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Our Water Ways

Puget Sound Institute senior writer Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related. As the very first environmental reporter for the Kitsap Sun, he has been a respected voice in the region for more than 25 years. He has been covering science-related stories for the Puget Sound Institute since 2015.


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Orca census shows some improvement, but many whales still die before their time (9/21/2021) - The annual census of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, submitted yesterday to the federal government, shows three births and one death from mid-2020 to mid-2021. Along with the new census report, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research sadly confirmed the death of L47, a 47-year-old female named Marina, who has been apparently …
Plunging into a jungle of weather statistics to find the footprints of climate change (9/16/2021) - “Augusts in Seattle are getting hotter, leading to a change of 3.5°F since 1970.” This was the sentence that caught my eye while reading an email from Peter Gerard, director of communications for Climate Central, an organization that prides itself on helping news reporters tell an accurate story of climate change. I wondered immediately: Is …
Discovery of tire-related chemical that kills coho salmon sparks widespread response (8/26/2021) - Scientists, legislators and manufacturers are responding in various ways to the recent groundbreaking discovery of a deadly chemical derived from automobile tires, a chemical that can rapidly kill coho salmon swimming in urban streams. Researchers are trying to better describe the chemical signature and biological function of the newfound chemical, 6PPD-quinone, along with related compounds. …
Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps? (7/13/2021) - The putrid smell of rotting shellfish on some beaches in Puget Sound and elsewhere along the West Coast were a clear sign that large numbers of clams, mussels, oysters and other intertidal creatures were killed from exposure to extreme low tides, record-breaking temperatures and a blazing hot sun. The total losses of shellfish that perished …
Young orcas appear to develop friendships, not unlike primates — including humans (7/1/2021) - UPDATE, FRIDAY, JULY 2: K pod arrived in the San Juan Islands yesterday, so the wait is over for the Southern Residents to arrive this summer. The whales came south through Rosario Strait yesterday morning, according to reports, and then they traveled along the south side of Lopez Island and over to the west side …
Puget Sound Partnership takes closer look at human well-being and environmental justice (6/21/2021) - Amid the struggle to save salmon and orcas and restore the Puget Sound ecosystem comes a renewed effort to consider not only how humans affect the environment but how the environment affects the lives of humans. The Puget Sound Partnership, which is overseeing the recovery of Puget Sound, has been developing a series of strategies …
Voluntary removal of BPA from food cans leaves state regulators with a key decision (6/10/2021) - As Washington state regulators contemplate a ban on the chemical BPA from food and drink cans, a manufacturers organization insists that BPA has already been removed voluntarily from nearly all food cans. Washington Department of Ecology is engaged in Phase 3 of the Safer Products for Washington program, which is evaluating five groups of chemicals …
Mercer Island student honored in national art contest for her painting of Arctic char (5/28/2021) - A 16-year-old Mercer Island High School artist, Jingyi “Alana” Yang, received multiple awards this month in the annual Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest, sponsored by the conservation group Wildlife Forever. Her painting showed an Arctic char in its natural cold-water surroundings. Alana said she was inspired to paint the colorful fish during a family …
As in a pandemic, the battle against invasive species may well depend on early actions (5/24/2021) - As Americans, we have become all too familiar with the spread of a deadly virus and the terrible consequences of a delayed response to an outbreak. As a result of our experience, I’m wondering if some of us might have a more visceral sense about the need to control invasive species. I’m not saying that …
A mile of shellfish beach near Hoodsport has been declared safe for harvesting (5/12/2021) - Efforts to clean up the waters near Hoodsport in southern Hood Canal are paying off with increased shellfish-harvesting opportunities for the Skokomish Tribe, private property owners and recreational harvesters. The final step in the cleanup effort involved tracking down sources of pollution, including eight failing septic systems, which then were either repaired or replaced. After …