Killer whale miscarriages linked to low food supply

A Southern Resident Killer Whale is about to surface with her young calf. Photo: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium under NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization.

A Southern Resident Killer Whale is about to surface with her young calf. Photo: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium under NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization.

New techniques for studying orcas have been credited with breakthroughs in reproductive and developmental research. Drones and dogs are helping scientists connect declines in food supply with low birth rates and poor health.

Read the story this week in Salish Sea Currents. 

 

 

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Salish Sea snapshots: Detecting harmful algal blooms

Monitoring devices deployed by NOAA for detecting harmful algal blooms. Photo by Rachael Mueller.

Monitoring devices deployed by NOAA for detecting harmful algal blooms. Photo by Rachael Mueller.

New technology may provide early detection of harmful algal blooms 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.

Read the article by Rachael Mueller in Salish Sea Currents.

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Mystery remains in deaths of young salmon

Key hypotheses include bottom-up and top-down processes and additional factors such as toxics, disease, and competition. Graphic: Michael Schmidt, Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

Key hypotheses include bottom-up and top-down processes and additional factors such as toxics, disease, and competition. Graphic: Michael Schmidt, Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project has mobilized dozens of organizations in the U.S. and Canada to find an answer to one of the region’s greatest mysteries. What is killing so many young salmon before they can return home to spawn? A series of talks at the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference brought together some of the latest research.

Read the story in Salish Sea Currents. 

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Advances in technology help researchers evaluate threatened Puget Sound steelhead

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Cascade River, WA, 2014. Photo: © Morgan Bond http://www.morganhbond.com/

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Cascade River, WA, 2014. Photo: © Morgan Bond http://www.morganhbond.com/

New, smaller acoustic tags will allow scientists to track steelhead migrations in Puget Sound in ways that were once impossible. Will this new technology provide answers to the mysterious decline of these now-threatened fish?

Read the article in Salish Sea Currents.

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Salish Sea ‘slime’ vital for shorebirds

Studies suggest that western sandpipers depend on biofilm for close to 60% of their diet. Storey's Beach, Port Hardy, BC. Photo: Nicole Beaulac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolebeaulac/26579296150

Studies suggest that western sandpipers depend on biofilm for close to 60% of their diet. Storey’s Beach, Port Hardy, BC. Photo: Nicole Beaulac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It turns out that a gooey substance known as biofilm is a big deal for Salish Sea shorebirds, providing critical food for some species. But could a proposed port expansion in Vancouver threaten this slimy resource? Read the latest article in Salish Sea Currents

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New theory rethinks spread of PCBs and other toxics in Puget Sound

Puget Sound's orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. Photo: Minette Layne (CC-BY-2.0) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whale#/media/File:Orca_porpoising.jpg

Puget Sound’s orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. A new theory rethinks how PCBs and other toxics enter the food web.Photo: Minette Layne (CC-BY-2.0)

Last month, more than 1100 scientists and researchers converged on Vancouver, B.C. to attend the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference. The biennial conference is the region’s largest gathering on the state of the ecosystem, and we sent a group of reporters to bring back some of the highlights. Over the next several months, we’ll be collecting those highlights into a new series on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. We kick things off today with a must-read story from Christopher Dunagan. He reports that scientists may be changing their view of how PCBs and other toxics enter the Puget Sound food web. Read the story in Salish Sea Currents.

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Paper looks at social–ecological approaches to herring management

Graphic from 'Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social–ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring'

Graphic from ‘Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social–ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring’

A new paper co-authored by PSI’s Tessa Francis connects social and ecological factors influencing herring management in the Salish Sea. The paper, published in the journal Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, grew out of a three-day workshop held last year in British Columbia. The workshop was sponsored by The Ocean Modeling Forum, a collaboration between the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and NOAA Fisheries. It brought together a variety of herring experts, from commercial fishermen to scientists, regulators and members of regional tribes. NOAA’s Phillip Levin was the paper’s lead author, with Nathan Taylor of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Tessa Francis, lead ecosystem ecologist at PSI, as co-authors.

Citation:

Levin, Phillip S., Francis, Tessa B., Taylor, Nathan G. (2016) Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social–ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. 2(4):e01213. doi: 10.1002/ehs2.1213.

Related article:

Ocean Modeling Forum to bring human element to herring fishery, others (UW Today)

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PSI armoring report featured on KUOW

KUOW's John Ryan interviews Aimee Kinney about the ecological impacts of shoreline armoring.

KUOW’s John Ryan interviews Aimee Kinney about the ecological impacts of shoreline armoring. Photo by Jeff Rice. 

KUOW interviewed PSI’s Aimee Kinney today about the impacts of shoreline armoring on the Puget Sound ecosystem. Kinney was the lead author of an analysis report of recent nearshore studies funded by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. New studies reveal that shoreline armoring degrades beach ecology and hurts Puget Sound species like forage fish and salmon. Read the analysis report on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

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Gearing up for the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

SSEC_logoWatch for updates and stories from the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound this week. We are sending ten science writers to Vancouver to cover important findings from the conference that will be published throughout the year as part of our Salish Sea Currents series. If you want a sense of what is happening during the week, our writers and others will be posting to Twitter using the hashtag #SSEC16. You’ll also be able to identify us by the signature #EoPS. See you in Vancouver!

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Sources of sand: maps show crucial ‘feeder bluffs’

Feeder bluff and beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Marrowstone Island, WA. Photo: Kris Symer (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Feeder bluff and beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Marrowstone Island, WA. Photo: Kris Symer (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

For more than a hundred years, property owners have seen shoreline erosion as the enemy. They have battled it with startling amounts of concrete and have lashed together so many protective beach structures that about a third of Puget Sound’s shoreline is now classified as armored. It’s a fitting term for this longstanding battle against the elements. But it turns out that in many cases erosion is actually a good thing—crucial, according to scientists— because it provides the sand and gravel needed for healthy beaches. Now environmental agencies are encouraging the removal of bulkheads or their replacement with more natural erosion controls. New maps identify locations where bulkhead removal is likely to provide the greatest ecological benefits.

Read the final installment of our series on shoreline armoring in Salish Sea Currents on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. 

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Studies show high amounts of illegal shoreline armoring

Chart: Local shoreline changes in King County (2012-13). Source: King County, 2014

Chart: Local shoreline changes in King County (2012-13). Source: King County, 2014

Our series on shoreline armoring continues today with two new stories. Studies show that a significant number of shoreline structures are being built illegally without required permits. We also report on efforts to educate shoreline property owners about alternatives to environmentally-damaging concrete bulkheads.

Read these stories and others from the series in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

 

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