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Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – April 19, 2018

By March, regional impacts of large-scale climate patterns normalized, and air temperatures, precipitation, and coastal downwelling were below normal. April brought abundant rain and rivers responded. With La Niña returning to ENSO-neutral conditions, will the favorable snowpack maintain beneficial streamflows through summer? In 2018, water conditions in Puget Sound are mostly expected, except in Hood Canal where conditions only changed recently. Many rivers and field drainage ditches release sediment. A strong red-brown bloom is present in Sinclair Inlet, a bright- brown bloom in Padilla Bay (Joe Leary Slough), and a bright green bloom in Bellingham Bay. It is colorful out there! You might see our team on the water sampling sediments this month.

RECENT ARTICLES

Amazon Spheres in Seattle. Photo: Jeff Rice
4/12/2018

Panel explores digital tech’s role in Salish Sea recovery

Bridging the gap between nature and technology might be a challenge for the Puget Sound region, but tech leaders could play an important role in protecting and restoring the ecosystem, according to a panel of experts at last week’s Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle.

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and WA Governor Jay Inslee helped kick off the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle on April 4, 2018. Photo: Jeff Rice/PSI
4/5/2018

Future of orcas takes center stage at Salish Sea conference

Gov. Jay Inslee joined former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to open three days of science talks at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. The conference includes about 700 scientific presentations on topics ranging from orcas to habitat restoration, from climate change to toxic chemicals.

Report cover
3/9/2018

Sediment Quality in Puget Sound: Changes in chemical contaminants and invertebrate communities at 10 sentinel stations, 1989–2015

A 2018 report from the Washington State Department of Ecology presents results from 27 years of sampling sediments and benthic invertebrates at 10 long-term stations throughout the greater Puget Sound area every year from 1989 through 2015.

A milky, turquoise, phytoplankton bloom in Hood Canal visible from space. Natural color MODIS image from Landsat 8 acquired July 24, 2016. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=88454
3/7/2018

Does Puget Sound need a diet? Concerns grow over nutrients

As the region's population grows, scientists say we can expect to see increasing amounts of nitrogen and other elements flowing into Puget Sound. Known as “nutrients” these elements are naturally occurring and even necessary for life, but officials worry that nutrients from wastewater and other human sources are tipping the balance. That could mean big problems for fish and other marine life, gradually depleting the water of oxygen and altering the food web.

The Budd Inlet sewage treatment plant. Photo courtesy of LOTT Clean Water Alliance
3/6/2018

Sewage treatment plant in Olympia a leader in nitrogen removal

A regional sewage-treatment system in Thurston County has helped contain  low-oxygen problems in Budd Inlet as the population continues to grow. The system cleans up some of the effluent for replenishing groundwater supplies.

The rapid growth of a red-orange algae, Noctiluca scintillans, dramatically colors the waters of Puget Sound near Edmonds on May 16, 2013. Such algae blooms have been seen more frequently in recent years. Photo: Jeri Cusimano via WA Ecology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecologywa/8744775119
2/28/2018

Dead plankton leave clues to a food-web mystery

High amounts of elements such as nitrogen can cause blooms of phytoplankton that sometimes trigger perturbations throughout the food web. This occurs most often in the spring and summer after the long, dark, cloudy days of winter begin to fade.

A sharp boundary appears as sediment-laden freshwater is discharged from British Columbia's Fraser River into the Salish Sea. Fresh water, which is less dense than salt water, spreads in a shallow (approximately 1 m deep) plume at the sea surface. Photo: Ed McNichol, Ocean Networks Canada (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/oceannetworkscanada/8711686267
2/28/2018

Puget Sound circulation triggers low-oxygen conditions at different times and in different places

The amount of oxygen in the Salish Sea is dependent on water circulation which distributes chemical elements such as nitrogen through the system.

Image describing low oxygen "dead zones"; image courtesy of NOAA
2/27/2018

How the state assesses low oxygen in Puget Sound

Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are required to assess the quality of their surface waters and compile a list of polluted water bodies. The law mandates cleanup plans to address pollution and other water-quality problems. This article describes how this process works in Washington state for dissolved oxygen. 

Glaucous-winged gulls. Photo courtesy of James Hayward.
1/19/2018

Daily and annual habitat use and habitat-to-habitat movement by Glaucous-winged Gulls at Protection Island, Washington

A 2017 paper in the journal Northwestern Naturalist looks at distribution patterns for Glaucous-winged Gulls across associated habitats in the Salish Sea.  

Harbor Seals sunning on intertidal rocks of Puget Sound. Photo: Tony Cyphert (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/tony717/14630242564
1/17/2018

Study would explore changes to protections for seals and sea lions

As wildlife managers work to recover Puget Sound’s diminished Chinook population, a proposed white paper is expected to review the impacts of some of the salmon's chief predators. The study would include a section on potential management of seals and sea lions, prompting open discussion of a long taboo subject: Could officials seek to revise the Marine Mammal Protection Act — or even conduct lethal or non-lethal removal of seals and sea lions in some cases? Such actions are hypothetical, but we look at some of the ongoing discussions around the issue as prompted by a new resolution from the Puget Sound Leadership Council. 

Southern Resident killer whales and boats. Photo courtesy of NOAA
1/3/2018

Soundwatch: Eighteen years of monitoring whale watch vessel activities in the Salish Sea

A December 2017 article in the journal PLOS One reports that incidents and violations among whale watching vessels have increased in the Central Salish Sea since 1998.

Report cover
12/20/2017

2017 Addendum — Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action

The Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council has released an addendum to the 2012 report Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action. The original report established a statewide strategy for addressing ocean acidification in Washington. The addendum identifies updates based on emerging science and management practices and is intended to be a companion to the 2012 report. 

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus). Photo by NOAA Fisheries.
12/18/2017

Year-round algal toxin exposure in free-ranging sea lions

Sea lions living along the coast of Washington are at risk from harmful algal blooms throughout the year, according to a 2017 study published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Harbor porpoise. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
12/18/2017

Group characteristics, site fidelity, and photo-identification of harbor porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, in Burrows Pass, Fidalgo Island, Washington

A 2017 paper in the journal Marine Mammal Science examines harbor porpoise group structure and site fidelity in the Salish Sea. 

Puget Sound marine Waters 2016 report cover
12/12/2017

2016 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program has released its sixth annual Marine Waters Overview. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2016 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds and fish.

A dying female coho salmon in the Lower Duwamish spotted by Puget Soundkeeper volunteers in October 2017. Photo: Kathy Peter
12/6/2017

What is killing the coho?

Researchers are trying to determine which chemicals in stormwater are contributing to the deaths of large numbers of coho salmon in Puget Sound. It has prompted a larger question: What exactly is in stormwater anyway?

Harbor seal photographed by Andreas Trepte. Available through a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 license.
12/1/2017

Influence of human exposure on the anti-predator response of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina)

A 2017 paper in the journal Aquatic Mammals reports that harbor seals in the Salish Sea are less concerned about predators when they become habituated to humans. 

A young resident killer whale chases a chinook salmon in the Salish Sea near San Juan Island, WA. Sept 2017. Photo: (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/21wV8rV
11/20/2017

Seals and sea lions may be slowing salmon recovery, hurting orcas

Increased consumption of Chinook salmon by seals and sea lions in the Salish Sea “could be masking the success of coastwide salmon recovery efforts,” according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Endangered resident orcas are said to be declining in part due to a lack of available Chinook, the orcas' preferred prey.

2017 State of the Sound report cover
11/2/2017

2017 State of the Sound

The 2017 State of the Sound is the Puget Sound Partnership’s fifth biennial report to the Legislature on progress toward the recovery of Puget Sound by 2020. The document reports on both the status of the Partnership's recovery efforts and the status of a suite of ecosystem indicators.

The Vechey residence and bulkead (circa 2013) before the restoration project. Photo courtesy: John Vechey
10/22/2017

With sea-level rise, waterfront owners confront their options

Climate change could cause sea levels to rise more than four feet in some parts of Puget Sound, leaving shoreline residents with some tough decisions. Experts say fighting the waves with conventional seawalls may not be the answer.

Olympia high tide, Dec 28, 2010. Photo: Johanna Ofner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/sweetetc9/5301201482
10/19/2017

Average high tides are creeping higher in Puget Sound

The average worldwide sea level has increased more over the past 150 years than during the previous 1,500 years, experts say, and the seas continue to rise at an ever-increasing pace.

GIS is used to illustrate sea-level rise scenarios in downtown Olympia. Story map by City of Olympia: https://arcg.is/LSyOO
10/17/2017

Local governments begin to plan for higher tides

Planning for rising seawater in Puget Sound has often focused on public property such as roads, buildings and utilities. Now local governments are looking more closely at private property despite regulations based on traditional flooding history.

A plane releases chemical dispersant to break up an oil slick on the water surface below. Photo courtesy of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
10/8/2017

Oil dispersant effectiveness and ecological consequences in San Juan County marine waters

A 2017 report from the University of Washington summarizes current scientific knowledge on chemical oil spill dispersants and their potential impacts on shoreline habitats in San Juan County, Washington. 

Ptilosarcus gurneyi (with a striped  nudibranch) off Whidbey Island, WA;  photo by Jan Kocian.
10/3/2017

The Orange Sea Pen

The Orange Sea Pen, also called the Fleshy Sea Pen or Gurney’s Sea Pen, resembles a colorful autumn tree waving in the “breeze” of moving water currents. Article courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology's Eyes Under Puget Sound series. 

Image of tidal motion in SSM (72 hr animation, April 06); Exaggerated vertical scale to visualize SSM domain-wide tidal motion
9/27/2017

The Salish Sea Model

The Salish Sea Model is used to predict spatial and temporal patterns in the Salish Sea related to factors such as phytoplankton, nutrients and Dissolved Oxygen. It is a collaborative effort between the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Fragile shell. Joe Doe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/47104521@N08/4590994484/
9/21/2017

Using mineralogy and higher-level taxonomy as indicators of species sensitivity to pH: A case-study of Puget Sound

Scientists from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) developed publicly searchable database of nearly 3,000 Puget Sound species to study whether species having calcium carbonate shells are more or less vulnerable to ocean acidification. Their findings published in the journal Elementa question previous assumptions that shell-building organisms are more vulnerable.

Report cover
9/6/2017

Water sampling and testing for formaldehyde at Northwest fish hatcheries

Formaldehyde is often used to control parasites on hatchery salmon and trout. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology conducted a joint study of formaldehyde concentrations in effluent from hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. 

English Sole (Parophrys vetulus) in Puget Sound. Photo: biodiversityguy https://biodiversityguy.smugmug.com/Underwater/Reference-List-Photos-of/i-3GgD5hB/A
8/25/2017

PCBs in fish remain steady while other toxics decline

A new study shows a surprising decline in some toxic chemicals in Puget Sound fish, while levels of PCBs increased in some cases. Scientists say the study shows that banning toxic chemicals can work, but old contaminants remain a challenge as they continue to wash into Puget Sound.

WDFW biologists sorting and measuring fish from PSEMP's index sites in the Duwamish River and near the Seattle Waterfront. Photo: WDFW
8/25/2017

Monitoring helps to reveal hidden dangers in the food web

Toxic chemicals have been showing up in Puget Sound fish for more than a century, but consistent testing over the past 30 years has helped to reveal some unusual patterns of pollution.

Screenshot of archived SSEC 2016 website at http://www.wwu.edu/salishseaconference/archived/2016/
8/10/2017

2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

The 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference took place April 13-15 at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver BC. Over 1100 scientists and policy experts attended.

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