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Two people carry a creosote-treated log on beach with calm water in the background.

A 2021 article in the journal Conservation Science and Practice analyzes the conservation benefits of small-scale, competitively funded scientific research in the Salish Sea. The findings show that collaboration, networking, and stakeholder engagement before, during and after the research are key factors.


A school of brightly colored orange fish shown swimming near kelp.

Fishing for rockfish was once promoted as a sustainable alternative to salmon harvests, but when rockfish numbers plummeted, fisheries managers realized they had a problem. Now a rockfish recovery plan seeks to reverse the damage as scientists learn more about protecting this once-popular game fish.


Winter scene of marsh at high tide two conifer trees reflected on water in the foreground; snow covered mountain in the background.

How can Puget Sound generate more salmon? That question has been at the center of ecosystem recovery efforts for decades. But even as scientists and conservationists make progress on many fronts — from breaching dams to cleaning up the water — they have faced one especially complicated and frustrating limitation: Salmon need more estuaries. We look at how local tribes are working to restore this critical habitat.


Report cover

The 2021 State of the Sound is the Puget Sound Partnership’s seventh 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.


Aerial view of kokanee salmon swimming in a stream

Scientists think they may have discovered a lost population of native kokanee salmon in Lake Washington. Salmon watchers are monitoring local creeks this fall to confirm the finding.


View of river with reflection of clouds and vegetation

A 2021 synthesis report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute synthesizes leading integrated floodplain management approaches to support the Puget Sound Partnership’s Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy.


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The tenth annual Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview looks at marine water quality and other conditions in the region in 2020. According to the report, there were few extreme weather or ecological events in 2020, but overall, conditions in Puget Sound were generally warmer, sunnier, and wetter than in typical years. The overview also examines patterns and trends in numerous environmental parameters, including plankton, water quality, climate, and marine life. 


Two people lift a basket of rocks from a stream flowing through a forest.

Bug seeding involves moving beneficial insects and other aquatic invertebrates from healthy streams to streams where these creatures are missing from the food web.


Graphical abstract showing E.coli isolates characterized for phenotypic and genotypic resistance to antibiotics

A 2021 study published in the journal Antibiotics suggests that animals may be potential sentinels for antibiotic-resistant and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli in the Salish Sea ecosystem. 


Strands of bull kelp near Smith Island in Puget Sound. Photo by Eric Wagner.

Bull kelp is easily recognized by its wavy leaves and long, floating stipes that sometimes wash ashore like slimy green bullwhips. In that sense, it is one of the more familiar types of seaweed in Puget Sound. But as kelp forests decline throughout the region, scientists are finding that there is much about this increasingly rare species that remains a mystery.


Timber pile bulkheads at Ledgewood Beach on Whidbey Island. Photo: Washington Department of Ecology https://flic.kr/p/mUeFc (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A 2021 article in the journal Applied Geography examines perceptions of shorelines in the Puget Sound region. A community survey described in the article showed that local residents preferred undeveloped shorelines to shorelines with armored structures such as seawalls and bulkheads. 


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This summer river flows were generally lower than in 2020. And in August, high air temperatures and low precipitation continued, following a drought emergency declaration in mid-July that affected also marine conditions.  The higher-than-normal salinity anomaly which persisted during summer in Puget Sound marine water is, however, eroding away, and lower-than-normal oxygen conditions developed in Central Sound in the month of August. Many blooms and organic material were reported by citizens throughout summer, and by September many colorful blooms in bays across the region continue to be active. Patches of macro-algae and organic debris are still numerous in South and Central Sound and in Padilla Bay. Jellyfish are occurring in unusual places. While we document water quality issues, we are also showcasing the natural beauty of Puget Sound through photography.


A firefighter monitors a controlled burn near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Photo by Jeff Rice.

Raging wildfires can be an ecological calamity, especially as the planet warms due to climate change. But in small doses, some wildfires are actually beneficial. In prairie habitats, fires can enrich soils and maintain native plant species. In late September, state wildlife biologists oversaw several controlled burns near Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) as part of an effort to preserve habitat for the endangered Taylor's checkerspot butterfly. Less than 3% of Puget Sound's prairies now remain and are mostly concentrated along the region's southern edges, including land on the military base. Listen to a recording of some of the action, including comments from JBLM fire manager and biologist John Richardson.


Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas). Photo by Don Rothaus. Courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A 2021 report commissioned by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources identifies potential actions at the state or local level, or in combination, that could further bolster shellfish bed recovery in support of the Puget Sound Partnership's shellfish bed recovery target.


Salish Sea with Mt Baker in the background

Social Science for the Salish Sea (S4) provides a foundation for future research projects, accessible information for planning or management decisions, and synthesized content to inform ecosystem recovery.


Map of the Salish Sea & Surrounding Basin. Map: Stefan Freelan https://flic.kr/p/6adqMP (CC BY-NC 2.0)

An article published in the journal Society & Natural Resources in 2021 describes the results of a geographic literacy survey which shows residents of Washington and British Columbia are largely unfamiliar with the name Salish Sea. The authors discuss the implications of their findings for ecosystem recovery of the region.


Western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis). Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7jmJHZ

An article published in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery in 2021 describes the results of study comparing the effects of season, location, species, and sex on body weight and blood chemistry for free-ranging western and Clark's grebes.


Gray whale and calf

An article published in PLoS ONE in 2021 describes a study of hormone concentrations in gray whales. The findings may contribute to increased knowledge of reproductive physiology and population dynamics among the species.


Amy Marsha and Aimee Fullerton standing in the Raging River

Warming waters threaten the recovery of salmon in Puget Sound. New findings about stream temperature could help salmon survive the threats of climate change.


The Nooksack River in autumn.

The Nooksack River watershed spans part of the border between British Columbia and the State of Washington. In August 2018, the international, multi-agency Nooksack River Transboundary Technical Collaboration Group (TCG) was established to implement a three-year work plan to reduce fecal bacteria concentrations in the Nooksack River watershed. The 2020-2021 TCG annual report summarizes third and final year project activities and focuses on three of the watershed's transborder sub-basins.


Minke whale ahead of a kayaker

A resident population of minke whales is catching the attention of scientists who want to learn if the elusive mammals are found here year-round. While small compared to their cousins the blue whales, minkes are still among the largest creatures in the Salish Sea.


Field of camas lilies

A Lopez Island-based nonprofit says the protection of critical habitat for native plants can also preserve a wealth of traditional knowledge. The group is working with private landowners to raise awareness of culturally important plants hidden in the bogs and underbrush of Puget Sound's natural areas.


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Despite a La Niña, precipitation and rain have been lower since March, leaving only snow-fed rivers running high. Due to lower rainfall and warm summer temperatures the salinity of Puget Sound is now generally higher. Strong blooms and large patches of organic material and macro-algae are building up in many places and wash onto beaches. During very hot summer days, tidal mudflats and beaches can get really warm. Beach wrack can harbor increased bacteria numbers now. See SCUBA cleaning up at Redondo beach.


Report cover

After a wet winter/spring transition it has been noticeably drier, warmer and sunnier. River flows are near normal levels and in Puget Sound and coastal bays salinity is increasing above normal. The spring bloom is developing but not very pronounced, yet, Noctiluca is already visible in southern Hood Canal. Suspended sediment near rivers and creeks, failing bluffs, and shellfish activities are frequent. Capturing herring spawning from the plane is informative; pilots share their observations.


Golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa). Photo: Minette Layne (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The number of golden-crowned kinglets in the Puget Sound watershed has declined by more than 91% over a recent 50-year period, according to data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The data was reported by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which tracks the information for the Puget Sound Partnership’s terrestrial bird indicator. The indicator was established to monitor the health of Puget Sound’s species and food webs.