New research paper out on nearshore water temps during heatwave

A new research paper out from northwest scientists.

Large and transient positive (not good! positive means increased here) temperature anomalies in Washington’s coastal nearshore waters during the 2013–2015 northeast Pacific marine heatwave.

Abstract:

The northern portion of Washington’s outer coast—known locally as the Olympic coast—is a dynamic region characterized by seasonal upwelling that predominates during summer interrupted by occasional periods of downwelling. We examined spring-to-fall water temperature records collected along this coast from 2001–2015 from April to October at four nearshore locations (Cape Elizabeth to Makah Bay) that span one degree of latitude and are located within 15 km of the shore. When compared against a long-term climatology created for 2001–2013, seven-day smoothed temperature anomalies of up to 4.5°C at 40 m depth during 2014 and 2015 show short-term warm events lasting 10–20 days. These periods of warming occurred within the well documented marine heatwave in the Northeast Pacific and were about twice the seasonal temperature range in the climatology at that depth. These warm events were strongly correlated with periods of northward long-shore winds and upper ocean currents, consistent with what is expected for the response to downwelling-favorable winds. While our focus a priori was on 2014 and 2015, we also found large positive temperature events in 2013, which were potentially related to the early stage of the marine heatwave, and in 2011, which did not have a documented marine heatwave. This indicates that near-shore short-term warm events occur during periods of large-scale offshore marine heatwave events, but also can occur in the absence of a large-scale marine heatwave event when downwelling-favorable winds occur during the summer/early fall.

Large and transient positive temperature anomalies in Washington’s coastal nearshore waters during the 2013–2015 northeast Pacific marine heatwave | PLOS ONE

The battle of sea lice and salmon goes on

An update on the battle to remove fish farms from Canada. The industry denies it’s a problem here, 100 miles south…

  • Increased sea lice infestations, scientists say are caused by salmon farms, threaten the already-vulnerable wild Pacific salmon populations in western Canada, worrying conservationists and First Nations.
  • Three First Nations in the region are now deciding on the future of open net pen Atlantic salmon farms dotting the channels and waterways in and around their territories. They hope their decisions will pave the way to protect wild salmon, a culturally important species.
  • So far, ten farms have been closed and the future of seven farms are to be decided this year, in 2023.
  • The impact of the closure of the farms on sea lice and wild salmon populations is still unclear, say scientists, and more time to monitor the data is needed.

As sea lice feast away on dwindling salmon, First Nations decide the fate of salmon farms (mongabay.com)

Event: Northern Elephant Seals in the Pacific Northwest virtual program

Northern Elephant Seals in the Pacific Northwest virtual program on January 25th@7pm

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/northern-elephant-seals-in-the-pacific-northwest-tickets-483953085707

Please join the Friends of Fort Flagler to learn more about Northern elephant seal natural history and distribution. We will also discuss common causes of stranding in Northern elephant seals, field assessments and our recent hospital cases.

Presenters:

Casey Mclean has over 12 years’ experience working with marine animals, and is the Executive Director of SR3, Washington’s first dedicated marine animal hospital.  SR3 is a nonprofit organization that focuses on response, rehabilitation and research of local marine wildlife. The hospital opened the summer of 2021 and immediately started helping harbor seals. is fall they will be opening a marine animal hospital in the Des Moines marina, just south of Seattle. To learn more about SR3, visit https://www.sealifer3.org/

Michelle Rivard is the veterinarian for SR3.  Dr. Michelle Rivard is an aquatic animal veterinarian focused on clinical medicine, pathology, and health of free-ranging marine mammals. In her role at SR³, Michelle provides medical management and care of stranded aquatic wildlife, performs postmortem examinations, and participates in ongoing research projects.  Michelle attended veterinary school at Michigan State University. 

Friends of Fort Flagler is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoring, preserving and protecting the natural and historic resources of Fort Flagler State Park. Please support our state park by becoming a member, volunteering or donating to our organization. To learn more, visithttps://friendsoffortflagler.org/.

How much of orca decline is in their DNA? – Salish Current

Interesting new study out..

A fully sequenced SRKW genome might also give scientists a look at the genetic variations and immune system genes that are important for the whales’ survival, and offer a better understanding of the population’s history and size prior to European colonization, Ford added. The information could also verify current pedigrees and aid scientists in comparing Southern Residents with Northern Residents and other similar populations that are thriving, to determine what factors are setting them apart.

How much of orca decline is in their DNA? – Salish Current (salish-current.org)

Puget Sound wastewater plants may need billions to meet state mandates

This ongoing issue of the environmental community asking for stronger controls over pollution may be reaching the limits of the public’s ability to spend for it. For example, this is very much a cost that will be incurred by both Port Townsend and Port Angeles. That this is being discussed in a journal for bond buyers speaks volumes to the issue alone. This article is behind a paywall but the jist is clear.


An effort to protect Puget Sound’s marine life has ignited a debate over a new environmental mandate that wastewater treatment plants say will cost billions and lacks clear science to back it up. The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a permit, effective in January 2022, that requires municipal wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the Sound — there are 58 of them — to reduce the amount of certain nutrients in their discharge.  Caitlin Devitt reports.

Puget Sound wastewater plants may need billions to meet state mandates | Bond Buyer




How we tested Columbia River salmon for contaminants – OPB & ProPublica

Sobering story today on the issue of pollution in Columbia River salmon. OPB and ProPublica collected 50 salmon caught by tribal fishermen and followed standard methods for fish tissue testing.

Ultimately, this led to the finding that, based on the levels of dioxins in our samples, anything above four 8-ounce servings of these tested fish each month would create an excess cancer risk beyond the EPA’s benchmark of 1 in 100,000. That means of 100,000 people exposed to these levels of contaminants, one of them would develop cancer as a result of the exposure.

How we tested Columbia River salmon for contaminants – OPB

Dungeness crab dying amid low oxygen levels linked to climate change – Seattle Times

Climate change wreaking havoc on our native crab populations. Scientists are racing to see if there is anything that can be done.

Not too far down the coast, piles of dead Dungeness crab washed ashore on Kalaloch Beach this summer. Meanwhile, fishers have shared stories about hoisting up dead or suffocating crabs in their pots, said Jenny Waddell, research ecologist with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Dungeness crab dying amid low oxygen levels linked to climate change | The Seattle Times

Researchers, growers face the challenge of acidic ocean water -Salish Current

Things are getting worse as it relates to ocean acidification. But as the article points out, we are on the leading edge of trying to find a way forward to save our shellfish. This is global warming in your backyard. There is no time to waste.

Salish Sea waters are acidifying faster than ever before, but researchers in Washington are leading the world in addressing the looming disaster. Rena Kingery reports. (Salish Current)

NOAA funds research into ocean conditions -PDN

The PDN continues its good coverage of environmental issues on the peninsula.

Dangerously low oxygen levels are killing Dungeness crabs off the Pacific Coast and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is awarding $4.2 million over the next four years to research how ocean environments are changing. Peter Segall reports.

NOAA funds research into ocean conditions | Peninsula Daily News

Contaminated wells in Yakima, could they be here as well?

New report on the issue of PFAS chemicals in wells next to the Yakima Army Training Center. This blog has documented many articles of concern about the use of these chemicals at Whidby Island Air Base. The Army and Navy have downplayed the issue for decades. But they are no longer able to hide the issue. Hoping that Derek Kilmer, if re-elected, will actually do something about this at the Federal level.

In February two U.S. Army representatives knocked on the Hyatts’ door to deliver cases of bottled water and a carefully worded letter that noted a “potential risk to human health.”

The Hyatts’ well was one of 300 residential drinking water wells tested for contamination from two firefighting foam chemicals that seeped into groundwater flows from the Army’s Yakima Training Center.

Kudos to the Seattle Times for the good reporting they bring to the table.

Heartache, anger in Central Washington over drinking-water wells tainted by ‘forever chemicals’ | The Seattle Times

West Coast gray whale population continues to decline but scientists remain cautiously optimistic -KNKX

The story points out the possibility of this being part of a natural population swing, but…they aren’t sure.


U.S. researchers say the number of gray whales off western North America has continued to fall over the last two years, a decline that resembles previous population swings over the past several decades. According to an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries released Friday, the most recent count put the population at 16,650 whales — down 38% from its peak in 2015-16. Associated Press and Bellamy Pailthorp report. (KNKX)

West Coast gray whale population continues to decline but scientists remain cautiously optimistic | KNKX Public Radio

New Research Shows Innovative Commercial Fishing Technique Can Aid Wild Salmon Recovery & Support Sustainable Fisheries – Wild Fish Conservancy

Very good news.

OCTOBER 6, 2022— A new study evaluating alternative commercial fishing techniques further demonstrates the critical role commercial fish traps can play in recovering wild salmon and steelhead, improving fisheries management, and providing new sustainable fishing opportunities for coastal fishing communities. The publication confirms the ability of fish traps (or pound nets) to nearly eliminate unintended mortality of threatened salmon and steelhead encountered in commercial salmon fisheries of the Columbia River.

Researchers at Wild Fish Conservancy, alongside Dr. John Skalski of the University of Washington Columbia Basin Research Lab, published a new open access paper in the international journal of Fisheries Research evaluating survival of wild adult salmon after being released from two commercial fish trap sites in the lower Columbia River. The results demonstrated post-release survival at or near 100% for spring and summer-run Chinook salmon and coho salmon released from passively operated fish traps between 2019 and 2021.

“The new publication provides the most clear-cut and irrefutable evidence to date that fish traps can nearly eliminate unintended mortality of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead during harvest, allowing for sustainable and resilient commercial fisheries that can enjoyed for generations to come,” says Emma Helverson, Executive Director of the Wild Fish Conservancy. “It is rare to find a win-win solution with such widespread benefits for wild fish, orcas, resource managers, and coastal fishing communities.”

In conventional fisheries, a major barrier impeding recovery is the accidental harvest and mortality of threatened and endangered populations by fishers targeting other wild or hatchery fish. Using ancient fish traps as a basic model, Wild Fish Conservancy biologists began evaluating contemporary fish traps in 2016 in efforts to develop a sustainable, alternative fishing practice to conventional gillnetting. The goal was to safely release wild salmon and steelhead in need of recovery, while allowing fishers to selectively harvest those healthier, abundant runs, such as the Columbia River’s hatchery fish. Passively operated traps are engineered to allow fish to remain free-swimming at all times and to eliminate mortality effects commonly associated with conventional fishing methods, including injury from nets, overcrowding, human-handling, and air exposure.

The new publication builds on and validates the results of previous studies evaluating passively operated fish traps on the Columbia River that have consistently shown survival near 100% for adult fall-run Chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, and summer-run steelhead released as bycatch. No other commercial fishing method studied on the Columbia River has demonstrated survival results as encouraging for wild salmon recovery and fish traps are the only gear to be rigorously evaluated through the scientific peer-review process.

The results of this new study also corroborate growing scientific consensus demonstrating that the most sustainable commercial salmon fisheries are those that occur in or near rivers where wild salmon return and use selective fishing techniques like fish traps that are proven to limit or eliminate harm to threatened and endangered bycatch.

“Our research team was completely blown away. When we analyzed the genetic and tag datasets for upriver populations of Chinook salmon heading to spawning grounds or hatcheries above Bonneville Dam, literally every adult Chinook passively captured and released from the fish trap survived the 167 km, 7-day journey to the dam,” said Wild Fish Conservancy biologist Adrian Tuohy. “The study was straightforward and the findings are irrefutable.” 

In comparison to results for the fish trap, the commercial gillnet—the primary tool for harvest on the Columbia River—is known to cause ~49% mortality of threatened wild Chinook salmon encountered in the fishery. The lethal effects of the gillnet are also known to be severe for other fish species that become entangled as fishers target hatchery Chinook salmon, however the true impact of the gillnet to these other threatened salmonid stocks in the Columbia River remains unknown as no post-release mortality data have been collected by state or federal management agencies.

“Few data, if any, have been collected for the gillnet and other alternative salmon fishing methods to understand post-release mortality of bycatch… and hardly any of this work has undergone scientific peer-review,” says Tuohy. “Given the information that is available, it is clear that no other salmon fishing gear has come remotely close to achieving the peer-reviewed results we’ve seen for fish traps when it comes to releasing wild salmon unharmed and allowing for selective harvest of hatchery fish in Columbia River fisheries.”

Findings from this new publication are expected to help guide the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as the agency establishes rules for the alternative gear commercial fishery that will legalize fish traps at a localized scale on the lower Columbia River. In 2021, both the Governors of Washington and Oregon made policy and funding commitments to advance selective harvest practices like fish traps as alternatives to nontribal gill nets in the Columbia River. Washington state is currently implementing a voluntary gillnet license buyback program with the objective of redirecting those allocation impacts to alternative gears like fish traps or wild fish escapement.

Beyond the Columbia River, this research is also serving as an important working model to inspire other Pacific Northwest communities seeking sustainable harvest solutions. Wild Fish Cosnervancy is currently partnering with First Nations in British Columbia where the Canadian government has implemented unprecedented fishery closures in 2021 and 2022 out of conservation concerns.

“The situation facing the Columbia River is not unique. Throughout the Pacific Northwest coastal communities and resource managers are facing difficult decisions whether to close or further limit commercial fishing opportunities in order to protect our region’s most imperiled wild salmon,” says Helverson. “These new results could not have come at a better time and we are proud to play a role in advancing much needed solutions that we hope will benefit communities and recovery efforts coastwide.”

More at

New study finds chemical contaminants in Salish Sea seaweed

A new study raises concerns about levels of chemical contaminants in edible seaweed in the Salish Sea. As mentioned in “The Fish Site”

A new study just published by researchers at Western Washington University (WWU) reports concentrations of up to 162 chemical contaminants in three species of edible seaweeds gathered in the Salish Sea.

From the article’s abstract:

Despite growing interest in edible seaweeds, there is limited information on seaweed chemical contaminant levels in the Salish Sea. Without this knowledge, health-based consumption advisories can not be determined for consumers that include Tribes and First Nations, Asian and Pacific Islander community members, and recreational harvesters. We measured contaminant concentrations in edible seaweeds (Fucus distichusFspiralis, and Nereocystis luetkeana) from 43 locations in the Salish Sea. Metals were analyzed in all samples, and 94 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (i.e. 40 PCBs, 15 PBDEs, 17 PCDD/Fs, and 22 organochlorine pesticides) and 51 PAHs were analyzed in Fucus spp.

We compared concentrations of contaminants to human health-based screening levels calculated from the USEPA and to international limits. We then worked with six focal contaminants that either exceeded screening levels or international limits (Cd, total Hg, Pb, benzo[a]pyrene [BaP], and PCBs) or are of regional interest (total As). USEPA cancer-based screening levels were exceeded in 30 samples for the PCBs and two samples for BaP. Cadmium concentrations did not exceed the USEPA noncancer-based screening level but did exceed international limits at all sites. Lead exceeded international limits at three sites. While seaweed was the focus, we did not consider contaminant exposure from consuming other foods. Other chemicals, such as contaminants of emerging concern (e.g., PFAS, pharmaceuticals and personal care products), should also be considered.

The whole study can be found here:

Chemical contaminant levels in edible seaweeds of the Salish Sea and implications for their consumption | PLOS ONE

Over-the-counter pesticides found in islands’ forage fish-San Juan Journal

Very troubling findings in a recent research on pesticides found in Sand Lance which are fish eaten by many higher level predators. Please do not use pesticide sprays like this for carpenter ants and other insects. You likely are poisoning yourself and the environment.

An intriguing sidelight of the Kwiaht study is a finding that sand lances collected closest to Admiralty Inlet, the entrance to Puget Sound, were on average twice as contaminated with pyrethroid pesticides as sand lances collected on the north side of San Juan County closest to the Fraser River plume.

https://www.sanjuanjournal.com/news/over-the-counter-pesticides-found-in-islands-forage-fish/

Study raises questions about using ‘woody debris’ to restore streams -Salish Currents

Some of the woody debris projects work, some don’t. The reasons why are not yet known.


“Efforts to improve salmon streams damaged by past logging and other human activities commonly include the addition of carefully placed logs, tree roots or “woody debris” to mimic this natural system. But a new report raises questions about the value of adding wood to streams — at least in the way it has been done in many restoration projects.”. Chris Dunagan reports. (Salish Sea Currents)

Offshore Wind’s Turbulent Future – Hakai Magazine

An issue that might cause a significant pause in the deployment of deep water wind turbines, which I assume from the article may be what is being proposed for the Washington coast.


The realization that turbulence created by deepwater wind turbines could upset the spring phytoplankton bloom has researchers warning the rapidly emerging industry to proceed with caution. Doug Johnson reports. (Hakai Magazine)

Offshore Wind’s Turbulent Future 

Lamprey legacy: Eel-like fish return after dam removal – Salish Sea Currents

Christopher Dunagan concludes his excellent series on the return of the Elwha River.

Prehistoric-looking lamprey are recolonizing parts of the Elwha River that they have not occupied for more than 100 years. Like salmon, the culturally and ecologically important fish also move from saltwater into rivers to spawn. And like salmon, lamprey were devastated by the dams that once blocked their way. We conclude our series ‘Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy.’   

Lamprey legacy: Eel-like fish return after dam removal | Encyclopedia of Puget Sound (eopugetsound.org)

Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy-Salish Sea Currents Magazine

Excellent series by long time Northwest journalist Christopher Dunagan

Following dam removal, migratory salmon have been free to swim into the upper Elwha River for the first time in 100 years. Their actual behaviors and reproductive success may well be driven by changes in their genetic makeup. Our seven-part series ‘Returning home’ examines how the fish are doing and whether the Elwha’s genetic legacy remains intact. 

Salish Sea Currents

Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy | Encyclopedia of Puget Sound (eopugetsound.org)

NWI: Purchase protects Discovery Creek headwaters – PDN and others

A little behind on this news. Congratulations to Northwest Watershed Institute and everyone else who helped pull this off!

Ninety-one acres of forest and streams at the headwaters of Discovery Creek, a major tributary to Dabob Bay in East Jefferson County, have been acquired by Northwest Watershed Institute from Rayonier. The project completes preservation of nearly the entirety of Discovery Creek, which is the second largest freshwater source to Tarboo-Dabob Bay.

PDN & NWI

Microsoft Word – Discovery Ck acquisition May 27 2022.docx (nwwatershed.org)

The Hatchery Crutch: How We Got Here – Hakai Magazine

Hakai Magazine has published an excellent overview of the issue of hatchery salmon. Author Jude Isabella has dove deep into the history of hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. This is part of a larger project called The Paradox of Salmon Hatcheries. The work is also available in audio format. I highly recommend this to anyone that thinks they know that hatcheries are a “good thing” The history just doesn’t support it.

From their beginnings in the late 19th century, salmon hatcheries have gone from cure to band-aid to crutch. Now, we can’t live without manufactured fish.

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