget Sound’s resident orcas present a series of unique challenges and ethical questions. In […]
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. This week we travel to Otter Island, one of the last of these forests. It is a journey into Puget Sound’s past and maybe, scientists hope, its future. Read the full story in Salish Sea […]
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, the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to impose more stringent water-quality standards than those approved by Washington state. Now a petition from industry groups is causing the EPA to review its earlier stance. For years, […]
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 74 animals. “The extinction of these orcas would be an unacceptable loss,” reads the report, which identifies a wide variety of potential actions that will require extensive funding and long-term commitment on the part of […]
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 of Chinook salmon to help feed the whales. But it is becoming uncomfortably clear that there are no easy answers, no “silver bullet,” as the task force heads toward the finish line for drafting an […]
The story of Puget Sound’s starving resident orcas has come into dramatic focus over the past two weeks. As the world watches an orca grieve for her dead calf, and tribes and federal agencies prepare to try to feed a dangerously emaciated three-year-old orca in Jpod, we look at how the lack of Chinook salmon is exacerbating the effects of toxic chemicals on these whales, creating a deadly one-two punch. Read the story from Bob Friel in Salish Sea Currents.
Chemicals, disease and other stressors can increase a salmon’s chance of being eaten or reduce its ability to catch food. We wrap up our series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project with a look at some of the lesser-known, but still significant factors contributing to salmon declines in the Salish Sea. Read the story in Salish Sea Currents.