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Encyclopedia of Puget Sound


Salish Sea Currents

timely, local stories about ecosystem recovery

Welcome to Salish Sea Currents, an online magazine grouped into themed series. Join us as we report on some of the key issues driving Puget Sound recovery. To be notified of new stories, subscribe to the Puget Sound Institute eNews.

Themes from the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A series covering major science themes presented at SSEC18 in Seattle, WA. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.


Implementation Strategies

New EPA-funded Implementation Strategies are designed to target Puget Sound recovery in the most direct and coordinated way ever conducted by state and federal agencies. We report on how these strategies will affect Puget Sound’s Vital Signs for years to come, and why you should care (a lot). Sponsored by U.S. EPA.


Invasive species in Puget Sound

A main story and 3 vignettes on the sources, impacts, and regulation of non-native species entering local waters. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Themes from the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A series covering major science themes presented at SSEC16 in Vancouver, BC. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.


SSEC16 snapshots

Brief reports on SSEC16 in Vancouver, BC. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.


Rethinking shoreline armoring

An in-depth series on issues related to shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Disease as an ecological force

A main story and two vignettes on impacts of disease in the ecosystem. Sponsored by U.S. EPA.


Themes from the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A 10-story series covering major science themes presented at SSEC14 in Seattle, WA. Sponsored by U.S. EPA and the Puget Sound Partnership.

New book helps kids discover the Salish Sea

Kids around the region are learning about the Salish Sea thanks to a new book that is being offered — in many cases free of cost — to Washington schools and libraries. Explore the Salish Sea by Joe Gaydos and Audrey Benedict inspires the next generation to appreciate and perhaps someday protect the environment close at hand. 

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Photo by Brandon Cole. All rights reserved. Courtesy of Explore the Salish Sea: A Nature Guide for Kids.

Despite WA ban on farmed salmon, BC impacts may flow across border

A high-profile salmon escape led to a ban on salmon farms in Washington earlier this year. But just across the border, scientists say salmon farms in British Columbia expose migrating fish from Puget Sound to potential maladies like parasites, bacteria and dangerous viruses. They say simply getting rid of salmon farms in Washington does not put the potential impacts to rest. 

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A US Fish & Wildlife Atlantic employee displays an Atlantic Salmon with characteristic large black spots on the gill cover. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/43322816@N08/9680675578

Ocean acidification may be twice as extreme in Puget Sound’s seagrass habitats, threatening Dungeness crabs

Ocean acidification could be up to twice as severe in fragile seagrass habitats as it is in the open ocean, according to a study published last April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The conditions may threaten Dungeness crabs by 2050 and will be especially pronounced in the winter, the study says.

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An eelgrass bed in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of Oregon State University.

Stormwater mimics oil spill's effect on Pacific herring

Pacific herring exposed to stormwater in Puget Sound show some of the same effects as fish exposed to major oil spills. Symptoms include heart and developmental problems.  

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Pacific herring exposed to 50% urban stormwater runoff experienced stunted growth, unabsorbed yolk sacs, and smaller eyes than control seawater Photo credit: Louisa Harding, WSU

Diving deeper to understand eelgrass wasting disease

New studies show that eelgrass wasting disease is more common in warmer waters, leading to concerns over the future effects of climate change on eelgrass populations in Puget Sound. We continue our series on science findings from the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.  

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Eelgrass at low tide. Photo by Olivia Graham.

Where did the Puget Sound green crabs come from? We’re still not sure

Genetic testing shows that invasive European green crabs in Puget Sound likely did not come from the Sooke Basin in British Columbia as previously thought. New findings on the crab's origins were presented at the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. 

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Carcinus maenas. Photo: Brent Wilson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/59048895@N06/5409329320/

Bay mussels in Puget Sound show traces of oxycodone

State agencies tracking pollution levels in Puget Sound have discovered traces of oxycodone in the tissues of native bay mussels (Mytilus trossulus) from Seattle and Bremerton area harbors. The findings were presented at the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. 

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Bay Mussels (Mytilus trossulus) on Edmonds Ferry Dock. Photo [cropped]: brewbooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/8840874065

Kelp continues steady decline in Puget Sound

Scientists are trying to learn how to restore Puget Sound’s diminishing kelp forests in an effort to stave off habitat loss for rockfish and other threatened species. We report on new findings presented at the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. 

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Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), the only surface canopy species in the Puget Sound, observed in March 2018. Photo: Brian Allen

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.

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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

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.

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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

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.

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The Budd Inlet sewage treatment plant. Photo courtesy of LOTT Clean Water Alliance

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.

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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

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. 

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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

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?

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

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.

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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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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