Puget Sound is unique in the lower 48 Unites States because of its fjord-like physiography, inland extent, wide range of depths, and urbanized watersheds and shorelines. Limited exchange of seawater between sub-basins within Puget Sound can result in long residence times, potentially increasing the susceptibility of biota to contamination introduced through human activities. The varied habitats within Puget Sound support multiple life history stages of many species, potentially exposing sensitive life stages to contamination. There are multiple water quality concerns in Puget Sound:
- Levels of toxic contaminants in biota that live or feed in Puget Sound.
- The eutrophication of marine waters, producing hypoxic and anoxic regions.
- Wastewater contamination, principally from combined sewer overflows or septic systems
- Harmful algal blooms, which introduce toxins that enter the food web
- Acidification of marine waters, and the adverse ecological effects that result.
Degradation of water quality in Puget Sound occurs through three primary mechanisms. The first is through the introduction of toxic contaminants, primarily comprising manufactured synthetic chemicals, but also including compounds that occur naturally that are concentrated in the local environment to toxic levels via human activities. The second is through human-caused changes in naturally occurring chemicals, compounds, or physical parameters (e.g., temperature, turbidity, nutrients, pH). The third is through introduction of new diseases or pathogens, or through other activities that cause an unnatural increase in disease organisms.
A 2019 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Marine Water Quality Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy is a recovery plan that will guide funding and activities to reduce the impacts of toxics contaminants on marine fish and the humans that consume them. A final version of the plan was published in May 2021.
The 2021 State of the Sound is the Puget Sound Partnership’s seventh biennial report to the Legislature on progress toward the recovery of Puget Sound. The document reports on both the status of the Partnership's recovery efforts and a suite of ecosystem indicators referred to as the Puget Sound Vital Signs.
The tenth annual Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview looks at marine water quality and other conditions in the region in 2020. According to the report, there were few extreme weather or ecological events in 2020, but overall, conditions in Puget Sound were generally warmer, sunnier, and wetter than in typical years. The overview also examines patterns and trends in numerous environmental parameters, including plankton, water quality, climate, and marine life.
Bug seeding involves moving beneficial insects and other aquatic invertebrates from healthy streams to streams where these creatures are missing from the food web.
This summer river flows were generally lower than in 2020. And in August, high air temperatures and low precipitation continued, following a drought emergency declaration in mid-July that affected also marine conditions. The higher-than-normal salinity anomaly which persisted during summer in Puget Sound marine water is, however, eroding away, and lower-than-normal oxygen conditions developed in Central Sound in the month of August. Many blooms and organic material were reported by citizens throughout summer, and by September many colorful blooms in bays across the region continue to be active. Patches of macro-algae and organic debris are still numerous in South and Central Sound and in Padilla Bay. Jellyfish are occurring in unusual places. While we document water quality issues, we are also showcasing the natural beauty of Puget Sound through photography.
A 2021 report commissioned by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources identifies potential actions at the state or local level, or in combination, that could further bolster shellfish bed recovery in support of the Puget Sound Partnership's shellfish bed recovery target.
The Nooksack River watershed spans part of the border between British Columbia and the State of Washington. In August 2018, the international, multi-agency Nooksack River Transboundary Technical Collaboration Group (TCG) was established to implement a three-year work plan to reduce fecal bacteria concentrations in the Nooksack River watershed. The 2020-2021 TCG annual report summarizes third and final year project activities and focuses on three of the watershed's transborder sub-basins.
Despite a La Niña, precipitation and rain have been lower since March, leaving only snow-fed rivers running high. Due to lower rainfall and warm summer temperatures the salinity of Puget Sound is now generally higher. Strong blooms and large patches of organic material and macro-algae are building up in many places and wash onto beaches. During very hot summer days, tidal mudflats and beaches can get really warm. Beach wrack can harbor increased bacteria numbers now. See SCUBA cleaning up at Redondo beach.
After a wet winter/spring transition it has been noticeably drier, warmer and sunnier. River flows are near normal levels and in Puget Sound and coastal bays salinity is increasing above normal. The spring bloom is developing but not very pronounced, yet, Noctiluca is already visible in southern Hood Canal. Suspended sediment near rivers and creeks, failing bluffs, and shellfish activities are frequent. Capturing herring spawning from the plane is informative; pilots share their observations.
The Salish Sea Model is a computer model used to predict spatial and temporal patterns related to water circulation in the Salish Sea. It was developed at the United States Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. It is housed at the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute.
Years of struggle have led to reduced pollution and a stronger sense of community in the Duwamish Valley. As cleanup efforts there continue, environmental justice has come front and center for the area's diverse populations.
An update to state rules regarding the cleanup of toxic pollution is expected to bring more attention to factors like race, ethnicity and income within populations that live near contaminated sites.
We are in a weakening La Niña, coastal downwelling has lessened and we are getting out of a cold and wet stretch, hurray. In March, rivers have almost returned to normal and carry clear water. It’s a good time to go diving if you don’t mind cold water. The productive season has only started in some places and patches of jellyfish are visible. Have a look at this edition and marvel about the secrets of the dead, or mysterious sediment clouds and the oil sheen spotted near Lummi Bay.
The Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) Implementation Strategy is designed to improve freshwater quality by analyzing the health and diversity of invertebrate populations in Puget Sound area streams.
Rivers are flowing higher than normal since 2020. Winter weather has been warmer and wetter. In marine waters, temperatures have become too cool for Northern Pacific anchovies to tolerate in North Sound. From patches of jellyfish and snow geese, to sediment and early blooms, there is more happening in the winter than you might expect. Puget Sound has many species worth showcasing such as the heart crab – a shy critter that wears its heart on its shell.
Priority Science to Support Recovery of the Puget Sound Ecosystem: A Science Work Plan for 2020-2024 (SWP for 2020-2024) describes the information, learning, and interaction needed to support the coordinated efforts to recover, protect, and improve the resilience of the Puget Sound ecosystem.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has prepared a summary review of its Eyes Over Puget Sound surface condition reports from 2020.
The search for why large numbers of spawning coho salmon have been dying in Puget Sound's urban streams goes as far back as the 1980s and culminated this year with the discovery of a previously unidentified chemical related to automobile tires. We offer a detailed timeline for the discovery.
Environmental engineers and chemists at the University of Washington Tacoma have identified a mysterious compound implicated in the deaths of large numbers of coho salmon in Puget Sound. The chemical is linked with a rubber additive commonly used in tires and is thought to kill more than half of the spawning coho that enter the region's urban streams every year.
Modern automobile tires are a complex mixture of chemicals, all used together in different ways to give tires their structure and properties, including riding comfort, safety and long life. Chemicals from tire wear particles are now thought to be responsible for the deaths of large numbers of coho salmon returning to spawn in Puget Sound streams.
A new report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program details the effects of a changing climate on Puget Sound in 2019, and documents how these changes moved through the ecosystem to affect marine life and seafood consumers.
After a relatively warm summer and fall, and La Niña forming in the tropics, stream flows in the Puget Sound region are now relatively normal. Summer in Puget Sound produced lots of algal and organic material in the water and on beaches, which by October have disappeared. Kelp beds look strong in northern Puget Sound and the Straits; and the harvest of the annual chum salmon run is in full swing in Hood Canal. Jellyfish aggregations are visible in Budd and Sinclair Inlets — and some of the jellyfish might conceal a beast of another kind within. Oil sheens on the water are currently numerous.
Many creeks and waterbodies in Puget Sound may look pristine, but most face serious threats from stormwater pollution. A new study at Soos Creek shows how mud-dwelling bugs, traditional chemistry and digital "heatmaps" can be used to track stormwater impacts and identify the most polluted areas. Scientists and planners hope that this may one day lower the price tag on costly stormwater fixes.
Years after the appearance of the devastating marine heat wave known as "the blob," scientists are still working to understand how it has affected the Salish Sea. In some ways, they say, it is like the blob never left.
It’s no secret that salmon and other Northwest fish populations are expected to shrink as a result of a warming Pacific Ocean. But a new study suggests that the resulting decline in commercial fishing by 2050 could be twice as great as previously estimated by climate scientists.
The Nooksack River watershed spans part of the border between British Columbia and the State of Washington. In August 2018, the international, multi-agency Nooksack River Transboundary Technical Collaboration Group was established to implement a three-year work plan to reduce fecal bacteria concentrations in the Nooksack River watershed. As a work plan deliverable, the group produced this annual report summarizing first year project activities.
Participants in this year’s Earth Day activities won’t be rallying in large groups, participating in environmental festivals or coming together to clean up the Earth. On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — April 21st — the environmental movement will be uniquely digital, with many people celebrating from their home computers. [This story is reprinted from the Puget Sound Institute-sponsored blog 'Our Water Ways.']
The Pathogens Prevention Reduction and Control agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Health focuses on the prevention and reduction of pathogen pollution in Puget Sound through the management of human and animal waste. The primary objectives of the agreement include restoring shellfish growing areas, avoiding shellfish closures, and protecting people from disease.
After a wet January, precipitation has been low and air temperatures have been cooler. As a result, rivers gages are lower than expected, a pattern that has continued since last year. In March we approached the coldest water temperatures of the year. Herring are spawning in Port Madison. Although these cool temperatures are good for herring, temperatures are close to the survival limits for anchovies. If you can handle these temperatures, now is a good time to go diving to benefit of good underwater visibility, just avoid windy days near wave-exposed beaches. If you are lucky, you might see the kelp humpback shrimp, a master of camouflage.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has prepared a summary review of its Eyes Over Puget Sound surface condition reports from 2019. The year started with snow, and a summer drought kept river flows low. As a result, salinities in Puget Sound were elevated year round. Warmer surface water temperatures in spring gradually extended to greater depth by late summer. The spring bloom was strong, and South Sound provided optimal conditions for anchovies that showed up in high numbers. A coccolithophore bloom stained Hood Canal turquoise, and Port Angeles and Discovery Bay were colored red-brown by strong blooms. Noctiluca and macroalgae, both known eutrophication indicators in coastal regions, were abundant in Central Sound, and extended into South Sound and Whidbey Basin. Large numbers of jellyfish occurred in Quartermaster Harbor, Sinclair Inlet, and parts of Orcas Island.
Last summer, scientists met at the University of Washington to address alarming findings concerning the rapid acidification of the world's oceans. Experts at that symposium warned that wildlife in the Salish Sea, from salmon to shellfish, may start to see significant effects from changing water chemistry within the next 10 to 20 years. This article summarizes the symposium's key findings and was commissioned and edited by the Washington Ocean Acidification Center which hosted the gathering. Funds for the article were provided by the Washington state legislature. [A version of this article was originally published by the Washington Ocean Acidification Center.]
After a dry early summer followed by more than expected rain, rivers mostly remained lower than in 2018. In October air temperatures dropped, but water temperatures remained warm enough for spawning anchovies in South and Central Sound and herring and salmon optimal growth in Whidbey Basin. By the end of October many red-brown blooms vanished, yet the waters of South Sound are still green, adorned with rafts of organic debris in many places. Read what happened the year before in the Puget Sound Marine Waters 2018 Overview.
A new report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program says climate change altered the base of Puget Sound's food web in 2018, diminishing microscopic phytoplankton necessary for marine life. Scientists also observed lower abundances of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.
Volunteer researchers are tracking the plastic and other debris washing up on Puget Sound's beaches. They hope the data can be used to protect sea creatures from the growing amounts of trash littering the world's oceans. [A version of this article first appeared in the COASST blog.]
This year, air temperatures were warmer than in previous years, and this pattern is predicted to continue. Precipitation was low and is now improving, yet river flows remain low. By August, Puget Sound surface water temperatures were 0.6 °C warmer across all regions; this could have shifted the timing of optimal temperatures for some marine organisms. In September, blooms are limited to inlets. Jellyfish are abundant in Sinclair Inlet, and anchovies reside in Eld Inlet. Macroalgae are still plentiful. Learn about the benefits of beach wrack and a DNA barcoding project supported by Ecology.
In July, the recent trends of warm, dry conditions lessened; however, river flows remain low. Extensive macroalgae drifted through South and Central Sound and washed up on beaches. Macroalgae growth is fueled by excessive nutrients and sunshine. When it washes onto the beach, it is called beach wrack, and it can be a health risk to beachgoers because of bacteria it can harbor. From our aerial photography, we saw that Southern Hood Canal looks tropical because of a bloom of coccolithophores coloring the water turquoise. Schools of fish congregate in South Sound and southern Hood Canal. Jellyfish are abundant in Quartermaster Harbor.
A 2019 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans outlines how the Salish Sea Model describes the impacts of climate change, sea level rise and nutrient loads on the region's nearshore environment.
Warm and dry conditions this spring are predicted to persist into summer, resulting in saltier and warmer than normal Puget Sound water conditions. Early upwelling and a premature melt of the snowpack means nutrient-rich ocean water likely already entered Puget Sound. This sets the stage for a lot of biological activity. From the air, it is obvious that the productive season is in full swing. We saw large algae blooms in Central Sound along with abundant Noctiluca. Huge numbers of anchovies were documented in Case Inlet and other finger inlets in South Sound, attracting hundreds of marine mammals.
Following a generally warmer and drier winter and then a cold spell in February, Puget Sound waters are cold for anchovies. The productive season is in full swing with algal blooms spotted in South Sound, Kitsap Peninsula, and Quartermaster Harbor. Jellyfish are abundant in some inlets, and Noctiluca stains the water orange in Hood Canal. We collect monthly data to keep you informed about the conditions around Puget Sound. Come into the lab and see how we assure the highest data quality from our field instruments!
An EPA-funded study of oil spill risks in Puget Sound forms the basis of new legislation to regulate vessel traffic in the region. We break down some of the numbers from the study and look at where the risks may be greatest.
Although fall and winter were warm, February brought cold snowy weather and low river flows. Despite colder air temperatures, the productive season has already started in Hood Canal and Holmes Harbor. Puget Sound waters were warmer than expected through January, and the warmest waters were in Hood Canal, possibly creating a thermal refuge for cold-sensitive species such as anchovies. We saw lots of sea lions feasting on anchovies in Case Inlet, and we may have captured some herring spawning activity. Unusual for mid-winter, we saw jellyfish patches in Eld and Budd inlets. See the new publication about ocean acidification featuring twenty-five years of our marine monitoring data!
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.
In 2018, water temperatures were slightly warmer than normal. Aerial photos revealed many spawning herring and baitfish as well as algal blooms. We also saw abundant macro-algae, a persistent Noctiluca bloom, and countless red blooms. Were these observations related to the cool, wet spring followed by a warm, dry, and sunny summer? Or did the neutral boundary conditions in the Pacific Ocean also play a role? A full summary is available in the report.
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program has released its seventh annual Marine Waters Overview. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2017 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds and fish.
The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 was designed as a logical step-by-step approach to clean up the nation's waterways. Most people acknowledge that the law has been effective in reducing pollution, but industrial and environment groups tend to be on opposite sides when discussing whether regulations and permits adequately protect water quality. These 10 elements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) focus on how the law applies to Puget Sound.
This fall, elevated air temperatures, lower precipitation, and lower river flows generally persisted; this aligned with fall and winter climate predictions. Following a warm summer, October water temperatures dropped back to optimal ranges for many fish. Puget Sound water has cleared and visibility has increased as the productive season ends making it easier to document jellyfish and schools of fish in the inlets of South Sound. While these flights generate a lot of attention, the majority of our monitoring in Puget Sound is now done via boat!
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.
New research shows that warmer and more acidic oceans could lead to shorter embryos and higher respiration in Pacific herring.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sediment Quality in Puget Sound: Changes in chemical contaminants and invertebrate communities at 10 sentinel stations, 1989–2015
A 2018 report from the Washington State Department of Ecology presents results from 27 years of sampling sediments and benthic invertebrates at 10 long-term stations throughout the greater Puget Sound area every year from 1989 through 2015.
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.
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.
The amount of oxygen in the Salish Sea is dependent on water circulation which distributes chemical elements such as nitrogen through the system.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are required to assess the quality of their surface waters and compile a list of polluted water bodies. The law mandates cleanup plans to address pollution and other water-quality problems. This article describes how this process works in Washington state for dissolved oxygen.
The Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council has released an addendum to the 2012 report Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action. The original report established a statewide strategy for addressing ocean acidification in Washington. The addendum identifies updates based on emerging science and management practices and is intended to be a companion to the 2012 report.
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program has released its sixth annual Marine Waters Overview. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2016 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds and fish.
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?
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.
Formaldehyde is often used to control parasites on hatchery salmon and trout. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology conducted a joint study of formaldehyde concentrations in effluent from hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 2017 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is an independent program established by state and federal statute to monitor environmental conditions in Puget Sound.
After a long struggle with pollution, Drayton Harbor has reopened to year-round commercial oyster harvesting for the first time in 22 years. Here’s how the community cleaned up its act, potentially showing the way for shellfish recovery throughout Puget Sound.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Efforts to reduce fire hazards over a half century ago have left an unintended trail of persistent environmental contaminants from flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs. Bans and substitutes are still evolving.
Scientists are testing ways to use transplanted shellfish such as mussels to monitor toxic contaminants in Puget Sound.
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.
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.
Sand lance in parts of British Columbia are ingesting small pieces of plastic that may be passed through the food web.
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.
Formerly known as “Red Tide”, harmful algal blooms are a health concern for both wildlife and humans. The following is a brief review of some of these algae and their effects.
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!
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.
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.
Many of Puget Sound's Chinook salmon spend their entire lives in local waters and don't migrate to the open ocean. These fish tend to collect more contaminants in their bodies because of the sound's relatively high levels of pollution.
Protecting Puget Sound watersheds from agricultural pollution using a progressive manure application risk management (ARM) system
Throughout the Puget Sound region, impacted and poorly managed agriculture has been repeatedly advanced as a leading contributor to surface and ground water pollution, particularly during the winter months. A study conducted from 2010 - 2015 aimed to develop an Application Risk Management (ARM) System to minimize pollution from manure in Whatcom County.
Researchers are proposing a shift in thinking about how some of the region’s most damaging pollutants enter Puget Sound species like herring, salmon and orcas.
Researchers are studying how persistent pollutants such as PCBs avoid settling to the bottom of Puget Sound. This article continues our coverage of new theories on the spread of toxic chemicals in the food web.
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?
This report summarizes activities and accomplishments completed under the grant PO-00J100-01 from September 13, 2010 to December 31, 2015.
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.
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.
A 2016 paper in Environmental Pollution identifies dozens of pharmaceuticals and other compounds that are accumulating in Puget Sound fish such as salmon.
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.
Lake Washington was heavily contaminated by untreated sewage until extensive pollution controls by the city of Seattle.
This article describes the first known case of conjoined twins in a harbor seal. The case was documented in the Salish Sea region where harbor seals are often used as indicators of contaminant levels. However, researchers say their findings do not support that this anomaly was due to any common contaminants and hypothesize that the twinning was caused by disordered embryo migration and fusion.
Runoff from rain and melting snow is one of the leading causes of pollution in Puget Sound. Here are selected facts related to stormwater, its prevalence, how it affects the Puget Sound ecosystem, and its environmental and economic impacts.
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.
Evaluating threats in multinational marine ecosystems: A Coast Salish first nations and tribal perspective
A 2015 paper in the journal PLoS ONE identifies ongoing and proposed energy-related development projects that will increase marine vessel traffic in the Salish Sea. It evaluates the threats each project poses to natural resources important to Coast Salish first nations and tribes.
The year 2015 in pictures: Jellyfish patches persisted through the entire year in response to the exceptionally warm water caused by the Blob. Sediment loads are high as snow melts fast in the winter of 2015. Unexpected phytoplankton species occur in some bays in spring. Noctiluca, jellyfish and macro-algae appear in high numbers when rivers drop to record-low flows in early summer. Low river flows slow the renewal of in Puget Sound throughout summer and fall and jellyfish patches reach record highs.
A 2015 report from the Whatcom Conservation District and Whatcom County describes a pilot watershed characterization study focusing on the Terrell Creek and Birch Bay areas. The report and related appendices are available for download.
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.
An EPA-funded study by the Thurston Regional Planning Council identified recommended strategies and actions to protect and improve water quality and aquatic resources in the Woodard Creek Basin.
An EPA-funded study by the Thurston Regional Planning Council identified recommended strategies and actions to protect and improve water quality and aquatic resources in the McLane Creek Basin.
An EPA-funded study by the Thurston Regional Planning Council identified recommended strategies and actions to protect and improve water quality and aquatic resources in the Black Lake Basin.
Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) range from pharmaceuticals, personal care products and food additives to compounds used in industrial and commercial applications. These compounds are not typically removed from wastewater and are flushed into waterways throughout the world in significant amounts. This article describes how scientists are measuring the presence of these contaminants along with their potential impacts in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and elsewhere.
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!
The Lower Duwamish Waterway in Puget Sound was designated a Superfund cleanup site in 2001. Its legacy of contamination predates World War II and the waterway continues to pollute Puget Sound through stormwater runoff.
The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.
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 is the second largest estuary in the United States. Today, we understand that estuaries—where freshwater and saltwater merge—are among the most productive places for life to exist.
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.
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.
The Puget Sound Water Quality Conference was held in Seattle, Washington, on September 30 and October 1, 1983. It included prominent speakers from the Puget Sound region, other parts of the United States, and Canada.
The final report on a knotweed removal and native plant project from grant PO-00J08401 to King County DNR for the grant entitled: Protection and enhancement of the riparian buffers in WRIA 7 through restoration and stewardship.
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.
This 1954 report present the results of a geochemical investigation, based on existing data, of the waters of Puget Sound. Rivers draining into the Puget Sound and upwelled water moving in at depth from Juan de Fuca Strait are the chief sources of the chemical constituents in Puget Sound.
Toxicant pretreatment planning study technical report C1: Presence, distribution and fate of toxicants in Puget Sound and Lake Washington was published in October 1984.
A scientific assessment of current status and future trends in resource abundance and environmental quality in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, and Puget Sound
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 1993 Puget Sound Update—the fourth annual report of this program—evaluates 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.
The 1994 Puget Sound Update—the fifth annual summary report of this program—evaluates 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team’s second report on key indicators of Puget Sound’s health. This report has been prepared in response to the Washington State Legislature’s request to evaluate efforts to protect Puget Sound. This second report includes updated information on the 12 indicators originally presented in 1998 as well as information on five new indicators.
Unusually warm water temperatures continue in central and south Puget Sound while Willapa Bay returns to expected water temperatures as a result of stronger coastal upwelling. Extensive mats of organic debris develop in many places, particularly in Central Sound overlapping with a fading Noctiluca bloom. King County confirms Noctiluca and shares plankton species information. Red-brown and brown blooms are going strong in southern inlets and around the San Juan Islands. Our inspiring WCC Intern gets on boats, into the air, and to the lab.
This is the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team's third report on key indicators of Puget Sound's Health. We prepared the report in response to the Washington State Legislature's request to evaluate efforts to protect Puget Sound. The report includes updated information on the 17 indicators presented in 2000 as well as information on two new indicators.
A 2015 paper in the journal Limnology and Oceanography presents new data on ocean acidification in the Salish Sea.
Record warm water temperatures and low oxygen continue in Ecology’s Puget Sound marine monitoring station network. Record low stream flows result in visibly low river discharge into Puget Sound, in particular for the Puyallup River. Abundant sun and unusually warm water temperatures fuel phytoplankton blooms in many areas. Bright orange Noctiluca blooms are surfacing in the Commencement Bay area and around Port Madison. Finger inlets of South Sound support extensive patches of jellyfish.
Hypoxia, defined as dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations less than 2 mg / L, has become widespread throughout estuaries and semi-enclosed seas throughout the world (Diaz 2001).
Warm waters from “The Blob” in Puget Sound combine with drought conditions as warm air has left little snow to feed the rivers. Water temperatures throughout Puget Sound are the highest in 25 years and oxygen is exhibiting record lows. High suspended sediment in the north is still coming in from the Fraser River. Otherwise, the surface waters appear very clear due to recent low river flows and weak blooming activity. A red bloom is present in Sinclair Inlet and in some confined bays. Patches of jellyfish, however, are going strong in inlets of South Sound and Sinclair Inlet. What does this all mean for salmon? Get to know some intertidal critters!
Puget Sound is feeling the heat! Starting in October, temperatures are the highest on our record since 1989. Salinity and oxygen are much lower. Recent rains have rivers flowing high. Aerial views show dramatic sediment loads from rivers mixing into otherwise blue water. But don’t be fooled – by summer, snow-fed rivers are expected to run significantly below normal, with implications for Puget Sound water quality. For details, explore the special Drought Effects segment. Spring blooms are visible only in some confined bays. Jellyfish are going strong in finger inlets of South Sound. Glimpse Puget Sound’s glacial history.
This paper summarizes a 2014 report ranking the greatest human-caused threats to the Puget Sound ecosystem.
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.
The ocean and air remain warm with sunshine and dry weather across the region. As a result, Puget Sound is a lot warmer going into the new year. Hood Canal is responding with temperatures warmer than previous measurements, breaking its low temperature stint. First signs of growing phytoplankton are coloring the water green. Patches of jellyfish are overwintering in finger inlets of South Sound. Tidal fronts and suspended sediment are visible amidst the stunning San Juan Islands scenery. A sediment-rich water mass is trapped in Rosario Strait. Check out the South Sound Estuarium and the many reasons we love Puget Sound!
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.
Warm air and water temperatures and offshore winds have persisted since fall. Numerous and sizable jelly fish patches are still present in southern inlets of Puget Sound. Coastal waters were colored in shades of gray to brown by sediment and humic substances. Phytoplankton blooms were restricted to the surf zone. We were treated to artful views of meandering sloughs and gullies on exposed mud flats during low tide in Willapa Bay, interspersed with the geometry of shellfish management. Brown pelicans: a story of recovery.
How does one of the West's busiest airports deal with extreme stormwater, and what does that mean for water quality standards in the rest of the state?
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.
The year 2014 in pictures: In 2014, Puget Sound and Hood Canal behaved distinctly different in temperature and dissolved oxygen. In Puget Sound, generally warmer conditions, abundant and diverse algal blooms, and large pools of organic material persisted along with lower oxygen, high jellyfish abundances, and a lot of suspended sediment. On the other hand, Hood Canal was colder, more oxygenated, and algae blooms were rare. People and planes: past and present.
Development of a stormwater retrofit plan for Water Resources Inventory Area (WRIA) 9: Comprehensive needs and cost assessment and extrapolation to Puget Sound
A 2014 King County report projects the capital and maintenance costs of the stormwater treatment facilities that would be needed, within WRIA 9 and the Puget Sound region, to fully comply with the Clean Water Act.
Pollution from stormwater has been called one of the greatest threats to Puget Sound. How much will it cost to hold back the rain? A new EPA-funded study says the price could reach billions per year, a figure that dwarfs current state and federal allocations.
A 2014 report prepared by the Stillaguamish Tribe analyzes potential causes of changes in peak and low flows in the Stillaguamish River basin.
A 2005 report from the Washington Sea Grant Program describing the history and current state of native Olympia oysters including their ecology, history with human interactions, prefered habitat, and reestablishment efforts in the Puget Sound region.
The region's famed mollusks provide more than just money and jobs. They offer what are called ecosystem services—a wide variety of benefits that humans derive from an ecosystem.
This 2006 technical report for the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership describes how shellfish have high ecological, economical, cultural, recreational value, however human activity is threatening their existence by altering their native habitat with changes in land use, shoreline modifications, stormwater, sewage and industrial discharge.
A December 2014 paper in the journal Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management describes a project to identify transboundary ecosystem indicators for the Salish Sea.
A recent cold spell hits Puget Sound lowlands, interrupting this year’s warmer air temperatures. The warm ocean coincides with new maximum water temperatures observed throughout Puget Sound in October! Hood Canal’s higher dissolved oxygen and cold water anomalies are disappearing. November brings cold water from Whidbey Basin into Puget Sound with moderate levels of chlorophyll fluorescence. Abundant smacks of jellyfish in finger inlets of South Sound observed from our flight. Red-brown blooms remain strong in smaller bays of South Sound. Visible suspended sediments in the coastal estuaries from rain, wind, and waves. Playing in the water? Visit our BEACH program.
At the end of summer, water temperatures are still high, and salinities and dissolved oxygen are low in Puget Sound. Both sea surface temperature and upwelling off the coast are elevated (PDO and Upwelling indices) and the the Fraser River flow is low. This combination makes it an interesting fall. Very dense and large patches of jellyfish appear in finger inlets of South Sound. Red-brown blooms also remain strong in South Sound.
A report from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department describes the results of a project to address threats to water quality in Pierce County, focusing on shellfish areas most at risk.
A 2014 San Juan County report addresses sustainable growth planning, pollution prevention, and mitigation actions in the Eastsound and Westcott Bay areas.
Comprehensive watershed plan for sustainable development and restoration of the Gorst Creek watershed
A 2014 report explains the development of a comprehensive land use plan that is based on the ecological values and functions of the Gorst Creek Watershed in southeast Kitsap County.
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.
State of the physical, biological and selected fishery resources of Pacific Canadian marine ecosystems in 2013
A summary of environmental conditions in Pacific Canadian Waters and the broader North East Pacific in 2013.
Sunshine and warmth continue into September. Upwelling is higher, yet low Fraser River flow reduces the likelihood of low-oxygen water moving into Puget Sound. Dissolved oxygen remains relatively high in Hood Canal and is lower elsewhere. Satellites show relatively warm water in the Strait of Georgia and Whidbey Basin and an extensive offshore bloom. Water temperatures also remain high in South Sound were red-brown plankton blooms and large smacks of jellyfish adorn the water surface. Explore what frequent blooms in smaller bays can tell us.
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.
Sunshine and warm temperatures return after last week’s intense rain. The Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers are flowing high. Red-brown blooms and numerous patches of jellyfish remain strong in South Sound, Sinclair and Dyes Inlets, and Bellingham Bay, with brown-green blooms in Whidbey Basin. Macro-algae surface debris is very high in South and Central Sound. Hood Canal remains cooler but Puget Sound-wide temperatures are now warmer and less salty. Sea surface temperatures are above 15 °C, conditions favorable for some pathogens, and harmful algae blooms. Read about super colonies of by-the-wind sailors washing up on our shores.
Scientists say eelgrass, an unassuming flowering plant found just off shore in Puget Sound, is vital to the health of the ecosystem. They also say the plant is declining. New and increasingly urgent efforts to restore it brought a group of researchers to the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.
Age, region, and temporal patterns of trace elements measured in stranded harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) from Washington inland waters
A 2014 article in the journal Northwestern Naturalist shows how Harbor Seal tissues can reflect regional and temporal trends in contaminants in Puget Sound.
Warmer and sunnier days result in higher than normal river flows from the Skagit and Nisqually. Biological activity in the water column is high. Abundant organic surface debris in Hood Canal, Padilla Bay, and many Inlets. Red-brown blooms in South Sound, Discovery Bay, and regions of Bellingham Bay. Different blooms in Skagit Bay, Padilla Bay, and Sinclair Inlet. Jelly fish are numerous in all southernmost South Sound Bays. Hood Canal remains cold but Puget Sound-wide temperatures are now warmer and less salty. Data from the Victoria Clipper and our sampling in the Strait provides important information on water exchange with the ocean.
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.
Onshore winds have been keeping the Puget Sound lowlands cool and cloudy, but sunlight and warmer temperatures are returning. Large organic mats of surface debris in Hood Canal, Padilla Bay, and Lay Inlet; many are macro-algae. Strong red-brown blooms in Discovery Bay, East Sound, and parts of Georgia Basin. Sediment-rich water north of San Juan Islands. Jelly fish are increasing in numbers. Colder, saltier conditions in early 2014 and lower oxygen in Whidbey Basin, Central, and South Sound continue. Hood Canal remains unusually cold. At our Mukilteo mooring, temperatures are similar to last year, but salinity and dissolved oxygen follow the Puget Sound-wide trend. Guest feature on phytoplankton monitoring, plus an in-depth look at our mooring program. Our technology now hitching a ride on the state ferries!
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.
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.
Several studies have been performed to determine the occurrence of selected Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the environment.
The weather changed from cool, cloudy and southerlies, to sunny warm conditions and light northerly winds on Mother’s Day. At the water surface, blooms and large debris lines occur in Bellingham, Padilla, and Samish Bays, Hood Canal, East Sound, and the Straits, as well as the finger inlets of South Sound. Large amounts of sediment-laden water from Port Susan are flowing into Central Basin. Turquoise water mixing to the surface in places around the San Juan Islands. After some trouble-shooting of the hardware and communication system, we will resume collecting Victoria Clipper data next week. Meet Eyes Under Puget Sound: Sediment Monitoring Program at Ecology.
Although overall eelgrass abundance appears to be stable in Puget Sound, some local areas are showing declines. A 2014 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources looks at the potential impact of increased nitrogen on eelgrass health.
The Puget Sound Model was designed and built by the University of Washington School of Oceanography in the early 1950s to simulate the tides and currents of Puget Sound. A series of videos produced by the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound describes its construction and operation.
Air temperatures have been slightly warmer and river flows are higher. Blooms are present only in Whidbey Basin and isolated bays. The water column otherwise is relatively clear. Sediment rich water is entering from the Stillaguamish River. Debris lines were visible in Hood Canal and North Sound. Multiple reported oil sheens seen in Lake Washington Ship Canal. Generally, the year 2014 started colder and saltier throughout Puget Sound. Oxygen is lower in Whidbey Basin, Central and South Sound, but higher in Hood Canal. Upwelling favorable conditions stimulate a spring phytoplankton bloom off the Washington coast.
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.
Seasonal Carbonate Chemistry Covariation with Temperature, Oxygen, and Salinity in a Fjord Estuary: Implications for the Design of Ocean Acidification Experiments
A 2014 paper in the journal PloS One analyzes a large carbonate chemistry data set from Puget Sound as a basis for identifying control conditions in ocean acidification experiments for the region.
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.
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.
River flows are above normal and air temperatures are increasing slowly. The spring phytoplankton bloom is slow to develop with visible blooms limited to smaller bays such as Sequim and Bellingham Bays. Noctiluca observed in East Sound on Orcas Island, coinciding with high numbers of jellyfish. Debris lines are mostly confined to Hood Canal. Pockets of colder water observed in Central Sound and Hood Canal, likely from the colder, saltier conditions that developed during the winter in the northern regions. Oxygen is variable yet close to expected ranges. Sizable oil sheens were sighted in Gig Harbor and Carr Inlet.
A 2014 paper in the journal Water Research sheds new light on a novel ‘in place’ treatment option that effectively lowers risk by reducing the activity of PCBs in sediment.
A 2010 video by the University of Washington Tacoma describes efforts to protect and restore the Puyallup watershed.
Multiple algal blooms in South Sound and Main Basin. Ferry and satellite images confirm center of algae bloom in the Main Basin and indication of a bloom in Carr Inlet. Oxygen levels are increasing on moorings. Oil sheen in Colvos Passage.
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.
Air temperatures have fallen due to unusually weak northern winds bringing in cold air. A dry beginning to winter causes low river flows. This dry winter brings new Puget Sound conditions with colder saltier waters observed in the northern regions. Oxygen has stabilized again within expected ranges. Suspended sediments along wind and wave exposed beaches add artful brushstrokes to the Puget Sound waterscape. Jellyfish are still going strong in Eld Inlet. Oil seen leaking from a boat in Commencement Bay and Ecology’s Spills Program responds. Our intern, Clifton, brings renewed passion to monitoring!
The year 2013 in pictures: Low oxygen conditions persisted from January into August and broke a two-year anomaly of more favorable water quality conditions (lower temperature and salinity and higher dissolved oxygen). Dramatic Noctiluca blooms appeared one month earlier than normal (May), lasted for two months, and coincided with lower oxygen. Large jellyfish patches persisted over the winter but then were less visible for the rest of the year. Large drifting algal mats appeared in August.
Every two years the Puget Sound Partnership is required to assess the status of scientific research relating to the recovery of Puget Sound, in a document knows as the Biennial Science Work Plan (BSWP). Among other tasks, this entails making an inventory of all ongoing research projects in the current biennium (2011-2013). We are posting this (draft) inventory of recovery-relevant research projects here to make the information generally available.
After weeks of clouds and warmer air, blue skies and cold temperatures set in. Strong tidal fronts and sediment-rich brackish plumes leave Whidbey Basin and move into Admiralty Reach. A pod of Orcas follows the edge of the plume heading north! Red-brown blooms continue in Henderson, Eld, and northern Budd Inlets. Long organic debris lines are numerous in northern Budd Inlet, Hood Canal, and in Central Sound north of Edmonds (Triple Junction). Conditions in the water column in Puget Sound continue to normalize after seven months of lower oxygen. Water is very clear for this time of the year, particularly in the north.
Puget Sound conditions are normalizing after seven months of lower oxygen. Calm, dry, cool, and foggy mornings abruptly changed on October 28 to sun and strong northerly winds. Red-brown blooms and abundant jellyfish in south Puget Sound inlets appeared as we flew to the coast. Blooms were still visible near ocean beaches and inner bays. Grays Harbor had abundant surface debris with green algae in North Bay. We spotted red-brown blooms in rivers and sloughs in Willapa Bay, as well as schooling fish near sandbanks. Many patches of suspended sediment appeared in shallow water unrelated to tidal currents and remain unexplained.
Sun and high air temperatures warrant en route ozone measurements for model validations. A furry visitor takes a rest on the float plane. See the spotlight on our pilot, Joe Leatherman. High river flows lead to striking fronts of turquoise-colored water carrying glacial flour in many northeastern regions. Satellite and aerial images show widespread phytoplankton blooms in Whidbey Basin, Hood Canal, South Puget Sound, and West Bay of Orcas Island. Numerous large debris patches are observed in Hood Canal, Central Sound, and South Sound Inlets. After two years of colder temperatures and higher oxygen, Puget Sound waters are returning to expected or lower dissolved oxygen levels.
Warm air temperatures and increases in flows from glacier-fed rivers give rise to dramatic images in the San Juan Islands. Warm surface temperatures in South Sound foster abundant red-brown blooms in southern inlets. Similar blooms are happening in the inlets of the Kitsap Peninsula. Large drifting algal mats in Central Sound, Sinclair Inlet, Hood Canal and Padilla Bay will likely end up on nearby shorelines soon. Jellyfish abundance has dropped. This year, dissolved oxygen levels in Puget Sound waters quickly decrease to levels of the previous decade.
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.
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.
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.
In the 1970s and 1980s, research from a division of NOAA's Montlake Lab suddenly changed the way scientists and the public viewed the health of Puget Sound. Their discovery 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.
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.
Abundant sunshine gives rise to large algal mats in South Sound, Hood Canal, and Sinclair Inlet. Red-brown algal blooms dominate in Budd, Totten, and Eld Inlets and jellyfish begin to increase. Northerly winds push algal blooms from Whidbey and Central Basins past Seattle and a bloom in northern Hood Canal southward. Satellite thermal imagery shows patterns of near-surface mixing and injection of nutrients into the surface layer. Glacial-fed rivers deliver glacial flour into Commencement Bay, stratifying the water and supporting different colored phytoplankton blooms (green, brown, and red). Since the beginning of 2013, dissolved oxygen is dropping below expected values.
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.
A stunning view of a second large Noctiluca bloom captures the attention of many living near Puget Sound. Favorable conditions support several regional phytoplankton blooms. Red-brown blooms in Port Townsend, Discovery Bay and Bellingham Bay. Large algal mats or organic material particularly in Samish Bay. Jellyfish patches increasing in Budd, Totten and Eld Inlets.
This paper uses water quality data to examine the relationship between environmental condition and recreational use of parks in Puget Sound.
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.
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.
After 2-years of conditions favorable for water quality, with colder temperatures and higher oxygen, Puget Sound water conditions are closer to expected again. This year phytoplankton blooms and seasonal oxygen maxima are notable, while extensive Noctiluca blooms showed up early following a period high freshwater inputs and milder weather conditions. The Fraser River sediment influence is very strong north of San Juan Islands and warm, fresh water is entering Central Puget Sound from Whidbey Basin. In the past few weeks river flows and air temperatures have been higher than normal and now are decreasing.
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.
For the last week sunshine was low and rivers and air temperatures have been higher than expected due to prevailing southerly winds. Heavy rains have resulted in long foam lines and large river plumes that are filled with sediment. Jelly fish patches have persisted through the winter in smaller bays. Are higher oxygen conditions seen over the last 2 years starting to disappear? We were busy in 2012 and spooled out 37 miles of CTD line to explore the depths of our estuaries!
Lower than expected air temperatures and sunshine are now both increasing; rivers are generally running high. Willapa Bay unfolds its beauty from a bird’s-eye view. The spring phytoplankton bloom is picking up in Puget Sound. A large red-orange-brown bloom persists in southern Hood Canal at a scale sufficient for the MODIS satellite to pick up. Jellyfish are still going strong in southern inlets. Ocean climate indices (PDO, NPGO and Upwelling Index) explain much of the variability in Puget Sound temperature, salt and oxygen. Nutrients, however, are steadily increasing while sub-surface algal pigments (chlorophyll a) are declining!
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.
The weather has been relatively cloudy, warm and dry. We found less debris in the water but saw several large tidal eddies and suspended sediment plumes. Jellyfish continue to go strong this winter. We also observed early algae blooms in Hood Canal and Eld Inlet as well as multiple oil sheens in Seattle waterways. Listen to our marine flight technician discuss EOPS on the radio.
The pattern of colder and fresher Puget Sound water persists. Jellyfish aggregations continue to persist in Budd Inlet. Debris lines are numerous and long. There are multiple oil sheens in Seattle waterways. CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter) sensor and en route ferry thermosalinograph provide an important tracer for freshwater entering Puget Sound from Whidbey Basin.
The weather has been warm, cloudy with weak winds from the south. Surface water temperatures range from 8.5-9.5°C. River flows are dropping below expected levels, yet the seasonal increase in freshwater can be clearly seen. Debris lines are numerous near river estuaries. Algal biomass is down but jellyfish aggregations continue to go strong in terminal inlets.
Harbor seal numbers were severely reduced in Puget Sound during the first half of the twentieth century by a state-financed population control program. This bounty program ceased in 1960, and in 1972, harbor seals became protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and by Washington State.
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.
Temperatures range from 9-11°C. Red-brown blooms and jellyfish continue in terminal inlets. Low fluorescence throughout Central Sound and Admiralty Inlet. Since 2011 much colder and much fresher and oxygen levels are up.
Low to moderate fluorescence in northern Puget Sound. Red-brown blooms, and large jellyfish aggregations in the inlets of South and Central Sound. Dry weather and decreased thickness of the freshwater layer in Possession Sound.
An independent review conducted by the Puget Sound Institute (PSI) is featured in findings by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology that there is currently “no compelling evidence” that humans are the cause for recent trends in declines in dissolved oxygen in Hood Canal.
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.
River flows are below normal. Temperatures in Puget Sound are 12-14 °C. Extensive red-brown blooms in Inlets of South and Central Sound. Jellyfish are increasing in numbers. Low-moderate fluorescence in Central Sound. In Possession Sound dissolved oxygen decreased by 1.1 mg/L.
Temperatures in Main Basin drop below 15 °C. Marco algae in Central Sound. Red-brown blooms in South Sound Inlets and parts of Central Sound. Jellyfish patches increasing in size in Sinclair and Budd Inlets. Low-Moderate fluorescence and turbidity in Main Basin and Admiralty Inlet.
In the south a persistent marine layer over the lowlands keep conditions cooler. River flows are high. Water temperatures approach 15 °C. High fluorescence in the Main Basin Extensive red-brown blooms in South Sound. In Whidbey Basin, higher DO and algal bloom in surface waters.
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.
Cool weather and river flows above normal. A bonanza of red-orange Noctiluca streaks in Central Basin with reduced fluorescence south of Edmonds. Strong red-brown bloom in Case Inlet. Higher DO levels in Whidbey Basin surface water. Oil sheen in Sinclair Inlet.
The Northern Red-legged Frog is described here relative to its local behavior, habitat, threats and morphology.
Warm, sunny weather with higher-than-normal river flows. Temperatures above 13 °C . Strong algal blooms South Sound and Central Basin and most smaller bays. Dissolved oxygen levels in surface waters decrease despite high algae production. Abundant debris lines. Oil sheen in Lake Union.
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.
Warm, sunny weather and higher-than-normal river flows . The freshwater layer in Whidbey Basin increased by 2 m. Abundant surface debris and algae blooms in river-fed inlets in South and Central Sound. Puyallup plume extends into Quartermaster Harbor. New thermosalinograph installed on ferry.
Cool, wet, cloudy weather with higher-than-normal river flows. Spectacular river plumes, suspended sediment and wind extend far into the waterways. Surface debris abundant. The freshwater layer in Whidbey Basin increased by 2 m matching high precipitation.
Little sunshine, cold air temperatures, and higher river flows. Freshwater plumes extend far into the waterways. Chilly surface temperatures in Central Sound. First blooms begin in South Sound. A thinner freshwater layer at Mukilteo suggests a low discharge of the Snohomish river.
Cloudy, slightly warmer-than-average air temperatures, and higher-than normal river flows. Freshwater plumes extend far into the waterways. Jellyfish from fall still persist in Budd Inlet. Chilly surface temperatures and pulses of high CDOM waters in Central Sound.
Less rain and sun and colder temperatures. Conditions are challenging for crew and instruments. Large jelly fish patches in Inlets: Budd, Sinclair, and Case. Central Sound algae bloom continues as temperatures fall and oxygen is still decreasing at places. Freshwater water moves into Central Sound.
Good conditions to be in the field Less rain, average temperatures and not much sun. Temperatures continue to cool and blooms fade. Algae bloom still in northern Quartermaster Harbor. Jelly fish in Budd Inlet.
Morning fog shows that fall is here! Warm afternoons with colder nights make cooler-than-normal conditions. Temperatures decrease and blooms fade as the summer growing season comes to an end. Brown-red blooms still in Carr Inlet and Budd Inlet. Green bloom near Squaxin Island.
Warm temperatures, reminiscent of summer. Brown-red blooms in Carr Inlet and Budd Inlet. Macro-algae aggregations in Central Sound. Green bloom NE of Bainbridge Island. High surface fluorescence throughout northern Central Sound; highest values east of Port Madison. Oil spill in the South Sound.
A Kaleidoscope of colors. Red-brown blooms in South Sound and Quartermaster Harbor, large patches of macro-algae in Central Sound. Latest bloom in Central Sound shows signs of fading as waters begin to clear. Oxygen is beginning to decline.
Summer is here! Surface water temperatures have warmed to 14-15 °C. Widespread algae bloom in Main Basin. Puyallup River discharge is very large. Extensive phytoplankton blooms in Central and South Sound, large patches and strands of macroalgae in South Sound/southern Central Sound.
A particularly great day for the coast flight. Extensive Noctiluca bloom (confirmed by microscopy on 6-21-2011) in Central Basin of Puget Sound, red brown and turquoise blooms in South Sound. Decreasing dissolved oxygen (DO) values at Mukilteo and Manchester mooring stations.
Warmer and sunnier conditions give rise to enhanced oxygen production and algae growth in Whidbey and Central Basin. Clear skies and water from Whidbey Basin has stimulated a large algae blooms. Whidbey Basin water is turbid with abundant dissolved organic matter.
Large blooms in South Sound and Main Basin with abundant macro-algae. Very complex surface water masses that meet at a triple point in Main Basin. Widespread algae bloom in Main Basin; surface water temperatures warmed in the last few days to 13-14 °C. Dissolved oxygen levels remain high.
Scientists are using computer models to address complex issues in the Salish Sea like the rise of harmful algal blooms and the movement of toxic PCBs. LiveOcean, Atlantis and the Salish Sea Model are three systems that are changing the game for ecologists and other researchers.