Puget Sound

Scientists have found dozens of poisoned dolphins, whales and sea lions off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California this year. They tested positive for a toxin caused by a massive algae bloom this summer in the Pacific Ocean.

Toxic domoic acid is produced by algae in the ocean, and this year the algae are thriving in the largest bloom ever recorded here. Marine mammals are poisoned when they eat fish that are contaminated.

A new study suggests that Puget Sound shellfish producers could expand some of their operations without significantly affecting the environment.

Researchers undertook the study to determine what would happen if more areas along Puget Sound were devoted to the farming of giant geoduck clams.

Rising demand from China is driving the push to expand Puget Sound aquaculture. Some residents are opposed to increased shellfish farming.

Critics Say Whales Put At Risk By Navy Testing Plan

Oct 4, 2015

The Navy released the final environmental review Friday for its proposed sonar and explosives training practices in waters off the coast of the Northwest.

The Navy currently conducts training exercises in an area of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, roughly the size of Montana. It needs to renew its federal permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in order to continue and expand those exercises.

This photo, taken last fall, is an indicator of things to come, according to scientists. The warm blob of water off the coast has conspired with low precipitation to amplify problems in Puget Sound. The result: more jellyfish.
Courtesy of Eyes Over Puget Sound, Washington Department of Ecology

Puget Sound is going through a lot of changes. And a trend we reported on earlier this year has accelerated: Salmon are losing while jellyfish are winning.

Dungeness crab being unloaded at the Quinault Indian Nation docks in Westport, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

David Hyde asks Rich Childers, Puget Sound shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, why the recreational Dungeness crab season opens two weeks earlier than expected this year in Hood Canal.

The giant Pacific octopus can change colors when disturbed or excited.
Courtesy of Janna Nichols

Imagine for a moment a sentient being that’s radically unlike a human: No bones, numerous limbs that can “taste” you, a slimy body that can squirt through small holes, a mysterious intelligence. This is not science fiction. This is the giant Pacific octopus, one of the many secrets of Puget Sound.

Writer Sy Montgomery made it a personal goal to get as close as she could to one of these large cephalopods for a new book, "The Soul Of An Octopus."

Go Undercover With Northwest Shellfish Detectives

May 26, 2015
Detective Wendy Willette of Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife in the police van. Willette heads an operation to unravel a shellfish black market that has sprung up in South Puget Sound.
EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A man and woman drive a blue pickup to the back of a Chinese restaurant.

A man approaches them with a scale as the woman pulls a bag heavy with clams from the back of the truck.

The transaction is quick and casual, as though they’ve done this before. And they have. But this time, a hidden camera has captured their transaction. 

KUOW's David Hyde caught this little beauty while jigging in Puget Sound.
KUOW Photo/David Hyde

Jeannie Yandel talks with Elaina Jorgensen, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's cephalopod expert, about squidding as a new hobby and what we know about the squid in Puget Sound. 

Citizen scientists have been monitoring seabirds in Puget Sound for the past seven years, and they have some good news to report.

In fact, of 18 species the volunteers surveyed, 14 show improvement over the past seven years.

The study did find declines in four species: the white-winged scoter, brant, western grebe and red-necked grebe.

But overall, the numbers are heartening. Many seabird species are thought to have declined around Puget Sound since the 1960s and '70s, but the new results suggest that the trend may be changing.

Baby Orca Missing In Puget Sound And Presumed Dead

Oct 22, 2014

Orca enthusiasts rejoiced when a newborn calf was spotted 7 weeks ago.

But as of Tuesday morning, the endangered killer whale calf has not been seen.

L120 was the first calf born in the past 2 years. The calf's mother was spotted three times since Friday. Her baby was nowhere to be seen.

Orca experts believe the calf is dead, though no carcass has been found and it's unclear how it died.

Shellfish Tell Puget Sound's Polluted Tale

Sep 19, 2014

SEATTLE -- Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound.

And in some places, it's pretty contaminated.

This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound.

After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results.

Flickr Photo/Nicola

In several weeks, there will be no more Elliott’s Oysters for us. And it will be hard to “keep clam” on Seattle’s waterfront.

That’s because, after years of planning, the Alaskan Way seawall is finally about to be rebuilt.

Ross Reynolds talks with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about the battle over sewage that's been raging on between the U.S. and BC for 20 years. They also discuss the controversy over the whales and dolphins being kept by the Vancouver Aquarium, as well as Premier Christy Clark's surprising stance on the Gaza conflict.

EarthFix Conversation: Puget Sound Whales For Sale

Jul 22, 2014

The resident killer whales of Puget Sound are an endangered species. There are about 80 of them left.

But there was a time, not too long ago, when people were catching these whales and selling them into captivity.

Sandra Pollard has documented the history of orca capture in Puget Sound in a new book: Puget Sound Whales For Sale: The Fight To End Orca Hunting.

She spoke with EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn about this dark period in orca history.

Ashley Ahearn: Let’s go back in time here a little bit, why did people start catching orcas?

What's Killing Clams? Solve This Low Tide Mystery

Jul 14, 2014
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

One of the lowest tides of the year this weekend revealed a "crime scene" at the beach at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle.