Puget Sound

Laura James called it one of the saddest things she’s ever seen underwater.

Sea stars -- iconic and ever present in Northwest coastal waters -- suddenly becoming sick and dying before her eyes in numbers too great to count. The long time Puget Sound diver said she’s never seen anything like this in 20 years of diving.

Courtesy of Ann Dornfeld

Puget Sound, a spidery inlet of the Pacific Ocean, has often been derided as murky, toxic and so, so cold.

But Ann Dornfeld, KUOW’s education reporter, has come to love the Sound, where she photographs marine life. Her favorite marine invertebrate is a nudibranch. (Her favorite nudibranch is a Cockerell's dorid.)

Courtesy of NOAA/Candice Emmons

Citing worsening marine water quality and the declining orca population, Chinook salmon and herring, the state agency Puget Sound Partnership referred to the Puget Sound as a patient in “critical condition.”

“Puget Sound remains in crisis,” says a report released last week by the agency. “It is increasingly likely that we will not reach our legislatively established targets by 2020.”

Courtesy Vancouver Aquarium

Scientists in two nations are on the lookout for an underwater epidemic that is killing starfish. 

In September, divers in Vancouver Harbour and Howe Sound near Vancouver, British Columbia, noticed the pizza-sized starfish known as sunflower stars wasting away and dying in large numbers.

Octopuses' Gardens: State Designates 7 No-Hunt Spots

Oct 7, 2013
KUOW Photo/Meghan Walker

When a 19-year-old man lured a giant Pacific octopus from its lair off Alki Beach in West Seattle last year – legally, it turned out – a small group of activists were aghast that the charismatic cephalopod wasn’t protected.

Ghost-Net Busters

Jul 9, 2013
flickr photo / Jennyvids

Lost and abandoned fishing nets kill untold numbers of sea creatures around the world every year. But there's a growing global movement to remove what are known as "ghost nets" and prevent new ones. And it's starting in the Puget Sound.

Full list of stories on KUOW Presents, July 9:

Young Puget Sound Oysters Struggling With Acidification

Jun 12, 2013
Flickr Photo/Paul Wilkinson

  A new study from Oregon State University shows that young oysters are struggling due to ocean acidification. But adult oysters are still growing. What does this mean for the future of wild oysters in the Puget Sound? David Hyde gets the details from Taylor Shellfish’s lead researcher Joth Davis. 

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Doug Monk has been a commercial diver on the Olympic Peninsula for some 20 years, harvesting shellfish and sea cucumbers. But for the past decade, he’s been after a different harvest: ghost nets.

TJ Guiton

Shell Oil Co. had to postpone its Arctic drilling until 2014 after one of its oil rigs ran aground off the Alaska coast this winter, but Shell’s efforts to open a new frontier of oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean continue in Puget Sound.

The oil giant passed a key test with federal regulators in March in the waters off Anacortes, Wash., north of Seattle.

Behind The Scenes With SPD's Bomb Unit

Apr 18, 2013
Bomb Squad
Flickr Photo/Settsu

Investigators are trying to piece together this week's bombings at the Boston Marathon. What clues are they looking for? How are bombs detected and disarmed? Seattle Police Department explosives experts Randy Curtis and Craig Williamson join us with an inside look. Call with your questions to 206.543.5869.


VIDEO: Watch Dennis the SPD Bomb Dog In Action

Flickr/canopic

Right now it’s legal to hunt octopuses in Puget Sound – unless you’re in a marine preserve or conservation area. In fact, if you have a state fishing license you can harvest one every day.

But the killing of a giant Pacific octopus off Alki Beach in Seattle last October prompted a public outcry. Hundreds of scuba divers and members of the public submitted petitions to the state of Washington asking for better protection for the giant Pacific octopus in Puget Sound.

Ashley Ahearn

There are several hundred derelict and abandoned vessels dotting the waterways of Washington and Oregon. They can block navigation and pollute the environment, and they can also be very expensive to remove.

Ashley Ahearn

President Obama is set to announce the creation of several new national monuments on Monday. One of them will be in Washington’s San Juan Islands.

T.J. Guiton

The Arctic Challenger left Puget Sound's Bellingham Bay Wednesday night and arrived at a deep-water anchorage near Anacortes, Wash., Thursday morning. The barge is part of Shell Oil’s fleet of vessels aimed at exploring the Arctic Ocean for oil.

The Arctic Challenger’s oil-spill containment system failed its first field test off Anacortes in September. Since then, Shell has rebuilt a 20-foot oil-containment dome that was “crushed like a beer can” in the first test.

Damaged oil-spill containment dome
BSEE (via KUOW FOIA request)

A KUOW investigation has led a top congressman to demand answers about Shell Oil's underwater accident this fall in Puget Sound.

As we reported on Friday, an underwater test near Anacortes left Shell's first-of-its-kind oil-spill equipment “crushed like a beer can.”

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