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Puget Sound

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.

File photo: salmon.
Flickr Photo/Rob Bixby (CC-BYC-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman speaks with Bill Daniell, an associate professor at the UW's School of Public Health, about Washington's fish consumption rate — a little number that has a big impact.

Stalking Puget Sound Steelhead With Science

Feb 11, 2014
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

You might call Barry Berejikian a steelhead stalker.

The government scientist’s pursuit of these anadromous trout has brought him to the deck of the Chasina, a research vessel that’s motoring through choppy gray waters of southern Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Laura James

Near the ferry docks on Puget Sound, a group of scientists and volunteer divers shimmy into suits and double-check their air tanks.

They move with the urgency of a group on a mission. And they are. They’re trying to solve a marine mystery.

Flickr Photo/Seattle Munincipal Archives

You may have noticed that water levels at Lake Washington beaches are very low.

But if you think there might be some connection with the drought that is now gripping much of the western U.S., think again.

Flickr Photo/David Prasad

Ross Reynolds talks with Joan Crooks, executive director of the Washington Environmental Council, about the progress made by the Puget Sound Partnership in restoring the health of Puget Sound.

Clifton Herrmann

A wide array of tiny marine critters are struggling to survive in Bellingham Bay, according to a recently released report from the Washington Department of Ecology.

geoduck
Flickr Photo/USDAgov

Washington state officials said Tuesday they found lower contamination levels when they tested geoduck clams than those alleged by China when it said geoduck imported from Puget Sound had high levels of arsenic.

Flickr Photo/Steve Johnson

If you live near downtown Seattle, you may have recently heard a long, low horn reverberating through the soupy nighttime air.

It happens every once in a while and has some Seattleites mystified. Where does the sound come from? It is a train? A boat? Last call at a Capitol Hill bar?

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.)

An orca pod travels past the Seattle skyline. A new study shows that pods are most likely led by older females.
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. 

Vanquishing Zombie Fishing Nets In Puget Sound

May 21, 2013
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

New Protections Proposed For Octopuses In Puget Sound

Apr 16, 2013
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.”

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

UPDATE on Congressional interest in this story here.

Shell Oil has been building and testing equipment designed for the Arctic Ocean here in Puget Sound. In September, a key test of underwater oil-spill equipment was a spectacular failure.

Acidifying Water Takes Toll On Northwest Shellfish

Nov 28, 2012
Katie Campbell

Rescuing shellfish from the rising acidity in Puget Sound will require a wide-ranging response: everything from curbing greenhouse gases and controlling water pollution to growing more seaweed and putting restaurant-discarded oyster shells into shallow bays. Those are among the recommendations in a long-awaited report on ocean acidification that was delivered today to Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire by a blue-ribbon panel.

Octopus Killing Fuels Scuba Diver Activism

Nov 5, 2012
A giant Pacific octopus similar to the one that was killed recently at Cove 2 in Alki.
Flickr/California Academy of Sciences

A scuba diving instructor recently encountered a diver who was in the process of killing an octopus at Cove 2, a popular West Seattle diving site. Photos of the incident spread online, prompting the local scuba dive community to seek marine protection status for Cove 2. 

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