oceans | KUOW News and Information

oceans

Biodegradable paper straws will replace plastic at dozens of Seattle restaurants. Some businesses will offer glass, stainless steel, or bamboo straws.
Flickr Photo/Andrea Goh (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/c8Qke3

Two hundred or so businesses in Seattle are doing away with plastic drinking straws this month. It’s an environmental initiative deemed “Strawless in Seattle.”


Plastic trash that honors the sea life it kills

Sep 8, 2017
A trash sculpture honoring sea life, designed by Oregon-based artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi.
©WashedAshore.org

At Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium you can see penguins, wildcats, and now sculptures of marine life made from plastic trash.

A Coast Guard C-130 flies over the Arctic Ocean during an Office of Naval Research-sponsored study of the changing sea ice, ocean and atmosphere. Arctic ice is decreasing dramatically.
Flickr Photo/Office of Naval Research (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1L2lhwW

Scientists predict the waters around Antarctica will be among the last places to experience global warming. In 2016, however, Antarctic sea ice dropped to a record low. Ice typically increases there, slightly, each winter.

It has become a rite of summer. Every year, a "dead zone" appears in the Gulf of Mexico. It's an area where water doesn't have enough oxygen for fish to survive. And every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissions scientists to venture out into the Gulf to measure it.

It would be nice to believe that the reason humanity has taken next to no action to halt the destruction of the world's oceans is because we simply haven't seen the damage report. That argument held more water (sorry) back in 2004, when Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore made An Inconvenient Truth, a film that sought to raise awareness of man-made climate change in the hopes that a momentum would build to reverse the tide and slow the warming of the planet.

Editor’s note: Research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion have lifted Columbia salmon from the brink of extinction. But the Northwest has yet to figure out a sustainable long-term plan to save the fish that provide spiritual sustenance for tribes, food for the table, and hundreds of millions of dollars in business and ecological benefits. This is part of a special series of reports exploring whether salmon can ultimately survive.

The United States is stepping away from the Paris Climate Agreement, but the consequences of climate change will be more difficult to leave behind. Take ocean acidification, a major emerging threat to West Coast fisheries.

Researchers at Oregon State University have recorded some of the highest levels of ocean acidification in the world – and they exist right off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Spawning salmon
US Bureau of Land Management

Salmon are starting to lose their sense of smell and their fear of predators, according to research from federal and university scientists in Seattle.


Georgia Tech

To the list of global problems the world’s oceans are facing, you can add another: They’re losing oxygen.

The Pacific Ocean off the U.S. West Coast, from central California to Alaska, is one of the hardest-hit areas.


Nisqually tribe biologist Chris Ellings holds up a sample of plankton from Puget Sound.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

The Trump administration has proposed cutting federal funding for restoring Puget Sound by 93 percent.


A Blob In The Ocean Means More Ozone In The Air

Feb 21, 2017

Remember the warm weather we had in 2014 and 2015? University of Washington professor Dan Jaffe says that was caused by a meteorological phenomenon known as "The Blob."

“The Blob was a region of really unusual warm water that was sitting off the coast of Washington and Oregon,” he explains.

That blob had a surprising effect: it increased air pollution across the West.

Shipwrecks along the Pacific Northwest coast number in the thousands. A handful have become the long-running obsessions of a cadre of shipwreck buffs.

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a sound coming from one of the deepest spots in the ocean. They believe it’s the song of a Minke whale, but it’s not like any they’ve identified before.

The so-called “Western Pacific Biotwang” is more horror movie than Nashville ballad. A low moan at the beginning is typical of baleen whales, but it was the end that caught the ear of OSU researcher Sharon Nieukirk.

“What makes this call special is the second part, and the way it sweeps way up and it sort of has that metallic twang sound to it,” she said.

Princess Cruises will pay a $40 million fine for "deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up," according to the Department of Justice, which calls it "the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution."

The California-based cruise operator also agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges over illegal practices on five ships dating back, in at least one case, to 2005.

Last winter was the first time the Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon closed temporarily because of toxic algae in the ocean. And even just a week ago, another toxic bloom was happening off the coast.

Scientists are just beginning to understand what triggers these conditions. A study this month from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a rare peak below the waves.

KUOW / John Ryan photo

Wind and heavy rain could make this weekend tough for Puget Sound dwellers.

The storm could be rough on the sound's underwater residents as well.


Dead Whale Returns To Oregon Coast

Sep 20, 2016

The humpback whale whose carcass washed ashore near Arch Cape over the weekend, and then left with the high tide, is back again.

This time, the remains washed up at Oswald West State Park just south of Arch Cape.

State park staff plan interpretive talks at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday about the whale at the park, whether the remains are still there, or not.

"The twice-daily high tides predicted over the next few weeks are not expected to be high enough to take it back out to sea, though it is still possible for it to wash out," staff said in a press release Tuesday.

Robin Everett, a Sierra Club organizer, says that Trump sees that workers and the environment are not being protected through these trade deals.
KUOW Photo/David Hyde

Last month in Everett, Donald Trump called the Trans-Pacific Partnership a “disaster.”

Hillary Clinton opposes it, too. So what does the rise in anti-trade politics mean for Washington – the most trade-dependent state?

Humpback whale off of Victoria, British Columbia.
Flickr Photo/Ivan Wong Rodenas (CC BY ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/Ehzb6P

This summer is proving to be a bonanza for whale-watchers.

According to The Pacific Whale Watch Association, tourists and researchers are seeing groups of humpback whales in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound nearly every day.

COASST / Cliff Brown

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why.

A crisp wind rakes the surface of Hood Canal, a narrow, 68-mile waterway and Puget Sound’s westernmost reach.

A group of divers emerges from the chop and wades ashore. They’ve just finished their first open-water dive.

“Congratulations. You’re certified,” said Callie Renfro, the dive instructor.

This is what passes for good news about coral reefs these days: Around the world, some reefs aren't dying as quickly as scientists thought they would.

Deep in the ocean, a mission is underway to explore the "unknown and poorly known areas" around the Mariana Trench.

UW-Tacoma biologist Aimee Kinney looks for small invertebrates that salmon feed on along a less-degraded patch of heavily walled Alki Beach in West Seattle.
kUOW Photo/John Ryan

In Seattle's King County, property owners have walled off most of the shoreline with concrete bulkheads and other heavy infrastructure.

Along Hood Canal and other rural parts of the sound, the owners of coveted waterfront homes keep building more walls to keep their properties from eroding.

Douglass Brown was walking down Titlow Beach in Tacoma with a girl he liked when he saw a giant thing – that looked like an octopus tentacle – emerge from the water. He ran, screaming.
Illustration by Tom Dougherty

Douglass Brown was 15 when he saw a giant tentacle emerge from Puget Sound.

He was in Tacoma, walking down the beach with a girl he liked. Then he looked out at the water.

Have you ever wondered about life in the deepest depths of the ocean? Oregon-based oceanographers did, so they dropped a microphone seven miles down. What they heard came as a surprise.

Pacific Ocean from across the straights.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

In 1520, explorer Ferdinand Magellan called it “peaceful.” At more than 60 million square miles, the Pacific Ocean covers 30 percent of the earth’s surface -- an area larger than the landmass of all the continents combined. It is our planet’s largest and deepest ocean basin, and it has stories to tell. So, where to begin?

Author Simon Winchester sees many good starting points. His new book is “Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers.”

Pacific Ocean from across the straights.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Ross Reynolds talks to writer Simon Winchester about his book "Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators and Fading Empires and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers." 

Would you be able to tell if the wild Alaskan sockeye salmon you ordered for dinner was swapped out for a less expensive piece of farm-raised salmon?

For the observant, the color difference between the two would likely be the first giveaway. (Sockeye has a deeper red-orange hue.) Or maybe you'd notice the disparity in the thickness of fillet. (Sockeye is flatter and less steaky in appearance.)

Killer whale biologists used a hexacopter drone last month to capture stunning, overhead photos of every single member of the endangered Puget Sound orca population.

Pages