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Harbor seal in the water

A 2021 paper in the journal PLoS ONE describes a non-traditional approach to estimating the size of three harbor seal management stocks in the inland waters of Washington using aerial line-transect surveys and tagging data.


Tail of a gray whale showing above water

Each spring, about a dozen gray whales make a brief detour into the Salish Sea before heading north to their feeding grounds in the Arctic. Biologists dubbed these whales "Sounders" after first noting their presence in the 1990s, and the whales have become rare but widely anticipated visitors to local waters. The whales were spotted again this year, but biologists have documented a 24 percent decline in gray whale populations along the West Coast.


Newborn harbor seal napping on a bed of kelp

An article published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases in 2021 describes trends in birth defects among harbor seals in the Salish Sea from 2003 to 2019. The results suggest a level of congenital disease in this harbor seal population that is important for continued monitoring.


Several harbor seals lying on a rock

An article published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases in 2021 describes research documenting injuries among harbor seals in the Salish Sea caused by boat propeller strikes. The number of strikes increased significantly between 2002 and 2019, as did vessel traffic.


Maps generated from the Salish Sea Model showing surface layer transport in the Northwest Straits (left) and sea surface salinity (right). Images: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The Salish Sea Model is a computer model used to predict spatial and temporal patterns related to water circulation in the Salish Sea. It was developed at the United States Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. It is housed at the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 


This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Marine Water Quality Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.


This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Shellfish Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.


A 2014 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources outlines a recovery strategy for native eelgrass in Puget Sound. The strategy is designed to address a target set forth by the Puget Sound Partnership to increase eelgrass by 20 percent in Puget Sound by 2020. 


This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Chinook Salmon Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.


This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Land Development and Cover Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.


This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.


Researchers in a boat near killer whales

A 2021 paper in the journal PLoS ONE provides a clearer picture of what endangered southern resident orcas eat throughout the year. Chinook salmon make up the bulk of the whales' diet, but the paper suggests that other salmon species and non-salmonid fishes can also play important roles depending on the season.


Washington state capital dome against blue sky

The recently approved HEAL Act requires the state of Washington to address issues of environmental justice within its agencies. The Act is expected to be signed by the governor and focuses on inequities in environmental health conditions for disenfranchised populations.


Homewaters book cover

A new book explores our complicated connection to the ecosystem we call home. We interview author David B. Williams about Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound, published this month by the University of Washington Press.


Historic map of Seattle showing areas in different colors.

Researchers are looking at the forces of discrimination that worsen the environmental health risks for some communities.


Brightly painted canoes on river shore with construction cranes in background.

Years of struggle have led to reduced pollution and a stronger sense of community in the Duwamish Valley. As cleanup efforts there continue, environmental justice has come front and center for the area's diverse populations.


A rusty radiator and other debris in sediment of the Duwamish River at low tide.

An update to state rules regarding the cleanup of toxic pollution is expected to bring more attention to factors like race, ethnicity and income within populations that live near contaminated sites.


Timber pike seawall below a house along the shoreline.

Close to 30% of Puget Sound's shoreline is armored with seawalls and other structures meant to protect beaches against rising tides and erosion. But science increasingly shows that these structures are ineffective and cause significant harm to salmon and other creatures. State and federal agencies have been encouraging private property owners to remove armoring in a race to improve habitat, but why did so much of it start appearing in the first place?


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We are in a weakening La Niña, coastal downwelling has lessened and we are getting out of a cold and wet stretch, hurray. In March, rivers have almost returned to normal and carry clear water. It’s a good time to go diving if you don’t mind cold water. The productive season has only started in some places and patches of jellyfish are visible. Have a look at this edition and marvel about the secrets of the dead, or mysterious sediment clouds and the oil sheen spotted near Lummi Bay.


Waves crashing in front of a house. Photo: James Kinney

The 2018 Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy identified development of new financial incentives as a near-term priority. This study, funded by the Habitat Strategic Initiative, assesses the feasibility of developing a Shore Friendly residential shoreline loan program.


An image from the LiveOcean model showing Salish Sea circulation patterns.

A 2021 article in the journal JGR Oceans describes circulation and mixing in the Salish Sea. The findings are based on simulations produced by the LiveOcean computer model.


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A group of southern resident killer whales swimming together near San Juan Island. Photo: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786

Collisions with boats and other interactions with humans are "significant" causes of death for killer whales in the northeastern Pacific, a recent study says. The findings come from one of the most comprehensive looks at killer whale pathology to date, but scientists say determining how a killer whale may have died is often notoriously difficult.


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The Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) Implementation Strategy is designed to improve freshwater quality by analyzing the health and diversity of invertebrate populations in Puget Sound area streams.


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Rivers are flowing higher than normal since 2020. Winter weather has been warmer and wetter. In marine waters, temperatures have become too cool for Northern Pacific anchovies to tolerate in North Sound. From patches of jellyfish and snow geese, to sediment and early blooms, there is more happening in the winter than you might expect. Puget Sound has many species worth showcasing such as the heart crab – a shy critter that wears its heart on its shell.


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Priority Science to Support Recovery of the Puget Sound Ecosystem: A Science Work Plan for 2020-2024 (SWP for 2020-2024) describes the information, learning, and interaction needed to support the coordinated efforts to recover, protect, and improve the resilience of the Puget Sound ecosystem.