Monitoring encompasses the routine measurement of ecosystem indicators to assess the status and trends of ecosystem structure and function. Broadly, there are two goals for monitoring in the Puget Sound ecosystem. The first goal is to monitor status and trends of the ecosystem. This may take the form of snapshots of specific regions, or, more usefully, status monitoring tracks variability in carefully selected indicators over time. Status monitoring is fundamentally concerned with documenting spatial and temporal variability in ecosystem components and thus ideally relies on consistent long-term monitoring in a network of sites. A second aim of monitoring is to evaluate the effectiveness of management strategies. Effectiveness monitoring thus aims to detect changes in ecosystem status that are caused by specific management actions.


Puget Sound Science Review

Additional resources:

Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program

Eyes Over Puget Sound

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Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is an independent program established by state and federal statute to monitor environmental conditions in Puget Sound. 


Report cover

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - September 17, 2018

Air temperatures have remained high with precipitation and river flows below normal, extending the summer’s unusual conditions. Water temperatures were warmer in August, perhaps too warm for bull kelp and some salmon species in South Sound. In contrast, Hood Canal, North Sound, and the San Juan Islands provide optimal growth temperatures for herring and salmon. Many terminal inlets of Puget Sound are experiencing extensive red-brown blooms. Jellyfish patches are developing in South Sound finger Inlets and remnants of floating macroalgae occur in the nearshore areas of South Sound and in Useless Bay. At times floating organic material we see from the air ends up on the shoreline were our BEACH team documents it.

Issaquah Creek. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Georgiadis.

Are low flows changing in Puget Sound streams?

A 2018 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute analyzes trends in summer stream flows and finds they are declining, but not necessarily because of abstractions by humans.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - July 16, 2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - July 16, 2018

Its summer! River flows are generally below normal levels in response to low precipitation and warm air temperatures. Algae blooms are causing intense red-brown colors in Bellingham and Samish Bays, as well as in some other bays. Infrared images revealed that the algal blooms are in water exceeding 15°C. These warmer waters increase the risk of harmful algal blooms if toxin-producing species are present. Large rafts of macroalgae are drifting at the surface in South and Central Sound, and are particularly extensive in Carr Inlet, Commencement Bay, and Port Madison. Our Washington Conservation Corps Intern shares her many perspectives on Puget Sound.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – June 28, 2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – June 28, 2018

During June, near normal air temperatures and continued low precipitation have resulted in highly variable freshwater inputs to Puget Sound. A large Noctiluca bloom extends across the South Central Basin of Puget Sound. Coccolithophores are blooming in Hood Canal. Macroalgae is drifting as mats on the water in Port Madison, South Central Basin, and South Sound. They are also piling up on beaches in South and Central Puget Sound and Whidbey Basin. Juvenile fish are migrating out of the estuaries and meeting a complex thermal habitat. New infrared images tell the story. Meet our ocean acidification expert, Stephen Gonski.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – May 22, 2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – May 22, 2018

Rainfall in May was extremely low: The third lowest amount ever recorded. Rivers are responding differently depending upon whether they received water from rain or snow, which is melting rapidly. With projected drier and warmer conditions, can the remaining snowpack maintain healthy streamflows this summer? Seawater is already getting saltier than normal in response to the lack of rain. We see algal blooms in many colors. What is that orange stuff out there? It’s a Noctiluca bloom and organic material drifting at the surface stretching from South to Central Sound and Whidbey Basin.

Bay Mussels (Mytilus trossulus) on Edmonds Ferry Dock. Photo [cropped]: brewbooks (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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. 

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – April 19, 2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – April 19, 2018

By March, regional impacts of large-scale climate patterns normalized, and air temperatures, precipitation, and coastal downwelling were below normal. April brought abundant rain and rivers responded. With La Niña returning to ENSO-neutral conditions, will the favorable snowpack maintain beneficial streamflows through summer? In 2018, water conditions in Puget Sound are mostly expected, except in Hood Canal where conditions only changed recently. Many rivers and field drainage ditches release sediment. A strong red-brown bloom is present in Sinclair Inlet, a bright- brown bloom in Padilla Bay (Joe Leary Slough), and a bright green bloom in Bellingham Bay. It is colorful out there! You might see our team on the water sampling sediments this month.

	Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – Winter 2018

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – Winter 2018

Large-scale climate patterns and local weather patterns are returning to more normal conditions. La Niña helped build a favorable snowpack, projected to persist well into spring due to cooler weather. As a consequence, stream flows are largely normal. In Puget Sound, we see again normal water conditions and observe early spring blooms in Central Sound, northern Hood Canal, and Whidbey Basin. Herring are spawning in Admiralty Reach and further north. Salmon Bay in Seattle continues to have frequent oil sheens on the water.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report, October 31, 2017

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report, October 31, 2017

After a dry and sunny summer extending well into October, air temperatures are cooler than normal and precipitation has increased allowing rivers to regain strength. Despite a dry summer, Puget Sound is fresher this year than the past 17 years. As of September, warmer temperatures remained in South Sound. In October, surface water in the Straits however began to cool and the influence of rivers can be seen in our ferry data. Leaves drift on the water in South Sound and smaller blooms are confined to inlets as the productive season winds down. Meet our new intern and discover if Puget Sound really has sea spiders.

	Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report August 28, 2017

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report August 28, 2017

Warm air temperatures, abundant sunshine, and drier conditions persisted. River flows are lower in the north. Puget Sound waters are still fresher than in the past 17 years from the combination of abundant spring rain and weak upwelling bringing less salty water from the ocean. July upwelling was stronger, however. Warmer water temperatures are notable in parts of Central Sound, accompanied by large rafts of drifting macroalgae. Diverse blooms in colors of green, orange and red-brown are present in many inlets. Jellyfish abundance is lower this year. Find out how we assess if the benthos is changing.

English Sole (Parophrys vetulus) in Puget Sound. Photo: biodiversityguy

PCBs in fish remain steady while other toxics decline

A new study shows a surprising decline in some toxic chemicals in Puget Sound fish, while levels of PCBs increased in some cases. Scientists say the study shows that banning toxic chemicals can work, but old contaminants remain a challenge as they continue to wash into Puget Sound.

WDFW biologists sorting and measuring fish from PSEMP's index sites in the Duwamish River and near the Seattle Waterfront. Photo: WDFW

Monitoring helps to reveal hidden dangers in the food web

Toxic chemicals have been showing up in Puget Sound fish for more than a century, but consistent testing over the past 30 years has helped to reveal some unusual patterns of pollution.

Dean Toba, a scientific technician with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, operates the agency’s screw trap on the Skagit River. The trap helps biologists estimate the number of juvenile salmon leaving the river each year. Photo: Christopher Dunagan, PSI

Are we making progress on salmon recovery?

In recent decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to restore habitat for Puget Sound salmon. In this article, we look at how scientists are gauging their progress. Are environmental conditions improving or getting worse? The answer may depend on where you look and who you ask.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – July 24, 2017

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – July 24, 2017

July had warm air temperatures, sunshine, and an abundant snowpack. Previous months had higher river flows (bringing freshwater) and weak upwelling (low delivery of saltier water) which resulted in very low salinities in Puget Sound, especially in the South Sound. Water temperatures are expected and warmer in Central Sound. Above normal sunshine has made Puget Sound biologically very active! Intense and unusual blooms color Hood Canal (coccolithophores) and south sound inlets. Large mats of organic material containing macro-algae drift at the surface. Many schools of fish are visible though jellyfish were absent.

Eelgrass Data Viewer

Puget Sound Eelgrass Monitoring Data Viewer

An interactive map created by the Washington Department of Natural Resources provides access to eelgrass monitoring data collected between 2000 and 2015 at selected sites in Puget Sound. 
Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – June 6, 2017

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – June 6, 2017

Cooler and wetter conditions early in 2017 have set the stage for a favorable supply of freshwater. River flows are all above normal due to melting of the abundant snowpack from warmer May air temperatures. This is creating significantly fresher conditions in Puget Sound surface waters. Algae blooms are limited to some yellow-green blooms growing in bays near the Kitsap Peninsula and blooms near estuaries of the Skagit, Stillaguamish, and Puyallup Rivers. Red blooms are present in rivers feeding into Willapa Bay. Also see what is “blooming” in the sediments of Puget Sound.

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

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.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – December 2016 Review

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – December 2016 Review

The year 2016 in pictures: After two years of very warm air and record high water temperatures starting with the Blob (2015) and followed by El Nino (2016), temperatures have fallen and remain slightly warmer than normal in Puget Sound. Very low summer river flows (e.g., Fraser River) reflect climatic predictions for the NW. Record temperatures and low salinities occurred alongside observations of abundant jellyfish, floating macro-algae, and Noctiluca blooms. Surprisingly, only South Sound developed very low summer oxygen levels in 2016. In the fall, La Niña came with a punch, rain increased, and air temperatures dropped. Will this be an unusual La Niña?

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – November 22, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – November 22, 2016

ENSO is in a cold phase (La Niña) and it is wetter and warmer than normal. Strong precipitation in October greatly improved Puget Sound streamflows. At the coast, we had strong downwelling. As a result, water temperatures, salinities, and oxygen in Puget Sound are returning to normal. While surface water in Puget Sound has cooled, it is still warmer than in the Straits. Surprisingly, masses of suspended sediment occurred east of Steamboat Island in Totten Inlet. We continue to see large jellyfish aggregations in finger Inlets of South Sound and slowly fading red-brown blooms.

Fluoxetine hydrochloride. Photo: Meg (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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.

Bay Mussels (Mytilus trossulus) on Edmonds Ferry Dock. Photo [cropped]: brewbooks (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Salish Sea snapshots: Mussel memory

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

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – September 26, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – September 26, 2016

September is jellyfish season and they are everywhere in southern Puget Sound! Sunny, warm, and dry conditions promoted strong late-summer plankton blooms in colors of red, green, and brown, now widespread in many bays. In contrast, Central Sound looks clear with low algal activity. Southern Puget Sound has large floating mats of organic material and developed lower oxygen in August. Meet the Critter of the Month - The Sweet Potato Sea Cucumber.

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2015 report cover

2015 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – August 24, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – August 24, 2016

In July, conditions were normalizing, yet river flows remained lower, continuing into August. July also saw lower oxygen appearing in southern Puget Sound. By August, jellyfish are occurring in high numbers in Eld and Budd Inlet. South Puget Sound has Noctiluca drifting at the surface in large orange lines in many places and red-brown blooms widespread in finger inlets, as well as in Sinclair Inlet. Central Sound surface-water temperatures are high, still in the 60s, and algae are abundant. See what we are measuring to understand ocean acidification in Puget Sound.

Pacific sand lance at rest on sand. Photo: Collin Smith, USGS.

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.

A state inspector boards a container ship at the Port of Seattle to check on ballast water and determine whether procedures were followed to reduce the risk of invasive species being released into Puget Sound.  Photo: WDFW

Invasive stowaways threaten Puget Sound ecosystem

Gaps in regulations could allow invasive species to hitch a ride on ships and boats. We report on some of the potential impacts, and how state and federal agencies are trying to solve the problem. 

Carcinus maenas. Photo: Brent Wilson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Green crabs could impair Puget Sound shellfish operations

Concerns over the potential arrival of the European green crab have inspired a small army of volunteers. A search is underway for early signs of an invasion.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – July 20, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – July 20, 2016

Through June, air temperatures and sunlight were higher than normal. Recent rain generally improved river flows. However, the Fraser river flow remains extremely low, reducing water exchange with the ocean. Water temperatures are still breaking records, yet dissolved oxygen levels are normal. Coastal bays are influenced by upwelling and exhibit lower oxygen and higher salinities. Puget Sound algae are thriving with blooms observed in many South Sound inlets. Macro-algae is seen piling up on beaches and drifting in Central Sound. Jellyfish smacks are numerous in Eld and Budd Inlets. Our fliers notice seals hanging out at the beach!

Monitoring devices deployed by NOAA for detecting harmful algal blooms. Photo by Rachael Mueller.

Salish Sea snapshots: Detecting harmful algal blooms

Environmental samplers may provide early detection of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Puget Sound. This toxic algae is expected to increase as the climate changes, bringing with it new and potentially more severe outbreaks of shellfish poisonings. 

Peter Hodum, conservation biologist from the University of Puget Sound counts rhinoceros auklets and tufted puffins around Protection Island, WA (in the background). Photo: Scott Pearson, WDFW

Marine bird science in Puget Sound

Birds serve as useful indicators of ecosystem change and ecosystem health, biodiversity, condition of habitats, and climate change. Many people and organizations have their eyes on marine birds in Puget Sound.

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Cascade River, WA, 2014. Photo: © Morgan Bond

Advances in technology help researchers evaluate threatened Puget Sound steelhead

New, smaller acoustic tags will allow scientists to track steelhead migrations in Puget Sound in ways that were once impossible. Will they provide answers to the mysterious decline of these now-threatened fish? 

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – June 27, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – June 27, 2016

Record-breaking warmer and fresher water in Puget Sound. May-June conditions are more unusual than last year. Recent rain brought river flows close to normal but water exchange in Puget Sound remains weak due to low Fraser River flow. Phytoplankton blooms and organic material are visible in some areas of Central and South Sound but not in others. Noctiluca, while absent in Central Basin, was reported in unusual places. Jelly fish occur only in some south sound bays. Follow our BEACH program kick off, discover the Stinkworm, and find good underwater visibility for diving.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – May 2, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – May 2, 2016

Spring air temperatures are higher - it has been sunny and dry. The snowpack is quickly disappearing as temperatures are up to 7 °F warmer at higher elevations. Snowmelt-fed rivers are running very high. How does this affect water quality in Puget Sound? A strong spring phytoplankton bloom extends across Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Water temperatures are still higher than normal and jellyfish are already numerous in southern inlets. The high biological activity is causing organic material to drift at the surface and wash onto beaches. Do you know how fast a Sand Star can move?

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – April 6, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – April 6, 2016

Despite warmer air temperatures, normal snowpack in the mountains suggest that summer freshwater flows into Puget Sound might be higher than last year. As of April, the spring plankton bloom has extended across Central and South Puget Sound. Ferry data shows chlorophyll increasing after March 25 and expanding across the area. With water temperatures above normal as a carry-over from 2015, jellyfish patches are numerous in inlets of South Sound and in Sinclair Inlet, unusual for this time of year. Check out the tiny burrowing ostracods as well as our Washington Conservation Corps Intern analyzing seawater oxygen.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – March 16, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – March 16, 2016

In response to warm and wet conditions, rivers have been running high. Salinity in Puget Sound is notably lower. Below a cooler surface, water temperatures remain high, especially in Hood Canal. We still see numerous jellyfish patches in Puget Sound inlets. Phytoplankton blooms are going strong in Hood Canal and Henderson Inlet, and picking up elsewhere. Many places showed long stretches of suspended sediments nearshore, a sign of potential shore erosion. Check out the critters inhabiting the sediments of Puget Sound.

Close up of Phocoena phocoena. Photo: AVampireTear (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Disappearance and return of harbor porpoise to Puget Sound

A 2016 technical report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Cascadia Research Collective details the decline of the harbor porpoise in Puget Sound in the 1970s and reports that species numbers have increased over the past twenty years likely due to outside immigration.

Algal bloom. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0)

Harmful algal blooms in Puget Sound

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in a water system. While most are innocuous, there are a small number of algae species that produce harmful toxins to humans and animals.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – February 8, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – February 8, 2016

January air temperatures and precipitation were above normal as El Nino conditions prevail. This winter our snowpack is in much better shape, though we’ve lost some snow from the stint of warm weather. More rain and higher river flows have lowered salinities in Puget Sound and coastal bays. Nonetheless, water temperatures in Puget Sound remain at record-breaking highs. Jellyfish patches are numerous in finger inlets of South Sound and signs of phytoplankton blooms are visible in coastal bays. When conditions limit flying, Ecology’s research vessel gets the job done.

Mist from the breath of killer whales is collected at the end of a long pole then tested for dozens of different types of bacteria. Photo: Pete Schroeder

Going viral: Concerns rise over potential impacts of disease on the ecosystem

From orcas to starfish to humans, disease affects every living creature in the ecosystem. Scientists are increasingly alarmed by its potential to devastate already compromised populations of species in Puget Sound.  

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – December 14, 2015

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – December 14, 2015

As coastal and regional conditions gradually normalize in response to a fading Blob and increased rain, the big question remains. Will the snow in the mountains stay there or come down prematurely and lower salinity in Puget Sound like last winter? Cascade snowpack is currently below normal. The El Niño at the equator is still brewing! Major rivers transport large amounts of suspended sediments and soil into Puget Sound, also seen in our ferry sensor data. Our flight team gets in the pool for safety training.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – October 6, 2015

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – October 6, 2015

Puget Sound is starting to normalize in response to fall conditions with cooler air temperatures, rain, and recovering river flows. We are seeing fewer algal blooms, jellyfish, and macro-algae as salinities become more normal. Yet warm waters persist and El Nino and the Blob are likely to affect Puget Sound throughout the winter. The Nisqually River fared better through the drought than other rivers and best management practices have been improving its water quality. EOPS and ferry monitoring gain recognition with a national award for innovation!

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – September 21, 2015

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – September 21, 2015

Air temperatures are warm and Puget Sound continues to show record high water temperatures. Some rain has returned to our region, yet river flows remain unusually low. Puget Sound is saltier than normal allowing oxygen-rich surface waters to more easily mix to greater depths. Lower oxygen was measured only in the Coastal Bays, Hood Canal, and South Sound. Large jellyfish aggregations continue in South Sound, the Kitsap Peninsula, and East Sound (Orcas Island). Sediment plumes in Bellingham Bay form unique patterns. Warm waters and sunny conditions fostered green tides, raising a stink along some local beaches.

Puget Sound marine waters 2014 report cover

2014 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from NOAA and the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2014 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

2014 state of salmon in watersheds report cover

2014 state of salmon in watersheds executive summary

This report documents how Washingtonians have responded to the challenges of protecting and restoring salmon and steelhead to healthy status. It also serves as a tool to summarize achievements, track salmon recovery progress through common indicators, and identify data gaps that need to be filled.

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – August 4, 2015

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report – August 4, 2015

Unusually warm water temperatures continue in central and south Puget Sound. River flows remain lower than normal, especially the Fraser and Skagit rivers. Thus, with estuarine circulation much weaker, Puget Sound waters stay put. Mats of organic debris persist in Central Sound near Port Madison. Red-brown and brown blooms are now very strong in southern inlets and jellyfish patches are exceptionally numerous and large. Explore media coverage of unusual Puget Sound conditions including jellyfish.

Sound indicators report cover page

Sound indicators: a review for the Puget Sound Partnership

By the end of 2010, the PSP Science Panel’s efforts had reached the stage where an independent review by the WSAS (Washington State Academy of Sciences) was timely and useful to help guide its future indicator development efforts.

Figure 1. Diagram of Go-Le-Hi-Te wetland system (page 13).

The Gog-Le-Hi-Te Wetland System in the Puyallup River Estuary, Washington: phase V report

The work in 1990, which was the fifth and final year of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit-required monitoring, included continued systematic sampling of sedimentation, vegetation, fish, and birds.

Figure 1. The adaptive management process used in the Action Agenda and Science Plan for the Puget Sound Partnership (page 4).

Biennial Science Work Plan for 2009-2011

This 2009-2011 Puget Sound Biennial Science Work Plan details the high-priority science activities required to: support the implementation of the Action Agenda; build capacity to revise and improve future Action Agendas; and enhance the Puget Sound Partnership’s ability to lead the ecosystem protection and restoration effort.

Figure 31-1. Red circles show the locations of 79 stations sampled during the water properties survey in April, June and September/October (page 147).

State of the physical, biological and selected fishery resources of Pacific Canadian marine ecosystems in 2014

An annual State of the Pacific Ocean meeting is held to review the physical, biological and selected fishery resources and present the results of the most recent year’s monitoring in the context of previous observations and expected future conditions. The workshop to review conditions during 2014 took place at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, B.C. on March 10 and 11, 2015, with over 100 participants both in person and via webinar.

2012 State of Salmon in Watersheds Executive Summary report cover

2012 state of salmon in watersheds executive summary

Salmon recovery demands both dedication among people with different interests, and sustained resources. This biennial report tells the story of the progress made to date and the challenges ahead.

State of the Sound 1986 report cover image

1986 State of the Sound

This is the first State of the Sound Report. It summarizes much of what is known about the Puget Sound basin—its history, economy, human population, land uses and other factors influencing its water quality.

State of the Sound 2004 report cover image

2004 State of the Sound

The State of the Sound 2004 provides answers about the health of Puget Sound and Washington State’s work to protect it. 

State of the Sound 2007 report cover image

2007 State of the Sound

State of the Sound 2007 takes a scientific look at the health of Puget Sound and the status of its marine life, habitats, water quality and climate. The report tracks more than two dozen environmental indicators that provide insight into the health of the Sound and threats to that health.

2009 State of the Sound report cover image; Puget Sound Partnership

2009 State of the Sound

In the 2009 State of the Sound report, the Partnership 1) documents the current status of the ecosystem, 2) explains the performance management system we are putting in place to manage recovery efforts in a systematic way and our progress to date in developing the system, and 3) presents an overview of funding and anticipated results for the 2009-11 biennium, as well as accomplishments in 2007-09 biennium.

1990 Puget Sound Update report cover page

1990 Puget Sound Update

This is the first annual report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP); it briefly describes PSAMP, explains the significance of each type of measurement, and provides initial interpretation of the results.

1991 Puget Sound Update report cover page

1991 Puget Sound Update

This is the second annual Puget Sound Update. Findings from the first two years of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP) form the basis of this report. This report briefly describes PSAMP, explains the significance of each type of monitoring, and discusses the results. It provides some background on the workings of the Puget Sound ecosystem and the history of contamination problems in the Sound. 

1992 Puget Sound Update report cover page

1992 Puget Sound Update

The 1992 Puget Sound Update is the third annual report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP). It reports the results of sampling undertaken in 1991, the most current year for which the data have under gone analysis and quality assurance tests. 

1993 Puget Sound Update report cover page

1993 Puget Sound Update

The 1993 Puget Sound Updatethe fourth annual report of this programevaluates the data collected by PSAMP in 1992 (the most recent year for which the data have undergone quality assurance review and interpretation) and compares these data to past information on Puget Sound water quality.

Fecal contamination graphic (page 39)

1994 Puget Sound Update

The 1994 Puget Sound Updatethe fifth annual summary report of this programevaluates the data collected by the PSAMP in 1993 (the most recent year for which the data have undergone quality assurance review and interpretation) and compares these data to past information on Puget Sound.

1998 Puget Sound Update report cover page

1998 Puget Sound Update

This is the sixth Puget Sound Update, a report for residents of the region about the overall health of Puget Sound. The conclusions in the Update are based mainly on scientific results of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP).

Ecology’s core river and stream monitoring stations in the Puget Sound basin. (page 18)

2000 Puget Sound Update

This seventh Puget Sound Update is based primarily on the findings of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP). The PSAMP is a long-term effort to investigate environmental trends, improve decision-making and prevent overlaps and duplication in monitoring efforts. The results of the PSAMP are supplemented by the findings of many other efforts to evaluate the condition of Puget Sound’s waters, sediments, nearshore habitats and biological resources.

2002 Puget Sound Update report cover page

2002 Puget Sound Update

This Puget Sound Update is the eighth report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP) since the program was initiated in 1988 by the State of Washington.

2007 Puget Sound Update report cover page

2007 Puget Sound Update

The Puget Sound Update is a technical report that integrates results of PSAMP and other scientific activities in Puget Sound focused on marine life and nearshore habitat, marine and freshwater quality, and toxic contamination.

Puget Sound's Health 1998 report cover page

Puget Sound's Health 1998

In 1996 the Washington State Legislature decided that, in order to effectively target protection efforts in the future, it was time to evaluate how well current efforts to protect Puget Sound are working.

The 2012/2013 Action Agenda for Puget Sound cover page

The 2012/2013 Action Agenda for Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Action Agenda lays out the work needed to protect and restore Puget Sound into the future. It is intended to drive investment and action. The 2012 Action Agenda is the result of over a year of work with state and federal agencies, tribal governments, local governments, representatives of the business and environmental caucuses, and other interested partners. It builds on the first Action Agenda, created in 2008, and progress since then.


Monitoring for adaptive management: status and trends of aquatic and riparian habitats in the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish watershed (WRIA 8)

King County conducted physical and biological monitoring between 2010 and 2013 in the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish (WRIA 8) watershed using common survey protocols and a probabilistic survey design. Hydrologic monitoring was also conducted at several locations to supplement physical and biological monitoring. 

B-IBI Results Table screenshot from

Enhancement and standardization of benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring and analysis tools for the Puget Sound region

With funding from an EPA grant from 2010-2014, King County worked with regional partners and experts to enhance data analysis tools and encourage collaboration and standardization for benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring in the Puget Sound region.

The 2014/2015 Action Agenda for Puget Sound cover page

The 2014/2015 Action Agenda for Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Actiona 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. 

Jellyfish surround a floatplane pontoon. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology.

Forty years of change in forage fish and jellyfish abundance across greater Puget Sound, Washington (USA): anthropogenic and climate associations

A 2015 paper in the Marine Ecology Press Series reports a trend toward more jellyfish and less of some forage fish species in Puget Sound. The paper analyzes more than 40 years of state data, and assesses potential human causes for the shift.

Report cover

Status and trends for seagrasses in Puget Sound from 2010-2013

A 2015 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources summarizes the status and trends for native eelgrass and other seagrasses in Puget Sound from 2010-2013.


Framework for prioritizing monitoring of CECs in the Pacific Northwest

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP), along with partners from the US EPA Columbia River Program and USGS Oregon Water Science Center, have developed a framework for prioritizing monitoring of Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the Pacific Northwest.

Screenshot of the shoreline monitoring toolbox

Puget Sound Shoreline Monitoring Toolbox

The Shoreline Monitoring Toolbox standardizes approaches to tracking the status and health of shoreline environments in Puget Sound.

Social scientists will monitor several of the Puget Sound Partership's "Vital Signs" including Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.

Recommended social indicators for the Puget Sound Partnership: A report summarizing lessons from three local case studies

A 2014 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute identifies 23 potential indicators of human wellbeing in the Puget Sound region. These indicators will inform the adoption of Human Quality of Life "Vital Signs" by the Puget Sound Partnership.

Beringmöwe - Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens). Photo: Von B. Walker CC-BY-2.0

A century of change in Glaucous-winged Gull populations in a dynamic coastal environment

A 2015 paper in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications describes century-long trends in Glaucous-winged Gull populations in British Columbia.

Report cover photo by Victor Mesny.

Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the North Cascades Region, Washington

A 2014 report by the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership identifies climate change issues relevant to resource management in the North Cascades, and recommends solutions that will facilitate the transition of the diverse ecosystems of this region into a warmer climate.

Cirratulus spectabilis (Phylum Annelida, Class Polychaeta, Family Cirratulidae) – This polychaete annelid is known as a “sphaghetti worm” because of the tangled mass of branchia (gills) emerging from the segments. These are used for respiration. The number and placement of these are distinctive for each species in this family. (Photo: Maggie Dutch)

Taxonomic guides to benthic invertebrates of Puget Sound

A 2014 Washington State Department of Ecology report provides a taxonomic guide for Puget Sound sediment-dwelling invertebrates (benthos). Surveys of these species are used to monitor the health of the foodweb, as well as levels of toxic contaminants in the seafloor.

Report cover photo.

Shellfish restoration and protection in Kitsap Public Health District

A 2014 report by the Kitsap Public Heath District describes the goals and achievements of the Shellfish Restoration and Protection Project including: increasing harvestable shellfish growing areas, establishing a routine shoreline monitoring program, improving water quality, and increasing education of water quality and shellfish protection.

Purple sea star. Photo by brewbooks. Creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Virus associated with sea-star wasting disease

A virus is the likely cause of sea-star die-offs on the Northeast Pacific Coast and in Puget Sound, according to a November 2014 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

report cover photo

Monitoring and adaptive management of the Nisqually Delta after tidal marsh restoration: Restoring ecosystem function for salmon

This 2009 report by the Nisqually Tribe establishes key measures of restoration development, habitat processes, and Chinook salmon response for the largest delta restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.

Stormwater flowing into catch basin carries contaminants to our waterways. Photo: Ben McLeod (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Citizens now the leading cause of toxics in Puget Sound

New research presented at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference shows that some of the greatest dangers to Puget Sound marine life come from our common, everyday activities. These pervasive sources of pollution are so woven into our lives that they are almost invisible to us, but it’s becoming impossible to ignore their effects.

2013 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

2013 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2013 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

Western grebe. Public Pier, Blaine, WA. Photo: Andrew Reding

Declines in marine birds trouble scientists

Why did all the grebes leave? Where did they go? And what does their disappearance say about the health of the Salish Sea? Seasonal declines among some regional bird species could hold important clues to the overall health of the ecosystem.

A “medicine wheel” graphic that will be used to showcase HWB indicators; copyright Biedenweg et al.

Developing Human Wellbeing Indicators for the Puyallup Watershed

A July 2014 report examines potential human wellbeing indicators for the Puyallup Watershed.

Pigeon Guillemots at Zangle Cove. Photo by Bobbie Moody.

Pigeon Guillemot Foraging and Breeding Survey in and Near the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve

A 2014 report describes a research and monitoring study of Pigeon Guillemot conducted in and near the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve. 

Coastal Management journal cover

The Sound Behavior Index: A Management Tool for Behavioral Aspects of Ecosystem Restoration

This paper appears in the July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management, which focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

Amphipholis squamata (Phylum Echinodermata, Class Ophiuroidea) – This is a brittle star, commonly known as the “brooding snake star”. (Sandra Weakland, Brooke McIntyre photo)

Benthic Invertebrates of Puget Sound

A list of over 1800 benthic infaunal invertebrates is now available on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. The list was prepared as part of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Marine Sediment Monitoring Program (MSMP).  This program, initiated in 1989, is one component of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, a collaborative effort dedicated to monitoring environmental conditions in Puget Sound. 


Regional investigations into the effects of CECs

Several research groups in the region are investigating biological markers and/or impacts of Contaminant of Emerging Concern (CEC) exposure in different organisms.  An abstract describing each study is included below.  Also included are links or contact details for further information about each project.


Regional monitoring of CECs in the Salish Sea

Several studies have been performed to determine the occurrence of selected Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the environment.

CECs include thousands of commonly used chemical compounds. Photo courtesy of EPA.

Contaminants of emerging concern in the Salish Sea

Thousands of different compounds are produced and used as part of our daily lives.  Examples include pharmaceuticals (NSAIDs, birth control pills, etc), personal care products (sun screen agents, scents, preservatives, etc), food additives (artificial sweeteners) and compounds used in industrial and commercial applications (flame retardants, antibiotics, etc).  Advances in analytical methods have allowed the detection of many of these compounds in the environment.


Statement on Salish Sea Harbor Porpoise Research and Management Needs

Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) are one of the most frequently sighted cetaceans in the Salish Sea. Anecdotal information, possibly supported with stranding encounter rate data, suggests that harbor porpoise may have increased in Puget Sound, or have shifted their distribution back to Puget Sound relative to earlier decades.

Harbour porpoise stranded due to bycattch. Source: Jan Haelters

Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena vomerina): Washington inland waters stock

Harbor porpoises were once common in Puget Sound, but had all but disappeared from local waters by the 1970s. Regular and numerous anecdotal sightings in recent years show that populations of these cetaceans are now increasing and may be approaching their former status. The attached document from NOAA Fisheries describes harbor porpoise numbers and their geographic range in Puget Sound as of 2011. 

HARBOR PORPOISE (Phocoena phocoena vomerina): Washington Inland Waters Stock (NOAA Fisheries 2011)

Salish Sea Hydrophone Network locations and 2011
 orca sightings from the Orca Network Whale Sightings Network. Source: Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network.

Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network

The Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network are two citizen science projects dedicated to furthering our understanding of abundance, distribution, behavior, and habitat use by the endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales, also called orcas. The Hydrophone Network lets the public listen for orcas through their computers and phones, while the Orca Network gathers and disseminates sightings of orcas as they move between Puget Sound, the Fraser River, and the Pacific Ocean.


Development of Puget Sound Benthic Indicators

A Washington State Department of Ecology report establishing benthic indicators for Puget Sound. Benthic macrofauna are known to be good indicators of the status of marine environments, and benthic indices are often used as an assessment tool.

Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra). Photo by Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Marine and terrestrial bird indicators for Puget Sound

A December 2013 report identifies marine and terrestrial bird species for use as indicators within the Puget Sound Partnership's "Vital Signs" for ecosystem health. 

Social scientists will monitor several of the Puget Sound Partership's "Vital Signs" including Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.

Social science and monitoring needs for Puget Sound recovery

A report by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute describes a 2013 workshop to integrate the social sciences into Puget Sound ecosystem monitoring. Social scientists will focus in part on several of the Puget Sound Partnership's designated ecosystem indicators, including categories such as Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.

Puget Sound Salmonid Habitat Monitoring Inventory and Recommendations

Puget Sound salmonid habitat monitoring inventory and recommendations

An October 2013 report released by the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program inventories and assesses monitoring activities of Puget Sound's ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks and habitats.

2013 State of the Sound report cover

2013 State of the Sound

The 2013 State of the Sound is the Puget Sound Partnership’s third report to the Legislature on progress toward the recovery of Puget Sound by 2020. The document reports on both the status of the Partnership's recovery efforts and the status of a suite of ecosystem indicators.

Figure 1. Map of study area. Map depicts the four receiver arrays: Hood Canal Bridge (HCB), Mid Canal (MCL), Admiralty Inlet (ADM), and Strait of Juan de Fuca (JDF). Lower insets show single receiver locations for each year.

Paper: A floating bridge disrupts seaward migration and increases mortality of Steelhead smolts in Hood Canal, Washington State

A new study provides strong evidence of substantial migration interference and increased mortality risk associated with the Hood Canal Bridge for aquatic animals, and may partially explain low early marine survival rates observed in Hood Canal steelhead populations.

The Seaeye Falcon used by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo courtesy WDFW.

Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in Puget Sound

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are underwater robotic vehicles used for a variety of ocean surveys and operations. Both are used for deep-sea observation, mapping of underwater environments, and surveys of biodiversity and water quality trends. While ROVs are tethered to the user by a cord called the umbilical, which provides power as well as control and video signals, AUVs are programmed for a specific course and then set loose, operating without a tether.


2012 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Marine Waters 2012 Overview from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program synthesizes conditions measured in 2012 and has been expanded to include observations on seabirds that rely on marine waters. Read an excerpt below, or download the full report.


Puget Sound Voices: Don Malins interview

The audio files below are excerpts from a May 2013 interview with Donald Malins, former Director of the Environmental Conservation Division of NOAA Fisheries. Research by Malins and his colleagues in the 1970s and mid-1980s revealed high levels of industrial toxics in sediment-dwelling fish in Puget Sound, leading to the creation of Superfund sites in the Duwamish Estuary and Commencement Bay. Read a full profile of Donald Malins. The interview was conducted by Richard Strickland and Randy Shuman in cooperation with the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound as part of the Puget Sound Voices series. Additional assistance was provided by Jake Strickland. 

A "spy hopping" Southern Resident killer whale in the San Juan Islands. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Report: Potential effects of PBDEs on Puget Sound and Southern Resident Killer Whales

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 and the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Region have released a report describing results from a series of technical workgroups about the potential effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on Puget Sound and Southern Resident killer whales.

Don Malins examines a fish during a research trip to the Duwamish estuary. Photo circa 1987. Photographer unknown.

Toxics research that changed Puget Sound history

In the 1970s and 1980s, research from a division of NOAA's Montlake Lab suddenly and irreversibly changed the way scientists and the public viewed the health of Puget Sound. Their discoveries of industrial toxics in the region's sediment-dwelling fish led to the creation of two Superfund sites, and new approaches to ecosystem management across the Sound. The man at the forefront of this research was Dr. Donald Malins, featured here as part of the Puget Sound Voices series.

Screenshot of 2013 Health of the Salish Sea Ecosystem Report

Report: 2013 Health of the Salish Sea Ecosystem Report

The 2013 Health of the Salish Sea Ecosystem Report was prepared jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada. View the complete report, or read the Executive Summary below.


Rock Sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata); image courtesy Freshwater and Marine Image Bank, University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections

Paper: Shifts in the estuarine demersal fish community after a fishery closure in Puget Sound, Washington

This paper looks at 21 years of data on estuarine demersal fish in Puget Sound, assessing changes in population after the closure of bottom trawl fisheries.

Closeup of herring spawn on kelp.

Field notes: Are Puget Sound herring limited by loss of eelgrass?

Could recent declines in Puget Sound herring be linked to decreases in native eelgrass? Biologist Tessa Francis reports on a new study that may provide insight into the health of one of the region's most iconic forage fish.

Western Grebe; image by mikebaird, courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life

Paper: Citizen science reveals an extensive shift in the winter distribution of migratory Western Grebes

A June 19, 2013 paper in the journal PLoS ONE hypothesizes that regional declines in Western Grebe populations may be related to decreasing numbers of forage fish. Using citizen science data from 36 years of bird counts, researchers were able to look at population trends up and down the entire West Coast, finding that abundance of grebes decreased in the Salish Sea but increased in southern California. North American population declined by 52% overall.

Orca whale in Puget Sound. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Paper: Spatial and temporal analysis of killer whale (Orcinus orca) strandings in the North Pacific Ocean and the benefits of a coordinated stranding response protocol

A new paper by Puget Sound area scientists from the SeaDoc Society and their collaborators represents the most complete summary to date of killer whale (Orcinus orca) strandings in the North Pacific. The authors analyzed stranding records dating back to 1925, obtained from scientists worldwide, finding that very few whales are stranded (an average of ten a year over the last twenty years). However, most of those strandings result in death. Only 12% of stranded whales survive.

The float plane prepares to take off. Photo by Jeff Rice for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

About the Eyes Over Puget Sound monitoring program

Once a month, Washington State Department of Ecology marine scientists take to the air to obtain high-resolution aerial photo observations and gather water data at the agency's monitoring stations and via state ferry transects. This provides a visual picture of the health of Puget Sound, which they call Eyes Over Puget Sound or EOPS.


Interacting coastal based ecosystem services— recreation and water quality in Puget Sound

This paper uses water quality data to examine the relationship between environmental condition and recreational use of parks in Puget Sound.

Block seine fishing. Image courtesy of WDFW.

Report: Economic analysis of the non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries in Washington State

This report, published in 2008 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, summarizes the economic importance of Washington fisheries using data from 2006. The report's Executive Summary is reprinted below, followed by summaries of data specific to Puget Sound.

Photograph of sediment-covered rocks in the lower Elwha River just upstream of the river mouth at the Strait of Juan de Fuca (June 20, 2012, Chris Magirl).

Suspended-sediment concentrations during dam decommissioning in the Elwha River, Washington

This document was prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service. Download the entire report, or read the Introduction below. Portions of this document were originally published in June 2013 and were updated in February 2014. 

Benthic invertebrates are indicators of sediment health. Photo by D. Hyrenbach, NOAA.

Report: Sediment quality in Central Puget Sound

Sediment health in Central Puget Sound has shown a recent steep decline, according to a report by the Washington Department of Ecology. The report compares monitoring data over a ten-year period between 1998/1999 and 2008/2009.

Rhinoceros Auklet carrying sand lance. Photo by Peter Hodum.

Paper: A model approach for estimating colony size, trends and habitat associations of burrow-nesting seabirds

A paper in the May 2013 issue of The Condor [115(2):356–365, 2013] describes a repeatable and statistically robust approach to monitoring burrow nesting seabirds in the Salish Sea and the California Current that can be applied at single- or multi-island scales. The approach can be applied to both relatively common and important members of the seabird community like the Rhinoceros Auklet and to species of conservation concern like the Tufted Puffin.

Drawing of Ocean Phase Chinook (king) salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

NOAA report establishes Chinook monitoring framework

A new Chinook monitoring framework is designed to build cooperation among managers and policymakers working across the Puget Sound watershed. The report, prepared by an independent team of scientists and released by NOAA, includes a regionally specific, common classification system for Chinook habitats and key ecological attributes. 


Puget Sound Chinook Salmon recovery: a framework for the development of monitoring and adaptive management plans

The Puget Sound Recovery Implementation Technical Team has released a draft of a NOAA technical memorandum describing frameworks for adaptive management and monitoring of Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. Download the report.

MoSSea snapshot of sea surface temperature over the full model domain around May 15, 2006; image courtesy of PRISM

Water quality model development and application in Puget Sound and Georgia Basin

A recent summary includes information compiled in Winter 2013 by the modeling workgroup of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP). It describes several ecosystem modeling efforts in the region.

Olympia oysters in Washington. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Native shellfish in nearshore ecosystems of Puget Sound

This is the executive summary from a technical report produced for the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership on Valued Ecosystem Components (VEC). The entire document is included as a PDF with this summary.

Northern Sea Otter. Photo: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Species of concern in the Salish Sea

The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound species library now includes a list of species of concern in the Salish Sea watershed. The list was created by Joe Gaydos and Nicholas Brown of the SeaDoc Society, and was released as a paper presented as part of the Proceedings of the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC.

Photo credit: Biopix, Caddisfly, Limnephilus politus CC BY-NC

Indicator species

An indicator species is an organism whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a specific environmental condition. Indicator species can signal a change in the biological condition of a particular ecosystem, and thus may be used as a proxy to diagnose the health of an ecosystem. For example, plants or lichens sensitive to heavy metals or acids in precipitation may be indicators of air pollution. Indicator species can also reflect a unique set of environmental qualities or characteristics found in a specific place, such as a unique microclimate.

Pacific Treefrog; photo by James Bettaso, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Reports: Sauk-Suiattle amphibian surveys

The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe conducts annual surveys of amphibian egg masses in the Reservation Slough wetland near the Sauk River.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

Report: The effects of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident Killer Whales

A recent report by an independent science panel reviewed data on the effects of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident Killer Whale populations. The report was released on November 30, 2012 and was commissioned by NOAA Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita). Photo by Hans Hillewaert, courtesy of USGS.


Recent worldwide increases in the abundance of some jellyfish have been associated with human-caused disturbances to the environment such as eutrophication, overfishing and climate warming.

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is one of the fastest growing organisms on earth. Cultivating kelp and other algae could help offset ocean acidification. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Sweetening the waters - the feasibility and efficacy of measures to protect Washington’s marine resources from ocean acidification

Washington State's ocean acidification initiative began with the launch of Governer Christine Gregoire's Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification in December 2011. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country, and a report commissioned by the Global Ocean Health Program was released in November 2012. The report is a first step towards assessing and improving the tools at hand.

Protection Island. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Protection Island

Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, provides important habitat for seabirds and marine mammals.

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2011

2011 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Marine Waters 2011 report is now available. The report was produced by the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program and assesses the condition and quality of the waters of Puget Sound. 

Coast Salish Canoe Journey 2009 landing in Pillar Point; photo by Carol Reiss, USGS

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), sometimes called Indigenous Knowledge, refers to cumulative knowledge and experience that indigenous cultures have of their environment. In the last thirty years, there has been growing interest in TEK as a resource for restoration and conservation projects.

Benthic macroinvertebrates are visible to the naked eye. Photo by Jo Wilhelm, courtesy King County.

Featured resource: Puget Sound Stream Benthos

Puget Sound Stream Benthos is a data management project which monitors benthic invertebrates in streams and rivers in the Puget Sound region. The system is maintained and operated by King County and was the result of a joint effort between King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties.

Seaglider in the open water. Photo courtesy of Seaglider Fabrication Center

Seagliders in Puget Sound

They are sometimes called Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), or submersible drones. They glide like airships through the deeper channels of Puget Sound, and have become an important tool for a wide array of open ocean applications, including detection of marine mammals, military reconnaissance and the monitoring of environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Puget Sound is the birthplace and key testing area of the Seaglider.


Marine fecal bacteria

Fecal bacteria are found in the feces of humans and other homeothermic animals. They are monitored in recreational waters because they are good indicators of harmful pathogens that are more difficult to measure. 

Bluff failures contribute sediment to beaches

Shoreline formation in Puget Sound

Puget Sound has over 4,000 km (2,500 miles) of shorelines, ranging from rocky sea cliffs to coastal bluffs and river deltas. The exchange of water, sediment, and nutrients between the land and sea is fundamental to the formation and maintenance of an array of critical habitat types.


Habitats of the Puget Sound watershed

"Habitat" describes the physical and biological conditions that support a species or species assemblage and refers to conditions that exist at many scales. An oyster shell provides habitat for some algae and invertebrates, whereas cubic miles of sunlit water in Puget Sound comprise the habitat for many planktonic species.