Orcas off Point-No-Point

Reader Wendy Feltham sent in these photos she took Thursday as she was bird watching at Point-No-Point. These are J-Pod, according to the OrcaNet.

Loans for septic repairs and replacement now available to entire state – WaDOE

Heads up for all of you needing to properly maintain your septic systems, especially those close to waterways and streams. This was legislation passed by the efforts many years ago of a number of environmentalists, including those in Jefferson County, to convince the legislature that not everyone along the shores of Puget Sound with a septic tank was a rich person who could afford the maintenance. It was shocking that even solidly liberal legislators did not understand this issue at the time. You can thank the work of organizations like People For Puget Sound, the Northwest Straits Initiative, our Marine Resources Committees and many others who banded together to get this subsidy passed. Then Senator Lynn Kessler was a good supporter of this. Now it seems like it’s been here forever.


Approximately a third of Washington homes use septic systems for wastewater treatment. Well-functioning and properly maintained septic systems can effectively treat household wastewater for many years. Failing septic systems can result in sewage backing up in the home or entering local waterways and groundwater supplies– posing a public health threat. As of Sept. 1, the Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program has expanded state-wide, adding 17 counties to this successful program. (Washington Dept. of Ecology)

https://ecology.wa.gov/About-us/Who-we-are/News/2021/Sept-21-Septic-Loans

Researchers identify shellfish-killing phytoplankton behind massive summer die-offs in Puget Sound -KNKX

Why continuing scientific research on the Salish Sea is so important to continue funding. 

In July of 2018 and 2019, large numbers of oysters, cockles and clams died on beaches all around Puget Sound. No one knew why. It was a particularly bad couple of years, but summer mortality events with mass die-offs of shellfish happen regularly. They’ve been recorded by researchers in western Washington as far back as the 1930s. The source has remained a mystery. Now, scientists have pinpointed the cause: two species of toxic algae that don’t threaten people much — but can wreak havoc on the ecosystem. Beginning to figure out what’s killing so many shellfish is a breakthrough for growers and communities who live near the beaches. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

https://www.knkx.org/post/researchers-identify-shellfish-killing-phytoplankton-behind-massive-summer-die-offs-puget-sound

Local group opposes military use of state parks

The group “No Park Warfare” has organized to oppose the state allowing the Navy to use state parks as military training sites. Count me in as this is another expansion of the never ending reach of the military here in our area. Have we ever been asked to vote on this? Nope. All done through a board of non-elected officials who apparently ignored thousands of emails in coming to their decision. 

 

“S.O.S. WA STATE PARKS ALERT!
Fellow Park Lovers,
We are challenging the
recent State Parks Commission decision to allow Navy SEAL covert
training in our coastal Washington State Parks.
We are a group of everyday citizens who believe we can stop this horrible plan if we all pull together right now. 
Read & Sign our Citizens’ Complaint Letter Here.
Please sign before March 31 when we will submit this letter.

The letter can be found at:

https://noparkwarfare.wordpress.com/

Scramble to re-issue permits for area shellfish farms underway following lawsuit -Skagit Valley Herald

The State is working to grant updated operating permits after the fiasco of the Army Corps of Engineers losing a major lawsuit last year under appeal. It will be interesting to see how, since the judge found that the existing permits had not taken long term harm ot the environment into consideration, as to how the state will not get sued again since I don’t understand at this point what they changed about determining long term environmental damage. More to follow on this.

Shellfish farms in the state and the agencies that issue them operating permits are scrambling to complete farm-by-farm paperwork following litigation over whether a former permitting system ensured adequate protections for the marine environment…State Department of Ecology spokesperson Curt Hart said the agency has received 446 applications for shellfish farm permits and has issued public notices for decisions on about 150 of them under Clean Water Act requirements. A public notice was issued this week for one of 16 applications for shellfish growers in Skagit County. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Scramble to re-issue permits for area shellfish farms underway following lawsuit 

Washington State Parks commission approves scaled-back proposal for Navy SEALs training – Seattle Times

All Posts

The outcome was never in doubt. It never is. Our state parks are being turned into military training facilities and there is no way to stop it. It doesn’t matter if it’s up to the Democrats or the Republicans. Who thought this was a good idea? It seems to be a show by the military of raw arrogance “we can do it and they won’t stop us.” It is a never ending story of a grab for more of our waters, our beaches and our tax payer monies for protection that becomes less effective by every year. We are unable to effectively protect our assets on our computers from a torrid of hacking. And as we saw at the Capital, the real enemies we have to fear are the people right here among us who have bought, hook line and sinker, that when they lose an election, when they don’t get their way, that it is grounds for revolution, violence and mayhem.

Want to complain to the Governor and your state representatives? Start with our State Parks and Recreation commissioner, Jessica Logan, who’s comment was was worthy of the best of George Orwell’s famous doublespeak. “At no time will the Navy’s use of State parks supplant or displace the public. The public always has a priority.” Right. Sure. Thank you to Ken Bounds, Sophia Danenberg and Diana Perez for at least trying to stop this.

Here’s how they voted, so you can take action to try and get rid of the Commissioners who supported this next time their terms are up:

Motion by Mark O. Brown to approve the staff recommendation as proposed in the Requested
Action above. Second by Michael Latimer. All those in favor: Michael Latimer (term expires in 2024), Steve Milner, Cindy Whaley (term recently expired, up for renewal?), and Mark O. Brown (2022). All those opposed: Ken Bounds, Sophia Danenberg and Diana Perez. Motion passes 4 to 3.

Amendment to the motion by Commissioner Milner: In consideration of how these park supporters feel and their concerns for diminished spiritual, philosophical and emotional attachment to the parks, I move to amend staff’s recommendation to add to the criteria and conditions set forth in Appendix #2 permit issuance is restricted to the time period when daytime visitors would normally not be permitted in the park per WAC 352.32.050. Nine months after the issuance of the first permit the Director will present to the commission a detailed report on permitted naval activity including interactions and issues arising involving park visitors and navy personnel, park visitors and park staff and comments to public information materials posted in
the parks and bring forth any recommendations for policy changes if warranted.

Second by Cindy Whaley. All those in favor: Michael Latimer, Steve Milner, Cindy Whaley, Mark O.
Brown, and Sophia Danenberg. All those opposed: Ken Bounds and Diana Perez. Amendment
passes 5 to 2.


A state commission has approved the Navy’s use of up to 17 Washington state parks for after-dark stealth training of SEAL teams. The 4-3 vote approves the training over the next five years. The Navy had sought to use up to 28 state parks for up to 48 hours at a stretch to enable special operation SEAL teams to make shoreline landings, then conduct surveillance of other military personnel dressed in plain clothes. Hal Bernton reports, (Seattle Times)

Washington state parks commission approves scaled-back proposal for Navy SEALs training 

Conservation common thread for new members of Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission -PDN

Michael Carmen writes of his interview with new Fish and Wildlife’s Commissioners, Lorna Smith and Fred Koontz. These two long time environmental conservationists bring years of experience to the job. These folks will help make things better if possible. They are up against giant bureaucracies that have been very resistant to change in the past.

Read the whole story at the Peninsula Daily News and subscribe while you are there. Support local journalism on the Olympic Peninsula.

Cooke’s Washington steelhead switch approved – The Fish Site

As long time readers of this blog will note, I am highly critical of the state granting permission to this company, which did such a horrible job of managing it’s facilities in the past. They showed by their previous actions to be incapable of being trusted in their maintenance and operational quality. The State also has fault, in that the legislature allowed, in years gone by, to have the over-site of the pens split between two different state agencies. The hope is that the over-site has been significantly strengthened, and that given the fiasco they brought to themselves that they have learned something. The article sited here only mentions that they passed the State’s scientific muster. No mention of tighter rules and regs on the farms.

They have also been working with some tribes locally in a type of partnership, which was to be expected as the tribes supported shutting down the raising of Atlantic salmon but did not want to back removing the pens. I predicted then that the tribes would be looking to get into the net pen business as Cooke was evicted, and here we are. The “science” that found that there is no ‘harm’ to the environment likely downplayed the destruction to the benthic layer under the farms, which is total and for all practical purposes, permanent, as long as the farm is there. We’ve seen NOAA downplay this risk, in order to promote aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture has been granted permission to start growing steelhead at four of its former salmon sites in Washington State.

https://thefishsite.com/articles/cookes-washington-steelhead-switch-approved

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden Administration – Puget Sound Institute

This is an important article to help one understand the forces at play over this issue. The Army Corp of Engineers current proposal, described in this article, would lead to more destruction of the remaining virgin bays it wants for commercial activities and likely lead to ever more lawsuits. The Corps and the industry are in this mess because a group challenged the Corps and unearthed the fraud behind the science they have been putting out for decades. Now we hold our breath and see if we get a push into the next administration for update to the process, but will they send it back for changes or approve it to get the industry back working?

But as they leave, the wrecking crew of the Trump administration is doing it’s best to destroy any and all environmental protections.

Legal protections for marine shorelines, streams and wetlands could be revised just before President Trump leaves office, as the Army Corps of Engineers updates 52 “nationwide permits” that allow for a variety of water-related projects. …”Another growing concern is the effect of shellfish operations on spawning habitat for so-called forage fish, considered critical to salmon and other important species”, said Laura Hendricks, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. Two key species, surf smelt and sand lance, spawn in the intertidal area where shellfish grow and where activities can affect their populations, she said.

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden administration | Puget Sound Institute

The Nestucca: How a devastating event shaped today

The Nestucca disaster changed the way that Washington State and BC handles oil spill prevention. Can it protect us from another failure? It’s sometimes hard to know. With more Bakken Crude planning to be shipped by the hundreds of tankers through our Strait, it’s at least good to know that we have some minimal standards that have carried us through to today. Also worth remembering is that the Dalco Passage spill near Tacoma that was as bad as it was because the Coast Guard couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed in the middle of the night when oil was observed. This is article is a good reminder that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“In 1988, an oil spill from the barge Nestucca resulted in one of the largest, most damaging environmental incidents in the history of Washington. But the knowledge gained from the spill also led to dramatic change in oil spill regulations, prevention methods, and response tactics that have maximized environmental protection. (WA Dept of Ecology)”

The Nestucca: How a devastating event shaped today

Summary of 2019 Puget Sound environment from the Puget Sound Partnership

  • Short story? Too much not heading in the right direction. Some good news though. Just as a reminder, the Partnership, which was created 2007 with the goal, written into it’s legislation, “It is the goal of the state that the health of Puget Sound be restored by 2020.” Has this goal ever been updated? Not clear. It’s time to revisit that goal. A note: It takes the Partnership a year to evaluate the previous year data. So it’s to be expected, especially with the pandemic, to have this long a period between data and analysis.

The takeaways:

  • Puget Sound waters were warmer and saltier during 2019 – although not as warm as during the “blob” marine heatwave years of 2014-2016. (Unlikely something short term to fix- global issue?)
  • The increase in salinity and temperature throughout the Sound was broadly observed and substantial.Saltier than average conditions have been evident in the Sound over the past three years.
  • Regional snow pack, precipitation, and summer flows were all well below normal. (Better drive less, end fossil fuel use)
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements on the Washington shelf continued their year-to-year increase in 2019 with values near the global average. (see above)
  • Pacific herring spawning biomass declined from 2018, driven mostly by a substantial decrease in the stock at Quilcene Bay, the largest in Puget Sound. (Why is this happening when the PSP has been working on this for over a decade? Was there a specific event in 2019? Over-fishing?)
  • Bottomfish biomass in 2019 was at its highest since 2014, while abundance has remained consistent since 2017, indicating larger fish. (Good news!)
  • Chinook and Chum salmon returns were particularly low during 2019. Seabird abundance and species diversity were similar to that of the previous years, while the number of forage-fish specialists was higher in the first half of the year. (Good news!)
  • Protection Island, Rhinoceros Auklet breeding effort and reproductive success returned to long-term average values in 2019 after three bad years. (Good news!)
  • Marine mammals and seabird densities during fall 2019 at the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca were low relative to the 14-year record there.
  • Southern Resident killer whales were present in the Salish Sea for fewer days than in any year from 1994–2016. None were present in June for the first time on record. (Really bad news? Nothing helping them in all that has happened in the last 10 years?)
  • Analysis of sediments across Puget Sound reveal the presence of micro-plastics in all samples collected during 2019. With no statistical change of plastic concentrations from year to year, micro-plastics have been found in every sample except one since 2014. (really bad news getting worse)
  • The number of beaches passing the swimming standard from bacterial contamination decreased by a small percentage from 2018 to 2019. (Bad news with 15 years of the Partnership working on this)

Let’s remember the goals of the Partnership since it’s founding:

The Washington State Legislature identified in 2007 six long-term ecosystem recovery goals for creating a resilient Puget Sound:

  • Healthy Human Population—A healthy population supported by a healthy Puget Sound that is not threatened by changes in the ecosystem.
  • Vibrant Quality of Life—A quality of human life that is sustained by a functioning Puget Sound ecosystem.
  • Thriving Species and Food Web—Healthy and sustaining populations of native species in Puget Sound, including a robust food web.
  • Protect and Restored Habitat—A healthy Puget Sound where freshwater, estuary, nearshore, marine, and upland habitats are protected, restored, and sustained.
  • Abundant Water Quantity—An ecosystem that is supported by good groundwater levels as well as river and stream flows sufficient to sustain people, fish, wildlife, and the natural functions of the environment.
  • Healthy Water Quality—Fresh and marine waters and sediments of a sufficient quality to support water that is safe for drinking, swimming, and other human uses and enjoyment, and which are not harmful to the native marine mammals, fish, birds, and shellfish in the region.

Want to read the details on this? Download here: https://www.psp.wa.gov/PSmarinewatersoverview.php

Will a return to historical indigenous fishing practices help recover Pacific Salmon fisheries?

From Wild Fish Conservancy today: A publication released today in BioScience suggests that a return to historical  Indigenous fishing practices and systems of salmon management may be key to revitalizing  struggling Pacific Salmon fisheries across the North Pacific.  

The article, titled Indigenous Systems of Management for Culturally and Ecologically Resilient Pacific Salmon  (Oncorhynchus spp.) Fisheries, is authored by a collection of accomplished Indigenous leaders and  fisheries scientists from the United States and Canada. Wild Fish Conservancy is proud to announce  its own Adrian Tuohy serves as one of the paper’s co-authors.  

In the paper, the authors document how Indigenous communities of the North Pacific sustainably  harvested salmon for thousands of years by fishing in or near rivers with low-impact selective fishing  tools like fish traps, weirs, wheels, reef nets, and dip nets. After the arrival of European settlers,  traditional Indigenous fisheries and governance systems were suppressed, giving way to the mostly  unsustainable mixed-stock commercial fishing practices of today that commonly occur in the ocean  with non-selective tools, such as gill nets.  

“As they’re currently built, mixed-stock salmon fisheries are undermining the biodiversity needed for  Pacific salmon to thrive,” says Dr. Atlas, lead author of the publication and Scientist with the  Portland-based Wild Salmon Center. “Luckily, we have hundreds of examples, going back  thousands of years, of better ways to fish. These techniques can deliver better results for all  communities.” 

The publication reviews historical methods of Indigenous salmon fishing and management,  exploring the benefits of terminal fisheries and selective fishing tools able to release by-catch  (non-target species) unharmed. By targeting salmon runs in-river—rather than in the ocean, where  both healthy and threatened stocks intermingle—Indigenous people harvested individual, known  salmon runs as the fish made their homeward migration to natal rivers. Furthermore, Indigenous  groups used low-impact selective fishing tools to selectively target specific salmon runs, similar in  concept to Wild Fish Conservancy’s fish trap in the lower Columbia River which enables bycatch of  threatened and endangered fish to be safely released to reach upriver spawning grounds with nearly  100% survival rates. 

The authors of the publication propose reforming status quo management practices that have failed  to rebuild, or sustainably manage, struggling wild Pacific Salmon populations. According to the  authors, restoring governance, place-based management systems, and methods of in-river selective  harvest grounded in Indigenous knowledge can help revitalize Pacific Salmon fisheries and result in  more equitable fishing opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous coastal fishing  communities alike across the North Pacific.  

“Conventional harvest and hatchery management have mostly failed to maintain or restore wild  salmon and steelhead south of the Aleutians,” says co-author Adrian Tuohy, a Biologist with  the Washington-based non-profit Wild Fish Conservancy. “By returning to place-based salmon  management systems, selective gears, and terminal in-river salmon fisheries historically embraced by  Indigenous communities, we can address many of the primary limiting factors to recovery of wild  salmon and steelhead while benefiting coastal fishing communities across the region.” 

If you want to know more about Wild fish Conservancy’s selective harvest and fish trap research at  wildfishconservancy.org or thefishtrapjournal.org, WFC’s online field journal dedicated to this  research project.  

Quiet Sound underwater noise reduction program could soon slow ships, protect Orcas -KNKX

The British Columbia pilot program in this was a success. Glad to see that we are going to try this soon. A common sense approach to fixing part of the problems plaguing the Orca population.


Underwater noise from ship traffic is one of the major threats to Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident orcas. It can interfere with the whales’ ability to communicate, navigate by echolocation and find the increasingly scarce salmon they prefer. A recommendation from the orca recovery task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2018-19 is to reduce noise and disturbance from large vessels. Work is underway to develop a program called “Quiet Sound,” which will alert ships to the presence of whales so they can re-route or slow down. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

Quiet Sound underwater noise reduction program could soon slow ships, protect orcas

Steelhead Farm Proposal Appealed to the State Supreme Court – Skagit Valley Herald

Now the battle against fish farming in Puget Sound moves to the State Supreme Court.


Environmental groups are taking their fight against Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal to transition from farming Atlantic salmon to steelhead to the state Supreme Court. The groups appealed Monday a Nov. 6 decision by King County Superior Court Judge Johanna Bender that upheld a permit issued by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife to allow such farms in area waters. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Steelhead farm proposal appealed to state Supreme Court

New online magazine focuses on the stories behind Puget Sound recovery efforts -PSI

If you are interested in these issues, here’s another source of news. They have done a nice job on this website. Hard to believe it’s taken the Puget Sound Partnership this long to do something like this! But better late than never!

“Making Waves,” https://makingwaves.psp.wa.gov/ a new online magazine from the Puget Sound Partnership, promises to bring us the stories behind the many efforts to protect and restore the Puget Sound ecosystem. Chris Dunagan reports. (Puget Sound Institute)

New online magazine focuses on the stories behind Puget Sound recovery efforts

Crews vacuum “murder hornets” out of nest in Washington state – AP

I know many have been keeping tabs on this story. Here’s the latest.


Heavily protected crews in Washington state worked Saturday to destroy the first nest of so-called murder hornets discovered in the United States…The nest found near the Canadian border in Blaine is about the size of a basketball and contained an estimated 100 to 200 hornets, according to scientists who announced the find Friday…The tree will be cut down to extract newborn hornets and learn if any queens have left the hive already, scientists said. Officials suspect more nests may be in the area and will keep searching. A news briefing was planned Monday on the status of the nest. (Associated Press)

Crews vacuum ‘murder hornets’ out of nest in Washington state 

Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working? – Everett Herald


And a follow up to the previous story, this is a good layman’s overview of the issue of salmon and orca recovery. It focus’ on Snohomish County but also discusses Sound wide issues. Notice, no mention of hatcheries here. It’s about habitat recovery. This article appears to have come out from under the paywall at this point.

Restoring destroyed salmon habitat is the key to regaining Southern Resident killer whale numbers. Julia-Grace Sanders reports. (Everett Herald)

Everett Herald

Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working?

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries -PSI

This is a never ending story, because neither the Tribes, the sports & commercial fisheries, nor the politicians of any stripe are willing to entertain what is needed, which is an elimination of most hatcheries. Why? Because science has proven they don’t work. We have had hatcheries since at least the 1940s and they have not helped produce more wild salmon, nor added significantly to anything but sports fishing and farmed at a huge cost to taxpayers. (The exception to this is to protect almost extinct runs for tribal subsistence which is a valid concern for cultural survival of our Tribes. )We once had monstrous runs of wild (and free) fish for anyone to eat that would simply go out and catch them. They provided for lower income people in times of need. We have squandered that resource for many reasons, and have infected many of them with virus’ transmitted through farmed fish. We have spent vast resources trying to produce significant runs in hatcheries. None of this has worked. The science says to end hatcheries, but the political football of this issue just won’t let it go away. The future looks like we will lose our wild salmon in favor of robo-fish, farmed and produced simply for human and animal consumption. We do this at our peril. Just look at what one virus, picine reovirus (https://raincoastresearch.org/salmon-farm-impacts/viruses/piscine-reovirus/) has done to farmed fish stocks around the world.

So with that preamble, here’s today’s story>

A state policy revision that could boost salmon production at fish hatcheries in Washington state has raised red flags among scientists and environmental groups worried about potential damage to wild salmon runs.


The proposed hatchery policy, under review by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, could derail a 20-year effort to implement critical hatchery reforms, opponents argue. Major concerns revolve around threats to the future of wild salmon populations — including declines in genetic diversity and increasing competition from large numbers of hatchery fish. At the same time, a variety of sport and commercial fishing groups have thrown their support to increased hatchery production, saying that policies to protect wild salmon have reduced fishing opportunities while doing little to save wild salmon. Christopher Dunagan writes. (Puget Sound Institute)

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries

What the pandemic has done to WA’s flagship shellfish industry – Crosscut

A very good article on the state of the shellfish industry in our state. Quotes from people here in the area working in the industry.

The pandemic tanked the shellfish industry, but growers are “tentatively optimistic” that things are looking up.

By Hannah Weinberger
Crosscut Article

Do we know enough to do anything about the sea lions of Puget Sound? -PSI


Chris Dunagan writes: “Scientists have known for years that Chinook salmon are important to southern resident orcas, but Chinook are not the only fish the whales eat. At the moment, chum salmon are returning to Puget Sound, and recent orca sightings suggest that the whales may now be feeding on chum. Harbor seals also eat Chinook salmon, but also chum, coho and other fish. They seem fond of smaller fish like herring and juvenile salmon. Oh, what a tangled food web we weave… Southern resident orcas are considered endangered. Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead are threatened. Harbor seals seem to be everywhere, hardly struggling to find food, at least as far as anyone can tell. So is it time to bring the powerful influence of humans into the equation by forcefully reducing the harbor seal population in Puget Sound? It’s a question that people have been pondering for years, but I’m not sure we’re much closer to an answer…” (Puget Sound Institute)

Do we know enough to do anything about all the seals and sea lions in Puget Sound?

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