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Close up of oil on water collected behind an oil boom. Photo: WA Department of Ecology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/2f25AiG

Bills in the state legislature target oil spill threats to Puget Sound and its endangered killer whales.


Oil barge, SEASPAN 827, in Fildalgo Bay with tug boat, Rosario. Photo: DanaStyber (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/f2SYAB

An EPA-funded study of oil spill risks in Puget Sound forms the basis of new legislation to regulate vessel traffic in the region. We break down some of the numbers from the study and look at where the risks may be greatest.


Interior shell of pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana). Photo: James St. John (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/DNTsBV

In Washington State, the pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) has declined by 97 percent since 1992 and is unlikely to recover without intervention. A captive rearing and restocking pilot study shows promise for saving wild populations from local extinction.


Sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides). Photo: JBrew (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/Jag9sr

The sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is highly susceptible to sea star wasting disease. The authors of a 2019 paper published in Science Advances document the rapid, widespread decline of sunflower stars and discuss the ecological implications of losing this imporant subtidal predator species.


Clockwise from top left: 1) Mountain gorillas. Photo: Andries3 (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/andriesoudshoorn 2) J pod Southern resident orcas – Photo: Miles Ritter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmritter/42903242165 3) Scientists collect orca breath samples. Photo: Pete Schroeder 4) Hawaiian monk seal. Photo: Karen Bryan/Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/papahanaumokuakea/38322932854

This three-part series explores opportunities and challenges of using medical interventions to save Puget Sound's south resident orcas from extinction. Part 1 looks at how scientists might treat endangered southern resident orcas that face starvation and risks of disease; Part 2 considers how veterinarians have intervened with other animals in the wild, and how this might apply to orcas in Puget Sound; and Part 3 explores a federally approved vaccination program designed to ward of a deadly virus among endangered Hawaiian monk seals.


Report cover

Although fall and winter were warm, February brought cold snowy weather and low river flows. Despite colder air temperatures, the productive season has already started in Hood Canal and Holmes Harbor. Puget Sound waters were warmer than expected through January, and the warmest waters were in Hood Canal, possibly creating a thermal refuge for cold-sensitive species such as anchovies. We saw lots of sea lions feasting on anchovies in Case Inlet, and we may have captured some herring spawning activity. Unusual for mid-winter, we saw jellyfish patches in Eld and Budd inlets. See the new publication about ocean acidification featuring twenty-five years of our marine monitoring data!


Six-month-old Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) seed. Photo: Benjamin Drummond/benjandsara.com

Puget Sound’s only native oysters were nearly wiped out in the 19th century from overharvesting. Now a network of scientists and advocates is working to restore them to their historical and cultural prominence.


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A 2019 report from the non-profit group Earth Economics look at revenues and other economic activity resulting from whale watching in San Juan County, Washington.


A Hawaiian monk seal at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo by: Karen Bryan/Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/papahanaumokuakea/38322932854

For critically endangered animal populations, experts worry that a highly infectious disease could be the final nail in the coffin, forcing the species into extinction. That’s one reason why federal authorities approved the development and deployment of a new vaccine to ward off the deadly morbillivirus among Hawaiian monk seals. The vaccination program raises the possibility of using vaccines to prevent disease among Puget Sound's southern resident killer whales, but no specific steps have been taken so far.


Left: mountain gorillas. Photo: Andries3 (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/andriesoudshoorn. Right: J pod southern resident orcas – Photo: Miles Ritter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmritter/42903242165

As the plight of Puget Sound’s southern resident orcas becomes increasingly desperate, with the population dropping from 98 to 75 in just 22 years, scientists are weighing the options of medical intervention. In part two of our two-part series The Orca Docs we look at how veterinarians have intervened with other animals in the wild, and how this might apply to the situation here in Puget Sound. [Part one, "When should medical experts intervene to save a killer whale?" is also available.]


Scientists in a boat use a long pole to capture the breath of an orca. Photo: Pete Schroeder

The death of a young female orca in September has sparked a discussion of how and whether scientists should step in with medical care for distressed animals in the wild. Medical intervention has become routine for some endangered mammals, but scientists say Puget Sound’s resident orcas present a series of unique challenges and ethical questions. In part one of our two-part series The Orca Docs we look at how scientists are preparing to treat endangered southern resident orcas that face starvation and risks of disease.


Guide cover

This 2017 guide from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides information for volunteers in the event of an oil spill in Puget Sound. It was produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute with support from the Environmental Protection Agency. 


Tidal forest as viewed from an inner waterway of Otter Island in the Snohomish River estuary. Photo: Jeff Rice/PSI

Can scientists bring back the lost tidal forests of Puget Sound? It could take generations, but restoring this rare habitat will pay big dividends for Puget Sound’s salmon.   


Eyes Over Puget Sound: 2018 Year in Review

In 2018, water temperatures were slightly warmer than normal. Aerial photos revealed many spawning herring and baitfish as well as algal blooms. We also saw abundant macro-algae, a persistent Noctiluca bloom, and countless red blooms. Were these observations related to the cool, wet spring followed by a warm, dry, and sunny summer? Or did the neutral boundary conditions in the Pacific Ocean also play a role? A full summary is available in the report. 


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A 2018 report published by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Natural Resources describes a regional strategy to reduce shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region.


Screenshot of Washington Geospatial Open Data Portal

Ecoregions by state were extracted from the seamless national shapefile. Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources. They are designed to serve as a spatial framework for the research, assessment, management, and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components.


The Puget Sound Action Agenda is a shared plan for Puget Sound recovery resulting from a collaboration by state and federal agencies, tribal governments, local governments, business and environmental groups, and others. 


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The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program has released its seventh annual Marine Waters Overview. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2017 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds and fish.


Puget Sound herring eggs on seaweed. Margaret Siple/University of Washington

A 2018 report published by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife brings together an assessment of key science and other knowledge related to herring recovery in the Salish Sea. The report was produced with support from the SeaDoc Society and received input from a cross-border team from state and federal agencies, universities and area tribes.


Water drop image courtesy of Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management

The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 was designed as a logical step-by-step approach to clean up the nation's waterways. Most people acknowledge that the law has been effective in reducing pollution, but industrial and environment groups tend to be on opposite sides when discussing whether regulations and permits adequately protect water quality. These 10 elements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) focus on how the law applies to Puget Sound.


Canary rockfish. Photo by Tippy Jackson, NOAA

Puget Sound's rockfish have declined by 70% over the past few decades, prompting state and federal protection efforts. We look at some of the ways that scientists are working to reverse the fish's downward trend. 


Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - November 6, 2018

This fall, elevated air temperatures, lower precipitation, and lower river flows generally persisted; this aligned with fall and winter climate predictions. Following a warm summer, October water temperatures dropped back to optimal ranges for many fish. Puget Sound water has cleared and visibility has increased as the productive season ends making it easier to document jellyfish and schools of fish in the inlets of South Sound. While these flights generate a lot of attention, the majority of our monitoring in Puget Sound is now done via boat!


A screenshot of tidal fluctuations in Puget Sound. Image courtesy of University of Washington Coastal Modeling Group

This article provides a general overview of tidal patterns in Puget Sound. 


LiveOcean is a computer model simulating ocean water properties in Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. It is produced by the University of Washington Ocean Modeling Group and makes three-day forecasts of currents, temperature, salinity and many biogeochemical fields including harmful algal blooms.


This diagram shows how housing, health, transportation, environment and other factors interact in creating sustainable and equitable communities. Courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.