Chris Dunagan at Watching Our Water Ways blogs: “As chum salmon swim back to their home streams in Puget Sound this fall, three killer whale pods — the Southern Residents — can be expected to follow, making their way south along the eastern shoreline of the Kitsap Peninsula. These forays into Central and South Puget Sound could begin any day now and continue until the chum runs decline in November or December. The Southern Residents, which typically hang out in the San Juan Islands in summer, have not been spotted for several days, so they are likely somewhere in the ocean at the moment, according to Howard Garrett of Orca Network. (Kitsap Sun)
Project manager: New state, Navy conservation easement for areas of Hood Canal won’t halt pit-to-pier – PDN
If nothing else, this is likely to stall the Pit To Pier project for the next decade while it goes through the courts. Thanks to Charlie and the PDN for covering the story.
A conservation easement between the state Department of Natural Resources and the Navy that prohibits industrial development along areas of Hood Canal won’t stop a gravel-moving facility nicknamed the “pit-to-pier,” the project manager said. …Charlie Bermant reports. (Peninsula Daily News)
Another update on the mysterious and very destructive sea star wasting disease. Apparently there is a scientific paper out soon that might start to answer some of the questions on what and why.
Sea stars, the original “keystone species,” are melting into mush even on local shores where they previously seemed safe, leaving scientists puzzled… and worried.
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Laura James reports sea star die-offs in Hood Canal.
Meanwhile, Scientists Close In On The Cause Of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome
Drew Harvell peers into the nooks and crannies along the rocky shoreline of Eastsound on Orcas Island. Purple and orange starfish clutch the rocks, as if hanging on for dear life…. Scientists have been working for months to find out what’s causing the massive die-off and now Harvell and others have evidence that an infectious disease caused by a bacteria or virus, may be at the root of the problem. The disease, they say, could be compounded by warming waters, which put the sea stars under stress, making them more vulnerable to the pathogen… While scientists are reluctant to assign blame to climate change, Harvell explained that as oceans warm, outbreaks like this are more likely to occur. Katie Campbell and Ashley Ahearn report. (EarthFix)
The Peninsula Daily News reports today that the Thorndyke Resources Project will take a legal challenge on the Shoreline Master Plan to the Growth Management Board. Given what the PDN reports, it seems unlikely to be successful, but hope springs eternal with these folks, and they apparently have the money to hire the lawyers to challenge it.
Read the whole story here:
Herring Country Safari
Puget Sound Institute lead ecosystem ecologist Tessa Francis writes: “Hood Canal never disappoints me. We’re in year 2 of our herring habitat study, asking whether Puget Sound herring populations are limited by the availability of spawning habitat…. Substrate type doesn’t matter. What does matter, we found, is where that substrate occurs. We found greater differences in egg mortality among spawning sites — Elliott Bay versus, say, Hood Canal — than among spawning habitat within sites. This year, we’re looking closely at why herring egg survival varies among spawning sites….”
It all goes to show that more research into the Salish Sea is needed to better understand the processes and root causes of their success or failures.
In 2010 I worked on a video for the Puget Sound Partnership called, “Voices of the Strait”. In that video I interviewed old timers from all over the Peninsula, and asked them about their experiences and changes in the environment. Off camera, I happened to meet one old fisherman, a man who had fished here for his whole life, and was in his 80s. We got to talking over coffee about the Hood Canal problems, and he had an interesting thing to tell me.
“It’s my opinion,” he said, “that ever since the Hood Canal Floating Bridge went in, we have seen a collapse of fish stocks and water quality down there. None of this ever seemed to be a problem before that. I bet the bridge is the cause of it all.”
I remember that conversation clearly, but didn’t ask him to be on camera, because it was, as we say, more of a hypothesis than a proof. You could insert many other hypothesis’ and be just as likely to be right, given a lack of data.
Now, it appears the old timer may have been correct in his observations. At a meeting of restoration recovery organizations held in Port Townsend, Scott Brewer, the head of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, stood up and validated what the old timer had said. Brewer said that preliminary research has shown, especially with steelhead, that the bridge might be stopping the fish from moving out to sea. Radio tagged fry have been seen swimming up to the bridge and are unable to figure out how to get around it. They appear to pool against the bridge, which is 30 feet deep, and get picked off by seals or sea lions. The fry tend to stay on the surface layer of the water, so are stymied by the blockage. Additionally, the bridge may be affecting tidal water exchange.
This poses an interesting problem. Obviously, if accurate, short term fixes might look something like fish ladders or perhaps some kind of underwater fence that could direct the fish towards one end or the other. But longer term, if the bridge is the problem, the question of replacing the bridge will have to be raised. The health of an entire ecosystem might be at stake.
While all this is preliminary and speculative, we’ll keep an eye on this issue and report back as we get more data. But it’s worth remembering that most of the major and minor fundamental scientific advancements, up to the 20th century, were usually amateur local scientists, relying on observation, and hypothesis based on that knowledge of local systems from living there. It’s well worth keeping an open mind to even the oddest possible root causes. The notion that we can throw down a bridge and have it not affect the body of water it lies on is something that most bridge planners probably never anticipated. And the findings also point out that the revolution in miniaturization of computer and GPS tracking, will have profound effects on our ability to better understand natural processes.