2000 Puget Sound Update

This seventh Puget Sound Update is based primarily on the findings of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP). The PSAMP is a long-term effort to investigate environmental trends, improve decision-making and prevent overlaps and duplication in monitoring efforts. The results of the PSAMP are supplemented by the findings of many other efforts to evaluate the condition of Puget Sound’s waters, sediments, nearshore habitats and biological resources.

Ecology’s core river and stream monitoring stations in the Puget Sound basin. (page 18)
Ecology’s core river and stream monitoring stations in the Puget Sound basin. (page 18)


Information presented in this report generally reflects conditions through 1998. However, in some cases only older data were available and in other cases results through 1999 were available and included.

Signs of environmental degradation from around Puget Sound suggest that the continuing development in the basin is taking its toll on the Sound. A variety of Puget Sound organisms appear to be in poor condition or their numbers appear to be declining.

Environmental degradation in Puget Sound has been documented for many years. High levels of toxic contaminants in urban bays and waterways and widespread alteration of Puget Sound’s estuaries and shorelines can be seen. Puget Sound monitoring provides some signs that conditions may be worsening:

  • Levels of fecal contamination have increased in Henderson Inlet and Burley Lagoon—south Puget Sound shellfish growing areas where nearby lands were being developed for residential and commercial uses.
  • Incidence of liver lesions in English sole in Elliott Bay (Seattle) has increased, which may reflect increased levels of contamination, especially by PAHs (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons), from the Sound’s most highly developed urban and industrial lands.

Many measures of the condition of the Puget Sound environment have yet to show a trend. This may, in some cases, reflect stable conditions but in many cases probably results from the difficulty in detecting trends when results vary greatly from year to year and when monitoring records represent only a period of five or six years. A few measures indicate improving conditions. However, on balance, monitoring results suggest that human actions on the developed and developing lands of the Puget Sound basin continue to threaten Puget Sound. The implication is that careful management of Puget Sound’s lands and shorelines will be needed to maintain the quality of the Puget Sound environment.

Many species that rely on Puget Sound appear to be declining, including Pacific herring, rockfish, coho salmon, scoters, Western grebes, great blue herons and orca whales. While some species (notably harbor seals) are faring relatively well in recent years, the number and diversity of species in poor or declining condition suggest widespread effects of habitat loss or degradation, harvest pressures cascading through the food web, or natural variations in marine system productivity. More scientific assessment will be needed to understand the causes and implications of declines of marine species in Puget Sound. Key elements of efforts to recover healthy populations of the Sound’s organisms will include protection and restoration of habitat and control of harvest.


Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team. 2000. 2000 Puget Sound Update: Seventh Report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program. Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team. Olympia, Washington.

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