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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.

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.

Eelgrass declines pose a mystery

Scientists want to know why eelgrass is on the decline in some areas of Puget Sound and not others. The answer will affect future strategies for protecting one of the ecosystem’s most critical saltwater plants.

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Eelgrass at Alki Beach, Seattle. Report cover photo: Lisa Ferrier

Saving the last estuaries

When rivers spill into Puget Sound, they provide some of the most productive habitat in the ecosystem. The ebb and flow of the tides creates a perfect mix of fresh and salt water critical for young salmon. But over the past 100 years, the region’s tidal wetlands have declined by more than 75%. Now a coalition of state and federal agencies has a plan to bring them back.

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The Qwuloolt estuary hydrology restored by breaching a century old levee. WRP easement land in the foreground. Photo: USDA

Urban lifestyles help to protect the Puget Sound ecosystem

The state of Washington estimates that the Puget Sound area will grow by more than 1.5 million residents within the next two decades. That is expected to have profound effects on the environment as more and more people move to undeveloped areas. The race is on to protect this critical rural habitat, but planners say what happens in the cities may be just as important.

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The University of Washington Tacoma has spurred sustainable urban development including re-purposing of historic buildings, new housing, a museum and retail district, multi-use trails, and light rail transit. Photo courtesy: UW Tacoma

Floodplain projects open doors to fewer floods and more salmon

A new approach to flood control is taking hold across Puget Sound. Rivers, scientists say, can be contained by setting them free. Conservationists hope this is good news for salmon recovery.

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2016 aerial view of completed Calistoga Reach levee project in Orting, WA. Image courtesy: CSI Drone Solutions and Washington Rock Quarries, Inc. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H_NK6U2_zw

Finding a strategy to accelerate Chinook recovery

As threatened Chinook populations in Puget Sound continue to lose ground, the state is looking to new strategies to reverse the trend. In the Skagit watershed, the scientists — and the fish — are among those leading the way. 

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Fir Island Farms habitat restoration monitoring in Skagit County. Project provides rearing habitat for young threatened Chinook salmon along with other wildlife. Copyright: Bob Friel

Study says predators may play major role in chinook salmon declines

A new study shows that increased populations of seals and sea lions are eating far more of Puget Sound’s threatened chinook than previously known, potentially hampering recovery efforts for both salmon and endangered killer whales. 

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Sea lion sunbathing between meals in Seattle's Eliott Bay. Photo: Johnny Mumbles (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mumbles/3283168713

Healthy stream, healthy bugs

Many groups have been formed around the goal of saving salmon, but few people talk about a concerted effort to save microscopic creatures. Whether or not a pro-bug movement catches on, future strategies to save salmon are likely to incorporate ideas for restoring streambound creatures known as benthic invertebrates.

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Benthic invertebrates range in size from those easily seen with the naked eye to those that cannot be spotted without the use of a microscope. Photo: Christopher Dunagan

Eelgrass in Puget Sound is stable overall, but some local beaches suffering

Eelgrass, a marine plant crucial to the success of migrating juvenile salmon and spawning Pacific herring, is stable and flourishing in Puget Sound, despite a doubling of the region’s human population and significant shoreline development over the past several decades. [Story reprinted from UW Today.]

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An eelgrass bed near Bainbridge Island, Washington. David Ayers/USGS

Implementation Strategies will target Puget Sound ‘Vital Signs’

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).

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Heartbeat line overlays Seattle Skyline from Alki Beach. Graphic: Puget Sound Institute w/ copyrighted images

Concerns rise over rogue chemicals in the environment

Drugs like Prozac and cocaine have been showing up in the region’s salmon. But these are just some of the potentially thousands of different man-made chemicals that escape into the Salish Sea every day, from pharmaceuticals to industrial compounds. Now the race is on to identify which ones pose the greatest dangers.

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Fluoxetine hydrochloride. Photo: Meg (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/disowned/1125134972

New law will increase testing of chemicals

New federal legislation, approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. Congress in December 2015 and signed into law by President Obama in June 2016, is designed to make sure that people and the environment are not harmed by new and old chemicals on the market.

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Industrial plant. Photo: Gray World (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/greyworld/6159264209

Salish Sea snapshots: Mussel memory

Scientists are testing ways to use transplanted shellfish such as mussels to monitor toxic contaminants in Puget Sound. 

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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

Salish Sea snapshots: Invasive species and human health

Invasive species are considered a top threat to the balance of ecosystems worldwide. New discoveries of non-native green crabs in Puget Sound have highlighted that concern here at home, but invasive species can impact more than just the food web. Some introduced species can produce toxins that accumulate in shellfish or by directly infecting the human body.

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Toxic algal blooms are sometimes associated with invasive plankton. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5120831456

The return of the pig

After an almost complete collapse in the 1970s, harbor porpoise populations in Puget Sound have rebounded. Scientists are celebrating the recovery of the species sometimes known as the "puffing pig." 

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Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Bellingham Bay, WA. Photo: Andrew Reding (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/seaotter/9509722373/

Clam hunger

Social scientists around the Salish Sea are predicting the effects of environmental change through the lens of culturally important foods.

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2013 Swinomish Tribe clam bake. Photo: Copyright Northwest Treaty Tribes https://www.flickr.com/photos/nwifc/9517621153

The secret lives of forage fish: Where do they go when we aren’t looking?

Some of the most important fish in the Salish Sea food web are also the most mysterious. Researchers have only begun to understand how many there are, where they go, and how we can preserve their populations for the future. A University of Washington researcher describes how scientists are looking into the problem.

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Pacific sand lance at rest on sand. Photo: Collin Smith, USGS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usgeologicalsurvey/13378704834

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