Monitoring encompasses the routine measurement of ecosystem indicators to assess the status and trends of ecosystem structure and function. Broadly, there are two goals for monitoring in the Puget Sound ecosystem. The first goal is to monitor status and trends of the ecosystem. This may take the form of snapshots of specific regions, or, more usefully, status monitoring tracks variability in carefully selected indicators over time. Status monitoring is fundamentally concerned with documenting spatial and temporal variability in ecosystem components and thus ideally relies on consistent long-term monitoring in a network of sites. A second aim of monitoring is to evaluate the effectiveness of management strategies. Effectiveness monitoring thus aims to detect changes in ecosystem status that are caused by specific management actions.
A 2023 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.
Biologist and science writer Eric Wagner recently returned from a trip to observe pigeon guillemots on Protection Island. He wonders: How much do we really know about the health of seemingly abundant bird populations?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Several studies have been performed to determine the occurrence of selected Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the environment.
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 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.
Each year, the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program releases the annual Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview report. The latest report combines a wealth of data from comprehensive monitoring programs and provides a concise summary of what was happening in Puget Sound’s marine waters during 2022. The report represents the collective effort of 84 contributors from federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, academia, nonprofits, and private and volunteer groups.
Zooplankton are critical to the marine food web, but until recently there have been few surveys of the zooplankton community in Puget Sound. Ongoing monitoring is now revealing a system full of complexity and surprises. The following article was commissioned by the Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead (HSIL), a cross-agency team co-led by the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources.
A new strain of avian flu has been sweeping the globe since 2020, leaving thousands of dead seabirds in its wake. This past summer, it arrived at a colony of Caspian terns at Rat Island in the Salish Sea, with catastrophic results.
The Salish Sea may be a giant ‘practice room’ for humpback whales as they get ready to sing in their winter breeding grounds in Hawaii and Mexico. A network of hydrophones is recording it all.
Were the islands half full of auklets or were they half empty? One scientist offers an insider's view of a newly published study of two Pacific seabird colonies. He says having good data for the paper was key, but finding the right title didn't hurt.
Tufted puffins have become an increasingly rare sight in the Pacific Northwest. Biologist and writer Eric Wagner recently visited Puget Sound's Smith Island, home to one of the region's last surviving colonies of these colorful seabirds.
In June we observed a widespread Noctiluca bloom in Central Puget Sound, evident by bright orange streaks in the water. Noctiluca blooms in Puget Sound have lasted much longer and occurred on a much larger scale than in previous years.
The search goes on for a set of definitions and thresholds to represent low-oxygen concentrations that threaten various aquatic creatures. Over the years, ecologists have relocated, reshaped and revised the word “hypoxia” to describe these conditions. In part four of our series "Oxygen for life" we look at how scientists determine whether oxygen levels are low enough to be considered harmful to sea life.
Each year, the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) releases a Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview, a report combining a wealth of data from numerous comprehensive environmental monitoring programs. The latest report provides an overview of marine conditions in 2021 and represents the collective effort of 76 contributors from federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, academia, nonprofits, and private and volunteer groups.
The report comes after a third year of La Nina conditions. Weak upwelling off the coast and low river flows of major rivers meant less cold, nutrient-rich, upwelled water was being entrained into Puget Sound in late summer and fall. Water conditions in Puget Sound in October were generally expected while Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor were both unusually warm and salty. Smoky air restricted our flight to Southern Puget and Central Sound where we saw blooms in terminal bays as well as patches of jellyfish. Sediment in Commencement Bay and along shorelines in Totten Inlet was unusual for a dry fall. A healthy foodweb has at its base a balance of nutrients. Explore what we found over the period of two decades of monitoring.
Fall’s chill is in the air (finally!), leaves are turning colors, and skeletons and spider webs are popping up in yards all over town. Meanwhile, under the mud of Puget Sound, there’s a strange critter that stays in its ethereal costume all year long – the burrowing ghost shrimp.
Where do Protection Island's rhinoceros auklets go to find their food? Scientists hope GPS tags will offer new insight into the bird's still mysterious foraging behavior. Biologist and science writer Eric Wagner reports from the field.
A new report says further study may reveal why experts cannot find expected benefits to salmon populations, despite widespread use of wood in stream restorations.
Occasionally, our magazine includes reports and essays from guest writers on the subject of Puget Sound ecosystem recovery. Biologist and author Eric Wagner has this look at an ongoing harbor seal survey at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River. Wagner says the study hinges on a basic question: Who is eating the salmon?
Puget Sound Restoration Fund has launched a network to track declining kelp populations in the Salish Sea. The three-year initiative aims to support and standardize underwater monitoring to improve kelp conservation in the region.
Dam removals are often associated with salmon recovery, but new research on the Elwha River suggests that birds also benefit. Scientists say birds are a sometimes-overlooked indicator of river health.
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.'
The winter was cold and wet, resulting in a good snowpack in the mountains to sustain river flows into summer. In Puget Sound, saltier waters in summer transitioned to fresher conditions by fall 2021. Water temperatures in late winter 2022 are now colder and oxygen levels are high. From the air, Puget Sound looks spectacular, with few events to report. First signs of the spring bloom were visible in protected bays and passes. Port Susan and Carr Inlet already show sizable patches of drifting organic material. Small jellyfish patches were present in Eld Inlet.
Fishing for rockfish was once promoted as a sustainable alternative to salmon harvests, but when rockfish numbers plummeted, fisheries managers realized they had a problem. Now a rockfish recovery plan seeks to reverse the damage as scientists learn more about protecting this once-popular game fish.
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.
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.
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 number of golden-crowned kinglets in the Puget Sound watershed has declined by more than 91% over a recent 50-year period, according to data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The data was reported by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which tracks the information for the Puget Sound Partnership’s terrestrial bird indicator. The indicator was established to monitor the health of Puget Sound’s species and food webs.
A 2021 paper in the journal PLoS ONE describes a non-traditional approach to estimating the size of three harbor seal management stocks in the inland waters of Washington using aerial line-transect surveys and tagging data.
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.
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.
A warm and dry summer ended with a smoky September due to massive wildfires that were followed by strong rain. As a consequence, muddy river plumes in Puget Sound are very visible, especially near the Nooksack River. During summer, many wonderful citizen contributions documented the large formation of organic material in Central Sound and helped us cover the gap in EOPS flight from April-September. By September when we started flying again, a few bays still had red-brown blooms. Nevertheless, schools of fish are abundant, and jellyfish are sparse, which is good news. Meet our new ocean acidification experts.
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. This 2019-2020 TCG annual report summarizes second year project activities and focuses on three of the watershed's transborder sub-basins.
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.
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.
High levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals are showing up in seemingly remote and pristine parts of the Puget Sound watershed, the result of atmospheric deposition. Scientists talk about a “dome” of pollution hanging over urban areas, leading to a never-ending cycle of persistent compounds working their way through the air, onto the land and into the water.
Scientists are still trying to understand what caused the deaths of thousands of rhinoceros auklets in the Salish Sea in 2016. Some studies point to disease as a central factor in that incident and potentially other large seabird die-offs along the coast. That is prompting a deeper look at what makes these birds sick, and how local populations are faring. We followed a group of researchers as they gave a health checkup to a breeding colony of rhinoceros auklets on Protection Island.
They rival tropical forests in their richness and diversity, but Puget Sound's kelp beds have declined steeply in recent decades. Scientists are just starting to understand the extent of these losses. What they are finding is bringing kelp to the forefront of Puget Sound's environmental concerns.
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.
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.
Eight aquatic reserves in Puget Sound are being studied by volunteers working under the direction of state experts. Washington Department of Natural Resources manages the reserves with guidance from nearby communities.
Each winter and spring, researchers survey the sometimes spectacular spawning events of Puget Sound's Pacific herring. They have found wide swings in the fish's population and an overall decline in herring numbers since the 1970s, but little is known about the cause or what this might mean for the health of the food web. We spent a day with a biologist spotting herring eggs and considering the future of one of our region's most ecologically and culturally important fish species.
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!
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.
The removal of shoreline armoring has become a priority for the state's Puget Sound recovery efforts. The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is providing details on the effectiveness of armor-removal projects at 49 study sites.
The survival of hatchery‐origin pinto abalone Haliotis kamtschatkana released into Washington waters
In Washington State, the pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) has declined by 97 percent since 1992 and is unlikely to recover without intervention. A captive rearing and restocking pilot study shows promise for saving wild populations from local extinction.
Disease epidemic and a marine heat wave are associated with the continental-scale collapse of a pivotal predator (Pycnopodia helianthoides)
The sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is highly susceptible to sea star wasting disease. The authors of a 2019 paper published in Science Advances document the rapid, widespread decline of sunflower stars and discuss the ecological implications of losing this important subtidal predator species.
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!
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.
Its summer! River flows are generally below normal levels in response to low precipitation and warm air temperatures. Algae blooms are causing intense red-brown colors in Bellingham and Samish Bays, as well as in some other bays. Infrared images revealed that the algal blooms are in water exceeding 15°C. These warmer waters increase the risk of harmful algal blooms if toxin-producing species are present. Large rafts of macroalgae are drifting at the surface in South and Central Sound, and are particularly extensive in Carr Inlet, Commencement Bay, and Port Madison. Our Washington Conservation Corps Intern shares her many perspectives on Puget Sound.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the most important fish in the Salish Sea food web are also the most mysterious. Researchers have only begun to understand how many there are, where they go, and how we can preserve their populations for the future. A University of Washington researcher describes how scientists are looking into the problem.
Gaps in regulations could allow invasive species to hitch a ride on ships and boats. We report on some of the potential impacts, and how state and federal agencies are trying to solve the problem.
Concerns over the potential arrival of the European green crab have inspired a small army of volunteers. A search is underway for early signs of an invasion.
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.
Birds serve as useful indicators of ecosystem change and ecosystem health, biodiversity, condition of habitats, and climate change. Many people and organizations have their eyes on marine birds in Puget Sound.
New, smaller acoustic tags will allow scientists to track steelhead migrations in Puget Sound in ways that were once impossible. Will they provide answers to the mysterious decline of these now-threatened fish?
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.
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?
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 technical report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Cascadia Research Collective details the decline of the harbor porpoise in Puget Sound in the 1970s and reports that species numbers have increased over the past twenty years likely due to outside immigration.
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.
January air temperatures and precipitation were above normal as El Nino conditions prevail. This winter our snowpack is in much better shape, though we’ve lost some snow from the stint of warm weather. More rain and higher river flows have lowered salinities in Puget Sound and coastal bays. Nonetheless, water temperatures in Puget Sound remain at record-breaking highs. Jellyfish patches are numerous in finger inlets of South Sound and signs of phytoplankton blooms are visible in coastal bays. When conditions limit flying, Ecology’s research vessel gets the job done.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
By the end of 2010, the PSP Science Panel’s efforts had reached the stage where an independent review by the WSAS (Washington State Academy of Sciences) was timely and useful to help guide its future indicator development efforts.
The work in 1990, which was the fifth and final year of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit-required monitoring, included continued systematic sampling of sedimentation, vegetation, fish, and birds.
This 2009-2011 Puget Sound Biennial Science Work Plan details the high-priority science activities required to: support the implementation of the Action Agenda; build capacity to revise and improve future Action Agendas; and enhance the Puget Sound Partnership’s ability to lead the ecosystem protection and restoration effort.
State of the physical, biological and selected fishery resources of Pacific Canadian marine ecosystems in 2014
An annual State of the Pacific Ocean meeting is held to review the physical, biological and selected fishery resources and present the results of the most recent year’s monitoring in the context of previous observations and expected future conditions. The workshop to review conditions during 2014 took place at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, B.C. on March 10 and 11, 2015, with over 100 participants both in person and via webinar.
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.
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.
Monitoring for adaptive management: status and trends of aquatic and riparian habitats in the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish watershed (WRIA 8)
King County conducted physical and biological monitoring between 2010 and 2013 in the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish (WRIA 8) watershed using common survey protocols and a probabilistic survey design. Hydrologic monitoring was also conducted at several locations to supplement physical and biological monitoring.
Enhancement and standardization of benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring and analysis tools for the Puget Sound region
With funding from an EPA grant from 2010-2014, King County worked with regional partners and experts to enhance data analysis tools and encourage collaboration and standardization for benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring in the Puget Sound region.
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.
Forty years of change in forage fish and jellyfish abundance across greater Puget Sound, Washington (USA): anthropogenic and climate associations
A 2015 paper in the Marine Ecology Press Series reports a trend toward more jellyfish and less of some forage fish species in Puget Sound. The paper analyzes more than 40 years of state data, and assesses potential human causes for the shift.
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!
A 2015 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources summarizes the status and trends for native eelgrass and other seagrasses in Puget Sound from 2010-2013.
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.
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!
The Shoreline Monitoring Toolbox standardizes approaches to tracking the status and health of shoreline environments in Puget Sound.
Recommended social indicators for the Puget Sound Partnership: A report summarizing lessons from three local case studies
A 2014 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute identifies 23 potential indicators of human wellbeing in the Puget Sound region. These indicators will inform the adoption of Human Quality of Life "Vital Signs" by the Puget Sound Partnership.
A 2015 paper in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications describes century-long trends in Glaucous-winged Gull populations in British Columbia.
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.
A 2014 Washington State Department of Ecology report provides a taxonomic guide for Puget Sound sediment-dwelling invertebrates (benthos). Surveys of these species are used to monitor the health of the foodweb, as well as levels of toxic contaminants in the seafloor.
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.
A virus is the likely cause of sea-star die-offs on the Northeast Pacific Coast and in Puget Sound, according to a November 2014 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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.
Monitoring and adaptive management of the Nisqually Delta after tidal marsh restoration: Restoring ecosystem function for salmon
This 2009 report by the Nisqually Tribe establishes key measures of restoration development, habitat processes, and Chinook salmon response for the largest delta restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.
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.
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.
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.
Why did all the grebes leave? Where did they go? And what does their disappearance say about the health of the Salish Sea? Seasonal declines among some regional bird species could hold important clues to the overall health of the ecosystem.
A July 2014 report examines potential human wellbeing indicators for the Puyallup Watershed.
A 2014 report describes a research and monitoring study of Pigeon Guillemot conducted in and near the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network are two citizen science projects dedicated to furthering our understanding of abundance, distribution, behavior, and habitat use by the endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales, also called orcas. The Hydrophone Network lets the public listen for orcas through their computers and phones, while the Orca Network gathers and disseminates sightings of orcas as they move between Puget Sound, the Fraser River, and the Pacific Ocean.
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!
A December 2013 report identifies marine and terrestrial bird species for use as indicators within the Puget Sound Partnership's "Vital Signs" for ecosystem health.
A report by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute describes a 2013 workshop to integrate the social sciences into Puget Sound ecosystem monitoring. Social scientists will focus in part on several of the Puget Sound Partnership's designated ecosystem indicators, including categories such as Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.
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.
An October 2013 report released by the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program inventories and assesses monitoring activities of Puget Sound's ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks and habitats.
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.
Paper: A floating bridge disrupts seaward migration and increases mortality of Steelhead smolts in Hood Canal, Washington State
A new study provides strong evidence of substantial migration interference and increased mortality risk associated with the Hood Canal Bridge for aquatic animals, and may partially explain low early marine survival rates observed in Hood Canal steelhead populations.
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.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are underwater robotic vehicles used for a variety of ocean surveys and operations. Both are used for deep-sea observation, mapping of underwater environments, and surveys of biodiversity and water quality trends. While ROVs are tethered to the user by a cord called the umbilical, which provides power as well as control and video signals, AUVs are programmed for a specific course and then set loose, operating without a tether.
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 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.
Paper: Shifts in the estuarine demersal fish community after a fishery closure in Puget Sound, Washington
This paper looks at 21 years of data on estuarine demersal fish in Puget Sound, assessing changes in population after the closure of bottom trawl fisheries.
Could recent declines in Puget Sound herring be linked to decreases in native eelgrass? Biologist Tessa Francis reports on a new study that may provide insight into the health of one of the region's most iconic forage fish.
Paper: Citizen science reveals an extensive shift in the winter distribution of migratory Western Grebes
A June 19, 2013 paper in the journal PLoS ONE hypothesizes that regional declines in Western Grebe populations may be related to decreasing numbers of forage fish. Using citizen science data from 36 years of bird counts, researchers were able to look at population trends up and down the entire West Coast, finding that abundance of grebes decreased in the Salish Sea but increased in southern California. North American population declined by 52% overall.
Paper: Spatial and temporal analysis of killer whale (Orcinus orca) strandings in the North Pacific Ocean and the benefits of a coordinated stranding response protocol
A new paper by Puget Sound area scientists from the SeaDoc Society and their collaborators represents the most complete summary to date of killer whale (Orcinus orca) strandings in the North Pacific. The authors analyzed stranding records dating back to 1925, obtained from scientists worldwide, finding that very few whales are stranded (an average of ten a year over the last twenty years). However, most of those strandings result in death. Only 12% of stranded whales survive.
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.
Report: Economic analysis of the non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries in Washington State
This report, published in 2008 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, summarizes the economic importance of Washington fisheries using data from 2006. The report's Executive Summary is reprinted below, followed by summaries of data specific to 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.
Paper: A model approach for estimating colony size, trends and habitat associations of burrow-nesting seabirds
A paper in the May 2013 issue of The Condor [115(2):356–365, 2013] describes a repeatable and statistically robust approach to monitoring burrow nesting seabirds in the Salish Sea and the California Current that can be applied at single- or multi-island scales. The approach can be applied to both relatively common and important members of the seabird community like the Rhinoceros Auklet and to species of conservation concern like the Tufted Puffin.
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 new Chinook monitoring framework is designed to build cooperation among managers and policymakers working across the Puget Sound watershed. The report, prepared by an independent team of scientists and released by NOAA, includes a regionally specific, common classification system for Chinook habitats and key ecological attributes.
Puget Sound Chinook Salmon recovery: a framework for the development of monitoring and adaptive management plans
The Puget Sound Recovery Implementation Technical Team has released a draft of a NOAA technical memorandum describing frameworks for adaptive management and monitoring of Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. Download the report.
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.
Canadian and U.S. governments differ on special status for bocaccio in the Salish Sea.
The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound species library now includes a list of species of concern in the Salish Sea watershed. The list was created by Joe Gaydos and Jacqlynn Zier of the SeaDoc Society, and was released as a paper presented as part of the Proceedings of the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC.
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.
An indicator species is an organism whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a specific environmental condition. Indicator species can signal a change in the biological condition of a particular ecosystem, and thus may be used as a proxy to diagnose the health of an ecosystem. For example, plants or lichens sensitive to heavy metals or acids in precipitation may be indicators of air pollution. Indicator species can also reflect a unique set of environmental qualities or characteristics found in a specific place, such as a unique microclimate.
The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe conducts annual surveys of amphibian egg masses in the Reservation Slough wetland near the Sauk River.
Methods and Quality of VSP Monitoring Of ESA Listed Puget Sound Salmon and Steelhead: With Identified Critical Gaps 2012
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.
A recent report by an independent science panel reviewed data on the effects of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident Killer Whale populations. The report was released on November 30, 2012 and was commissioned by NOAA Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Recent worldwide increases in the abundance of some jellyfish have been associated with human-caused disturbances to the environment such as eutrophication, overfishing and climate warming.
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.
Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, provides important habitat for seabirds and marine mammals.
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.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), sometimes called Indigenous Knowledge, refers to cumulative knowledge and experience that indigenous cultures have of their environment. In the last thirty years, there has been growing interest in TEK as a resource for restoration and conservation projects.
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.
They are sometimes called Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), or submersible drones. They glide like airships through the deeper channels of Puget Sound, and have become an important tool for a wide array of open ocean applications, including detection of marine mammals, military reconnaissance and the monitoring of environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Puget Sound is the birthplace and key testing area of the Seaglider.
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.
Puget Sound has over 4,000 km (2,500 miles) of shorelines, ranging from rocky sea cliffs to coastal bluffs and river deltas. The exchange of water, sediment, and nutrients between the land and sea is fundamental to the formation and maintenance of an array of critical habitat types.
"Habitat" describes the physical and biological conditions that support a species or species assemblage and refers to conditions that exist at many scales. An oyster shell provides habitat for some algae and invertebrates, whereas cubic miles of sunlit water in Puget Sound comprise the habitat for many planktonic species.
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.