Death by dirty water: Storm runoff a risk for fish  – Bellingham Herald

As if you needed to better understand the importance of rain gardens, stormwater runoff and salmon, after my last post, here’s the next thing in my inbox. Another recent experiment that shows the affects that stormwater has on aquatic species.

Just hours into the experiment, the prognosis was grim for salmon that had been submerged in rain runoff collected from one of Seattle’s busiest highways. One by one, the fish were removed from a tank filled with coffee-colored water and inspected: They were rigid. Their typically red gills were gray….. This was the fate of coho salmon exposed to the everyday toxic brew of dirt, metals, oil and other gunk that washes off highway pavement after rains and directly into Puget Sound. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/11/16/3977239_scientists-study-stormwater-deadly.html

Feds to protect Puget Sound habitat for rockfish – Various sources

A small ray of good news shines through the bad this morning, as National Marine Fisheries has required that federal agencies take rockfish protection into their future planning, meaning that fishing, and other activities related to the species will need greater scrutiny before being allowed. This affects us here in Jefferson County, because our near shore activities, such as rule making with the Shoreline Master Program, includes protecting kelp beds and other shores where the fish might live and breed. Our local Marine Resources Committees are also gearing up to do kelp bed monitoring (there is a significant one off North Beach and the area around the lighthouse at Admiralty Inlet) over the next year. If you are wondering where the kelp beds might be, check out our new tool, SoundIQ that lists near shore areas. A link to it can be found at the front left side of this blog.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is set to designate about 1,000 square miles in Puget Sound as critical habitat for three species of imperiled rockfish. The habitat protection follows a 2010 decision to list yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish under the Endangered Species Act. The agency says the rockfish are vulnerable to overfishing because they have long lives and mature slowly with sporadic reproduction. The designation will require federal agencies to make sure their actions don’t harm rockfish habitat. The rule is scheduled to be published on Thursday. The protected area will cover about 340 fewer square miles that originally proposed, excluding some tribal lands and military areas. (Associated Press)

This is one of the many press releases that were picked up by dozens of news outlets last night.

 http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/rockfish-11-12-2014.html

The entire document can be found at the link below. For those of you actively engaged in monitoring activities of kelp beds and also fisheries, this is worth reading or at least skimming. The science and the way that they made their decisions is found in the document.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/pdfs/rockfish_critical_habitat_2014.pdf

I want to thank Norm Baker of Sequim, who has worked tirelessly on this issue for years. He has been a key local contact for many of the bureaucrats in our state. He knows probably more than anyone around on the issue, and the benefits of this particular announcement.

Return of the River – A homerun of a movie for Gussman and Plumb

Just got out of the world premiere of  ‘Return of the River”, the film that likely will be considered the definitive work on the Elwha Dam removal.  This film, years in the making, was a labor of love for the two Peninsula based filmmakers, John Gussman and Jessica Plumb. And it was great to see it premiered here at the Port Townsend Film Festival.

The film tracks in detail the history of the dam, but more importantly the place that is the Elwha River, the feel for the Olympic Peninsula then and now, and a great depth of interviews with people that were instrumental, on both sides of the controversial project.  It is impossible not to come away impressed with the idea that hard things to do take a long time, and a lot of consensus building. From the interviews with leading politicians, mill managers, environmentalists, writers, biologists, and most importantly, the tribal members of the Lower Elwha Tribe, who never gave up hope to bring back the historic runs. There were so many people who played significant small roles in this drama. Gussman and Plumb treated all with the respect they deserve. There are no demeaning ‘heroes and villains’ caricatures.

It is almost trite to say that certain stories are ‘epic’ and ‘pivotal’ but the removal of the Elwha Dam has been just that. It has galvanized world attention more than almost any other single environmental event of the last ten years, because it is a message of hope. Hope that we can restore what we have destroyed. Gussman and Plumb have captured that story, distilled it to 70 minutes, and given fair treatment to all sides, and points of view. More than ever, we need stories of hope in the face of ever mounting environmental problems to solve.

In the last week, I’ve posted the story that bull trout have been seen in the upper Elwha for the first time in a century. Also that the shores of the Elwha estuary are turning back into a clam bed capable  sand spit. The power of restoration is an amazing thing to watch.  The restoration of this river, with it’s unique short run from sea to protected park, is possible, and is happening, right now, in front of our eyes for just taking the time to go look.

Gussman and Plumb, along with the rest of their crew, have given us the story, in all it’s facets. A well crafted storyline, beautiful filmmaking, solid editing, a wonderful original soundtrack, animation when needed of the hard concepts.

Congratulations for a remarkable piece of work. A 5 star must see film.

Shellfish Tell Puget Sound’s Polluted Tale – Earthfix

It’s always been a question mark in my mind, about how much of the bad stuff in the Sound are we eating with our delicious meals of shellfish. Now we know. And it’s a good word of caution that if you are regularly eating shellfish, that buying them from growers who are away from urban environments, or harvesting them yourself in remote places, is the best rule of thumb. And it also gives us a very easy way  to measure the recovery efforts at work. The bad news is that PCBs, long banned, continue to be found in the water, as do flame retardants. Both are cancer causing. It points out that storm water runoff and our crazy notion that we can pour our sewage into our Sound, have consequences for us.

Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound. And in some places, it’s pretty contaminated. This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound. After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results. [http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01643/] Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

http://earthfix.kcts9.org/water/article/shellfish-tell-puget-sounds-polluted-tale/

State of the Birds Report: Conservation Works, but There’s More Work to Do – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

cropped-2014-double-eagle001-mxf-still001-5.jpg

This week, the Cornell Lab and partners released the 2014 State of the Birds Report. The report commemorates Martha, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon, whose tragic passing 100 years ago spurred the creation of the world’s greatest conservation movement.

In the last century we’ve saved Wood Ducks and Bald Eagles, Kirtland’s Warblers and Brown Pelicans, and more. The new report offers the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever, identifying a Watch List of 228 high-concern species as well as 33 Common Birds in Steep Decline to begin conserving now. See the full report and download the lists.

‘Warm blob’ keeps possible record sockeye run away from U.S. waters – Bellingham Herald

The story of how this year’s great hot weather has affected the salmon runs. 

In a development that has left local fishermen scratching their heads, it appears an unusually warm section of ocean water is helping send nearly the entire sockeye salmon run into Canadian fishing waters this season. According to data from the Pacific Salmon Commission through Tuesday, Aug. 19, in recent weeks about 99 percent of the sockeye salmon has gone through the Johnstone Strait around the northern part of Vancouver Island into Canadian waters. That’s made a big difference in who is catching the fish: Nearly 2.9 million sockeye salmon have been caught in Canadian waters, while the U.S. fishermen had caught around 98,000 through Aug. 19. Dave Gallagher reports. (Bellingham Herald)

 

 http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/08/24/3815002_warm-blob-keeps-possible-record.html

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the Bellingham Herald. 

Obama Administration Finalizes Stronger Stream Buffers to Protect Imperiled Salmon from Pesticides

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/08/13/18759976.php

The Environmental Protection Agency today finalized an agreement to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides.

A coalition of conservation organizations, advocates for alternatives to pesticides, and fishing groups cheered the victory. These groups brought a lawsuit to demand reasonable fish protections from the insecticides, some of which are derived from nerve toxins developed during World War II….

The buffers apply to salmon habitat throughout California, Oregon, and Washington to prohibit aerial spraying of broad-spectrum pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl within 300 feet of salmon habitat and prohibit ground-based applications within 60 feet.

 

The agreement provides detailed notice to state regulators, pesticide applicators, farmers, and the public about the required no-spray buffer zones. These buffers will remain in place until the National Marine Fisheries Service completes analyses of the impacts of these five pesticides on the fish. Then, the EPA must implement permanent protections grounded in the Fisheries Service’s findings. (Indymedia)

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