Northern elephant seals were hunted heavily in the 19th century and believed to be extinct by 1892. However, a small remnant population (~50–100 animals) off the western coast of Mexico grew to populations in the United States and Mexico to at least 220,000 individuals as of 2010. Elephant seals are distributed in the central and eastern North Pacific Ocean, from as far north as Alaska down to southern Baja California. Sightings of elephant seals were once considered rare in the Salish Sea, but increasingly single individuals are known to haul out onto sandy beaches on Smith, Protection, and Whidbey Islands. In 2010, a local breeding population established itself along the lower west side of Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.
- Action Agenda
- Adaptive management
- Aquatic reserves
- Bald eagles
- Ballard Locks
- Biennial Science Work Plan
- Climate change
- Contaminants of emerging concern
- Dungeness crabs
- Ecosystem-based management
- Ecosystem services
- Elwha River
- Environmental justice
- Estuarine habitat
- Eyes Over Puget Sound
- Eyes Under Puget Sound
- Food web
- Forage fish
- Freshwater habitat
- Green crabs
- Harbor porpoise
- Harbor seals
- Harmful algal blooms
- Healthy human population
- Human quality of life
- Implementation Strategies
- Invasive species
- Killer whales
- Land cover conversion
- Marine birds
- Marine debris
- Marine habitat
- Marine heat waves
- Marine Protected Areas
- Marine Waters Overview
- National Estuary Program
- Nearshore habitat
- Nutrient pollution
- Ocean acidification
- Oil spills
- Persistent contaminants
- Physical environment
- Puget Sound boundaries
- Puget Sound Fact Book
- Puget Sound Pressures Assessment
- Puget Sound Update
- Salish Sea
- Salish Sea Currents magazine
- Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference
- Sea-star wasting disease
- Sea level rise
- Sewage and fecal pollution
- Shoreline armoring
- Social science
- Species and food webs
- Species of concern
- State of the Sound
- Summer stream flows
- Terrestrial habitat
- Tidal energy
- Toxic contaminants
- Traditional ecological knowledge
- Vital Signs
- Water quality
- Water quantity
- Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA)
- Watershed hydrologic unit codes (HUC)
Each year, the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program releases the annual Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview report. The latest report combines a wealth of data from comprehensive monitoring programs and provides a concise summary of what was happening in Puget Sound’s marine waters during 2022. The report represents the collective effort of 84 contributors from federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, academia, nonprofits, and private and volunteer groups.
An estimated 70% of all the salmon in the North Pacific are pink salmon. Scientists say the extreme abundance of pinks could be causing a "trophic cascade" that is harming species across the food web.
The 2023 State of the Sound is the Puget Sound Partnership’s eighth biennial report to the Legislature on progress toward the recovery of Puget Sound. The document reports on both the status of the Partnership's recovery efforts and a suite of ecosystem indicators referred to as the Puget Sound Vital Signs.
All across the region, communities are finding that rising seas and rising rivers are two sides of the same coin. New research funded by the Environmental Protection Agency may help managers target their responses to climate-fueled flood risks in Puget Sound. The following article was commissioned by the Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead (HSIL), a cross-agency team co-led by the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources.
Zooplankton are critical to the marine food web, but until recently there have been few surveys of the zooplankton community in Puget Sound. Ongoing monitoring is now revealing a system full of complexity and surprises. The following article was commissioned by the Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead (HSIL), a cross-agency team co-led by the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources.
Beavers provide critical benefits for wetland ecosystems but can also alter the landscape in ways that are unpredictable for property owners and conservationists alike. New techniques are helping humans and beavers share the landscape with the goal of benefiting both parties. The following article was commissioned by the Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead (HSIL), a cross-agency team co-led by the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources.
Puzzling encounters between endangered killer whales and harbor porpoises point to questions about prey availability and whale culture, scientists say. Are the whales playing, practicing their hunting skills, or is something else going on?
A new strain of avian flu has been sweeping the globe since 2020, leaving thousands of dead seabirds in its wake. This past summer, it arrived at a colony of Caspian terns at Rat Island in the Salish Sea, with catastrophic results.
Harbor seals were hunted from the 1870s to 1970s until they were protected in the United States by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and in Canada under the 1970 Marine Mammal Regulations in the Fisheries Act. The inland Washington harbor seal stock is estimated to be over 12,000, while the Strait of Georgia sustains approximately 39,000 harbor seals. Key threats include human disturbance, habitat degradation, loss of prey, and interaction with fishing gear and boats.
Salmon restoration groups are learning how to work with beavers to create better salmon habitat. The process hinges on reducing human-beaver conflicts while taking a natural approach to ecosystem recovery. The beavers are happy to help.
Steller sea lions use Puget Sound as a feeding area from autumn through spring when they are not breeding in British Columbia and Alaska during summer. While the Western Stock of the species is considered Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Eastern Stock, which occurs in Puget Sound, is increasing in numbers and not listed under the ESA.
California sea lions have become common in Puget Sound in non-summer months. The overall trend for the population has been a dramatic increase in numbers since the species was protected in 1972. They are opportunistic feeders that often target herring and juvenile salmon and steelhead species in Puget Sound.
The Salish Sea may be a giant ‘practice room’ for humpback whales as they get ready to sing in their winter breeding grounds in Hawaii and Mexico. A network of hydrophones is recording it all.
A 2023 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
Were the islands half full of auklets or were they half empty? One scientist offers an insider's view of a newly published study of two Pacific seabird colonies. He says having good data for the paper was key, but finding the right title didn't hurt.
Tufted puffins have become an increasingly rare sight in the Pacific Northwest. Biologist and writer Eric Wagner recently visited Puget Sound's Smith Island, home to one of the region's last surviving colonies of these colorful seabirds.
This article is the latest in a series about computer models and their uses within the Puget Sound ecosystem. Today, we look at the Salish Sea Model, one of several models in the region helping to predict water circulation, water quality and food-web relationships.
A new field guide brings together detailed accounts and illustrations of 260 species of fish known to occur in the Salish Sea. This review from EoPS editorial board member Joe Gaydos was originally published on the SeaDoc Society website.
In June we observed a widespread Noctiluca bloom in Central Puget Sound, evident by bright orange streaks in the water. Noctiluca blooms in Puget Sound have lasted much longer and occurred on a much larger scale than in previous years.
Synthesis of selected NEP Watershed Lead Organization grants administered by the Department of Ecology part 2
A 2023 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute synthesizes past Watershed Lead Organization Program grants to support the EPA-funded Land Development and Cover and Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategies. The report offers lessons learned from the habitat restoration and land acquisition-focused grants.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of mathematical models to science. Models show how planets move and how diseases spread. They track the paths of hurricanes and the future of climate change. Models allow scientists to look at systems or scenarios that they could never view otherwise. Increasingly, mathematical models are also helping scientists understand Puget Sound. In this series of articles, we look at some of the ways that models are being used in ecosystem recovery efforts. We start with the basics. What are mathematical models and which types are most common?
One of the first working models of Puget Sound was a scaled-down concrete reproduction, with actual water running through channels, around islands and into bays, inlets, and harbors. Motors, pumps and timing gears are part of an elaborate mechanism that replicates tides and river flows in the still-functioning model.
The skeletal beginnings of nearly all models is a conceptual understanding of the basic workings of the system being studied: Who are the important actors, and what are their roles within the system?
Many types of computer models are helping researchers study the health of Puget Sound. Bayesian network models are used to examine the probabilities that certain actions will take place within the ecosystem.
The Ecopath model, designed to describe the flow of energy through a food web, as evolved since it was first developed in the early 1980s in Hawaii. This article is part of a series focused on different models and their uses within the Puget Sound ecosystem.
The three-dimensional Atlantis model can represent physical, chemical and biological processes and can incorporate direct human involvement, such as fisheries management, habitat improvements and economic outcomes. It has been used to study the food web to determine whether salmon in Puget Sound are more threatened by predators or by the lack of a stable food supply and to evaluate specific recovery actions to help the endangered Southern Resident killer whales.
Researchers are compiling a strategic list of scientific uncertainties related to Puget Sound recovery. The list will be used to prioritize future funding and research to address critical knowledge gaps about the ecosystem.
Chronic stress from lack of oxygen can make aquatic organisms more vulnerable to disease, pollution, or predation. Low oxygen can also result in reduced habitat for some species. Aquatic species may escape, acclimate, adapt, or die with exposure.
Estuaries around the world including Puget Sound perform an amazing feat of continuous water mixing called estuarine exchange flow.