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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.

Return of a native: Olympia oysters are making a comeback

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

Vaccines now used to reduce the risk of extinction in Hawaiian monk seals

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.

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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

Wildlife rescues may inform orca strategies

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.]

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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

When should medical experts intervene to save a killer whale?

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.

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

Tidal forests offer hope for salmon

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.   

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

Respecting the rockfish of the Salish Sea

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. 

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Canary rockfish. Photo by Tippy Jackson, NOAA

Studies show challenges for eelgrass restoration

As critically important eelgrass declines in some parts of Puget Sound, scientists are trying to plant more of it. The health of the ecosystem may be riding on their efforts, but what they are finding is something that farmers have known for thousands of years: Getting something to grow may be harder than you think.

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Jeff Gaeckle measures the length of the eelgrass blades as part of a monitoring project near Joemma Beach State Park in South Puget Sound. Photo: Chris Dunagan

Nights in the lives of the rhinoceros auklets of Protection Island

More than 70 percent of the seabird population of Puget Sound nests on a single island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. That includes a massive colony of rhinoceros auklets that has drawn the interest of scientists and birders alike. Our writer Eric Wagner visited the island this summer and reports on a long-term study of the auklets that is revealing new information about the health of seabirds in the Salish Sea. 

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Breeding adult Rhinoceros Auklet flying low above the water. San Juan Islands, WA - July, 2016. Photo: Mick Thompson (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mickthompson/28777858956

For declining orcas, food is fate

Recent images of a mother orca appearing to grieve for her dead calf have brought worldwide attention to the plight of Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident orcas. As orca numbers decline, we look at how the effects of toxic chemicals on the whales are magnified even as the residents slowly starve from a general lack of Chinook salmon, their chief source of food. 

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J16 surfacing near Saturna Island, August 2012. Photo: Miles Ritter (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmritter/7730710932

Marine survival: New clues emerging in salmon deaths

An intensive research program in the U.S. and Canada is studying why so few salmon in the Salish Sea are returning home to spawn. It is uncovering a complex web of problems involving predators, prey and other factors that put salmon at risk as they migrate to the ocean. We present a four-part series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, including new findings presented at the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference last spring in Seattle.

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Clockwise from top left: 1) Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo: Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service. 2) Juvenile salmon in seine. Photo courtesy: Long Live the Kings https://lltk.org/ 3) A harbor seal hunting anchovies. From Howe Sound Ballet video by Bob Turner: https://youtu.be/Ycx1hvrPAqc 4) Chinook salmon leaping at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/29739921130

New studies on emerging threats to salmon

Chemicals, disease and other stressors can increase a salmon's chance of being eaten or reduce its ability to catch food. We wrap up our series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project with a look at some of the lesser-known, but still significant factors contributing to salmon declines in the Salish Sea.

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Chinook salmon leaping at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/29739921130

Removal of creosote-treated pilings may assist herring recovery

Researchers are analyzing the harmful effects of creosote-treated wood pilings on Pacific herring and shellfish in Puget Sound. Studies show that piling removal projects can ease the impacts, but only if carefully done. 

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Creosote removal project in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Could anchovies and other fish take pressure off salmon and steelhead?

A recent influx of anchovies into Puget Sound may have saved some steelhead from predators, but researchers seek more evidence to prove the connection. Our series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project continues with a look at these and other potential impacts from predators on the region's salmon and steelhead.

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A harbor seal hunting anchovies. From Howe Sound Ballet video by Bob Turner: https://youtu.be/Ycx1hvrPAqc

Size means survival for young salmon

Getting bigger faster can help save juvenile Chinook salmon from a gauntlet of hungry predators ranging from birds and marine mammals to larger fish. We continue our series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project with a look at what helps salmon grow and prepare for life in the open ocean. 

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Juvenile salmon in seine. Photo courtesy: Long Live the Kings https://lltk.org/

Opening the black box: What’s killing Puget Sound’s salmon and steelhead?

An intensive research program in the U.S. and Canada is studying why so few salmon in the Salish Sea are returning home to spawn. They are uncovering a complex web of problems involving predators, prey and other factors that put salmon at risk as they migrate to the ocean. We begin a four-part series on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, including new findings presented at the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference last spring in Seattle. 

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Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo: Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service

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.

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