Many of Puget Sound’s industries rely upon natural resources found in the surrounding ecosystem. For example, oysters, salmon, clams, herring, trout, yellow perch and sole can be harvested from Puget Sound’s oceans and riverbeds, supporting a healthy fishing and shellfish industry. Fish farming (fish aquaculture) is also growing in the Puget Sound, as is the farming of shellfish, such as geoduck. Washington state is the second largest U.S. seafood producer, after Alaska, and ranks first or second in oyster production in the nation. For the west coast, Washington state provides 86% of the bivalve market.
Some early industries used improper storage methods for dangerous chemicals, such as arsenic. As a result, areas of soil and aquatic land in Puget Sound are being managed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Standards for the storage and discharge of industry chemicals have improved, and Puget Sound remains vital to the industries that depend upon it, such as shipping ports. Ports in Washington state are diverse. Governed as municipalities, Washington ports operate shipping terminals, marinas, docks, and associated infrastructure, such as roads, railroads and parks. The fastest-growing part of Washington ports is industrial development.
Between 1970 and 2000, the region increased by 1.3 million people. The PSRC predicts that between 2000 and 2020, the region will increase by 1.7 million people. Another change Puget Sound faces involves demographics of its population. The segment of population ages 65 and older is projected to increase by 150 percent, making up 17 percent of the total population by 2040. The workforce, which makes up the segment ages 20–64, is expected to decline, with the age group 20 and younger shrinking, as fewer households are of childbearing years.
Under the Growth Management Act (GMA), local governments plan, coordinate, and manage for growth in Washington state, while protecting natural resources and public interests. The GMA requires local governments to develop long-term comprehensive plans for land uses in their jurisdictions. Plans must be coordinated with surrounding counties and be approved by a regional board. The local government must also develop a shoreline master plan, if the jurisdiction contains a "shoreline of statewide significance". Finally, as part of the GMA, local governments must address sensitive fish and wildlife areas through Critical Area Ordinances (CAOs).
Hood Canal is a long, narrow and deep fjord-like body of water. Preliminary hypotheses discuss different contributing factors potentially influencing low-oxygen conditions (hypoxia) in Hood Canal. One overriding factor is the underwater topography of the Canal. The deepest parts of the Canal are more than deep, but at the entrance is a sill that is only deep. Inlets or bays with this constricted shape often experience sluggish water exchange. The Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program and the United States Geological Service (USGS) are studying Hood Canal circulation, trying to model the tidal circulations and salinity distribution patterns between the Canal and Admiralty Inlet. The HCDOP discusses a number of other factors that when combined with the constrictive shape, could also influence hypoxia in Hood Canal:
The picture surrounding hypoxia in Hood Canal is complex; research models are pointing to more than one contributing factor. Nutrient level is a large issue due to the human impact. The supply of nutrients, primarily nitrates, to the euphotic zone, is thought to impact levels of dissolved oxygen. Nutrients feed algae, which under the right conditions "bloom" and then die and decompose; the entire process requires a large amount of oxygen. This decreases the oxygen in the water column, lowering the dissolved oxygen level.
There are both natural and man-made sources of nutrients. The primary natural source is in ocean water that flushes Hood Canal. Man-made sources include leaking septic systems, storm water runoff, agriculture and various other sources. The presence of nutrients leads to algae growth, which consumes oxygen when the algae die and decompose, contributing to the low oxygen conditions in these waters.
Another factor mentioned by the HCDOP is the influence of the ocean water. The ocean water that enters Hood Canal is like most estuaries: fresh, warm water flow out at the surface and is replaced by cold, salty water at depth. The cold, salty ocean water that enters Hood Canal comes into Puget Sound from the open ocean and has not recently been in contact with the atmosphere. As a result, this water is initially somewhat depleted in oxygen.
Finally, seasons play a role. The warmer temperatures, longer days, and lower winds change flushing conditions. Low oxygen conditions are at their worst in the late summer, after several months of limited flushing and maximum plankton production near the surface. In some years, oxygen becomes sufficiently depleted that animals cannot survive. These kills may occur either locally or over a wide area.
Eelgrass beds provide nutrients and shelter for various biota in Puget Sound such as salmonids. As eelgrass and other seagrasses decay, it combines with other dead matter. This rich detritus is a staple for invertebrates, which are fed upon by salmonids, birds, and other predators. Eelgrass functions as a protective cover from the predators for juvenile salmon and as a nursery for herring that deposit eggs among bed. Herring, in turn, are an important food source for juvenile and adult salmon.
During low tide, eelgrass beds shelters other small animals from extreme temperatures, and in tideflats the beds act as a sponge for moisture.
Eelgrass monitoring is conducted throughout Puget Sound using random sampling under the Submerged Vegetation Monitoring Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Nearshore Program. Results for 2003 – 2004 were posted in 2005. Many eelgrass populations were holding steady, but sharp declines were noted in five shallow bays in the San Juan Islands and 14 smaller sites in the greater Puget Sound. Eelgrass throughout the entire Hood Canal showed a steady decline.
A number of reasons contribute to the decline in eelgrass population, including, but not limited to:
The Puget Sound Conservation and Recovery Plan (2005 – 2007) outlines a number of goals for improving management and health of the state's eelgrass beds. These include increasing protection over eelgrass beds on state-managed aquatic lands, and developing a statewide "seagrass management conservation plan" to be used by local, state and federal agencies.
Salmonidae first became evident in the middle Eocene, with the fossil Eosalmo driftwoodensis (discovered in Driftwood Creek, central British Columbia). This fossil shares traits found in the salmoninae lineage, but also whitefishes and graylines. Hence, E. driftwoodensis is an archaic salmonid, representing an important stage in salmonid evolution.
A gap appears in the salmonine fossil record after E. driftwoodensis, until the late Miocene (~7 m.y.a.) Trout-like fossils appear in Idaho, in the Clarkia Lake beds Several of these species appear to be Oncorhynchus - the current family for trout, char and Pacific Coast salmon. The presence of these species so far inland established that Oncorhynchus was not only present in the Pacific drainages before the beginning of the Pliocene (~5-6 m.y.a.), but also that rainbow, cutthroat and Pacific salmon lineages had diverged before the beginning of the Pliocene. Consequently, the split between Oncorhynchus and Salmo (Atlantic salmon) must have occurred well before the Pliocene. Suggestions have gone back as far as the early Miocene (~20 m.y.a.).
Speciation among Oncorhynchus has been examined for decades, and to this day, a family "tree" is not completely developed for the Pacific salmonids. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research has been completed on a variety of Pacific trout and salmonid species, but the results do not necessarily agree with fossil research, or molecular research. It is generally agreed that chum,pink and sockeye salmon lineages diverged in the sequence after other species (McPhail in Stouder, et al, 1997). Montgomery (2000) discusses the pattern of the fossil record as compared to tectonic shifts in the plates of the Pacific Northwest America. The (potential) divergence in Onchorhyncus lineages appear to follow the uprising of the Pacific Rim. The climatic and habitat changes which would follow such a geologic event are discussed, in the context of potential stressors leading to adaptation and speciation.
One interesting case involving speciation with salmon is that of the Kokanee sockeye. Sockeye that have been landlocked are called Kokanee. Kokanee sockeye evolve differently from anadromous sockeye. They reach the level of "biological species". Biological species - as opposed to morphological species - are defined by the capacity to maintain themselves in sympatry as independent genetic entities. This definition can be vexing because it appears that it does apply only to sympatry, and this limitation makes the definition difficult to apply. There are examples in Washington (Kokanee Heritage Project), Canada and elsewhere where two populations live in the same lake but spawn in different substrates, at different times, and eat different food sources. There is no pressure to compete or interbreed (two responses when resources are short). These types of Kokanee salmon show the principal attributes of a biological species: they are reproductively isolated, and show strong resources partitioning.
Today, the following Pacific Ocean species of salmon exist:
Family Salmonidae (salmons, salmonids, and trouts)
Genus Oncorhynchus (Pacific salmon)
Species Oncorhynchus chrysogaster (Mexican golden trout)
Species Oncorhynchus clarkii (cutthroat trout)
Species Oncorhynchus gilae (gila trout)
Species Oncorhynchus gorbuscha (pink salmon)
Species Oncorhynchus keta (chum salmon)
Species Oncorhynchus kisutch (coho salmon)
Species Oncorhynchus masou (cherry salmon)
Species Oncorhynchus mykiss (rainbow trout/steelhead)
Species Oncorhynchus nerka (sockeye salmon)
Species Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (chinook salmon)Only Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Steelhead/rainbow, and Cutthroat occur in the Puget Sound area.
While Puget Sound has enjoyed tremendous growth, the nearshore environment has declined. This environment is considered the "key to life in the Puget Sound estuary" (Washington State's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan, 2005). More than 10,000 streams and rivers drain into Puget Sound. Approximately of shoreline surround the estuary, which is a mosaic of beaches, bluffs, deltas, mudflats, and wetlands (Washington State's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan, 2005). A number of factors have been listed as potentially contributing to continued degradation of the nearshore environment. These include changing the nearshore by adding artificial structures (tide gates, bulkheads), increased pollution from various sources such as failing septic systems, and various impacts from agricultural and industrial activities (Puget Sound Nearshore Project, 2006). One-third of more than 4,000 kilometers of Puget Sound shoreline has been modified by some form of human development, including armoring, dredging, filling, and construction of overwater structures (Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership, Guiding Restoration Principles, 2006).
A variety of species rely upon the nearshore environment, such as salmonids. Specifically, recent research has shown that juvenile salmonids rely upon the entire marine nearshore environment, not just upon localized areas, as some had previously thought ([King County, 2004/ http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/watersheds/puget/nearshore/juvenile-salmonid-report.htm]). The research concluded that juvenile salmon use a diverse array of nearshore habitat types that have been significantly altered by human development activities. It connected salmon and both land and aquatic environments, which serve to support salmon and other species in the nearshore. For example, the report affirmed that juvenile chinook depend on food from both marine riparian vegetation on land and shallow water habitats such as eelgrass.
The research had other interesting findings to share, including:
(1) Juvenile chinook were found for extended periods of time in the nearshore and often used the shallow shoreline areas of Puget Sound; (2) Juvenile chinook stocks are broadly distributed and intermix in central Puget Sound; (3) Hatchery chinook are more abundant than wild chinook in the nearshore environment; (4) Juvenile chinook have diverse diets that are a product of the diverse habitats which make up the nearshore ecosystem; (5) Chinook appear to feed opportunistically on whatever prety are seasonally available, and change their diet from insects, marine plankton, and epibenthic organisms to a diet of fish at approximately 130-150 mm in size; (6) Juvenile chinook depend upon food from both marine riparian vegetation on land, and shallow water habitats, such as eelgrass, and (7) Hatchery and wild chinook significantly overlap in space, time, and diet in the marine nearshore.
A variety of efforts are underway to improve the nearshore environment. These efforts work to improve education, planning, and adapative management, particularly with respect to local planning processes. Some of these efforts are:
In general, most salmon require clean gravel streambeds to lay their eggs, a flood regime in tune with their life cycle, accessible habitat that provides food and cover from predators, and functionally diverse streambeds. These biological requirements are increasingly impacted inside and outside of Puget Sound. NOAA Fisheries lists the primary factors influencing the survival of salmon as being:
Montgomery (2003) has reported that woody debris, such as logjams in Puget Sound rivers and streams provide important wintering habitat for juvenile salmon. Logjams protect the salmon from predators and tumultuous waters. In 1880 the US Army Corps of Engineers began a process of "desnagging" Northwest rivers, one of the first actions by settlers harmful to salmon populations (Montgomery 2003). There is currently a movement among environmentalists to create engineered logjams (ELJs) to restore salmon habitat in the Puget Sound area.
The salmon are an icon of the Puget Sound, and ensuring their survival has become important to many agencies, groups, and interested citizens. These stakeholders consider salmon a fundamental icon of residency in Puget Sound. "Besides humans, no other creature penetrates the Northwest so completely. The salmon is to the entire Northwest what the spotted owl was to old-growth forests--a telling indicator of ecological health" (Mindy Cameron, The Seattle Times, August 18, 2002, p. D1).
The abundunce of salmon is something that can be seen, touched, and even tasted. Many take extreme pride in working towards the recovery of salmonids, and although they see it as a huge task to be fulfilled, they consider their duty to an icon of Washington State. All the pride in the Puget Sound will make it so worthwhile.
Hatcheries have produced Pacific salmon for nearly 130 years. The first hatchery was located on the Baker River, built in 1896. Over this time, hatcheries have provided valuable data on salmon ecology and behavior by providing capture and release rates - the number of salmon that were captured returning as adults to spawn, compared to those that were originally released as smolts. We can extrapolate from this how salmon adapt to changing freshwater and marine conditions, alteration in habitat, and natural disasters, such as wildfire and drought.
More than 100 hatcheries are operated in Puget Sound and coastal Washington by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Puget Sound and coastal Indian Tribes, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Most were built to produce fish for harvest in response to declines in naturally spawning salmon populations (Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2006).
Hatcheries now provide 70 percent of the salmon caught in Puget Sound and are the linchpin of an $854 million annual recreational fishing economy in Washington State (ranked eighth in the nation). Hatcheries also play an important role in meeting Tribal treaty harvest obligations. As better scientific information has become available, however, hatcheries have been identified as one of the factors responsible for the decline of naturally spawning populations. It has been difficult to conclusively prove negative impacts on naturally spawning salmon by hatchery fish and this is a subject of debate among fishery scientists.
One set of data that helped determine how the management of hatchery salmon impact wild salmon came directly from the federal government. A Caucus of nine federal agencies convened to study on a basin-wide scale the salmon decline in Washington state. In the year 2000, the Federal Caucus published a report concluding that (1) the decline of salmon was well-documented, and (2) there were four human activities linked to this decline: changes in habitat, the use of hydropower, harvesting, and hatcheries. These actitivies became known as the "4 H's" (Federal Caucus, 2000). Modern hatchery practices seek to minimize any chance of adverse impact to naturally spawning fish. Some hatchery programs are specifically designed to assist in the restoration of weak and endangered populations.
The report recommended two strategies with respect hatcheries and the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon. First, reform was necessary for all production and mitigation hatcheries to reduce any harm to wild salmon. Second, supplemental and captive broodstock programs were recommended to act as "safety nets" while long term recovery goals were worked towards. It was highly recommended that hatcheries produce fish genetically diversified for the local environment into which they were released, and naturally capable of interbreeding with wildstock without any harm. To meet this goal, the Federal Caucus suggested that salmon hatcheries develop a Hatchery and Genetics Management Program (HGMP). Hatcheries would also start using eggs collected from native, wild salmon, rather than non-native salmon, for captive broodstock (All H Strategy, Federal Caucus, 2000).
At that time, state, Tribal, and federal managers of Washington's salmon and steelhead were working to find ways to ensure that their hatcheries did not present a risk to several Puget Sound and coastal stocks that were listed or proposed for listing as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In Washington State, tribal and state hatchery managers wanted to go above and beyond complying with the baseline terms and conditions provided under the Federal ESA. It had become apparent that a statewide hatchery system had to be developed that would recover and conserve wild populations, while supporting a sustainable fishery. The collaborative project of Hatchery Reform began. This effort allowed science to direct management and policy.
This effort was started by a non-profit group called Long Live the Kingswho had been working for some time in a collaborative manner with local, state, tribal and federal entities on hatchery reform The result was the Puget Sound and Coastal Washington Hatchery Reform Project, approved by Congress in 2000. This project provided appropriated funds that would:
(1) Provide for an independent, scientific panel to oversee hatchery operations within the state of Washington (Hatchery Scientific Review Group); (2) Provide a competitive grant program for projects that addressed hatchery-related impacts; (3) Support state and Tribal efforts to implement hatchery reform, and (4) Provide for the facilitation of a reform strategy by an independent third party. In April 2004, the Hatchery Scientific Review Group produced the first report on changes that were required within hatchery management in order to assist in the recovery of salmon in Washington state (Long Live the Kings, 2006).
While the Hatchery Reform Project was being developed at the state level, decisions about the management of hatchery and endangered wild salmon were being made at the federal level. In 2001, a District Court had ruled that the federal government's strategy of grouping hatchery and wild salmon for purposes of defining "evolutionary significant units" (ESUs) but separating hatchery and wild salmon for purposes of defining threatened and endangered species was not legally valid. The government was ordered to find a different procedure. The resulting solution was to group both hatchery and salmon for both purposes of defining ESUs, and for purposes of determining whether the species is threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
This decision was controversial. A letter appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Science, signed by the Salmon Science Recovery Review Panel, a National Research Council-approved group of six ecologists that had been requested to provide recommendations on Pacific salmon recovery to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). However, NMFS declined to use the group's recommendations, stating that the group went outside the realm of science and into policy. The group chose to publish their recommendations in the Journal Science. The published article stated that hatchery fish should not be included with wild fish (Myers, R.A. et. al. 2004)
Soon afterwards, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent agency of NMFS, had their Fisheries Division release a formal statement on their hatchery policy, expressing a desired commitment to ensure the survival and recovery of wild salmon, recognizing that some hatcheries promote recovery and some hatcheries do not. Since that time, a lawsuit has been launched against the federal government, calling this decision "arbitrary and capricious", citing the decision not to allow the Salmon Science Recovery Review Panel's recommendations - or the Panels' references and citations - as just one reason. The lawsuit was allowed to proceed by a Seattle federal District Court judge, and is led by the non-profit advocacy group, Trout Unlimited The local, state and Tribal-based Hatchery Reform effort proceeds forward, while federal efforts to address hatcheries and salmon recovery remain entangled in legal complexities.
The declining salmon population in Puget Sound is "a telling indicator of the ecological health" of the area and "billions of dollars have been spent to reverse the declining salmon runs" (Cameron 2002:D1). The declining salmon population in the Puget Sound can be attributed to several factors. Many of these factors include, however are not limited to: habitat, hydropower, overharvesting, hatcheries, and "the Fifth H" history. Salmon have ecological requirements such as logjams, wood and gravel in the rivers, high oxygen content, correct ocean and fresh water temperature, and proper sunlight. History has the power to greatly impact the rise and/or fall of the salmon population in the Puget Sound. "Humans have conducted at least three full-scale experiments on how well salmon adapt to a changing landscape. Salmon failed each time, first in Great Britain, then in New England, and now in the Pacific Northwest" (Montgomery 2003:3).
Pacific Salmon have disappeared from 40 percent of their historic range outside Alaska. For every 50 salmon the Columbia River basin supported 150 years ago, today it is estimated to support seven. The state of Washington continually tried to place the blame for this decline on Native American fishing, even as commercial fisheries took more than a sustainable amount of fish each year. State courts continually curtailed Native American fishing rights by limiting the sites and times of year that they could fish (Montgomery, 2003). When brought to the federal courts, however, these cases have been repeatedly overturned, as in the landmark Boldt Decision of 1974. In this decision, Judge Boldt consulted the original treaties made with numerous tribes in the 1850s to determine what rights the Native Americans had regarding fishing. The treaties all stated that the tribes had the right to fish at “all usual and accustomed places" and that this right was "secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the territory” (Document: Boldt Decision). Judge Boldt interpreted the phrase “in common” to mean that the Native Americans and other citizens were each entitled to half of the fish harvest. This was a groundbreaking decision whose repercussions are still being felt today, especially by fishermen who complain that the Native Americans take nowhere near the half allotted to them.
There has been a struggle on salmon returning to their Pacific Northwest rivers and streams because of the struggling northwests economy. This provides a much-needed economic influx from increased recreational and commercial of salmon fishing. Three percent of wild salmon runs in the Columbia Basin are below historic numbers. Recent studies also show that the oceans temperature may be warming again and that the Northwest is suffering its sixth straight year of below-average waters. Save Wild Salmon
Under provisions of the federal Endangered Species act, numerous salmon populations throughout the Pacific Northwest have been listed as endangered (Cameron 2002: D1). One of the factors that contribute to declining salmon runs in Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest in general, is the lack of logjams in rivers. As stated above, logjams are essential to the survival of healthy salmon populations. Logjam and river current interaction carve deep pools into riverbeds, providing salmon and their young, also known as fry, with hiding places from predators. Logjams also force some of the water from the main river to spill out over the adjacent floodplain, forming tributaries along the river which supply ideal habitat for maturing salmon. The natural processes of spawning and reaching maturity become much more difficult for salmon without the services logjams provide (Montgomery 2003).
Another reason for salmon population decline is the use of increasingly sophisticated fishing technology. Some of the first Native American fishermen depended only on canoes, nets made from nettle or cedar fiber, and their personal skill to catch fish (Pacific Coast 2005). Today’s fishermen use trackers to locate the fish they want to catch, whether salmon or otherwise, and then use technology like powerboats, winches, and nets made of almost unbreakable substances to catch the desired species. Advances in technology have their disadvantages, however. Advances in fishing technology have enabled fishermen to catch more and more fish of all sizes and species. For an extended period of time now, fishermen have been catching not only the larger, mature fish, but also the smaller, immature fish that have not had the chance to reproduce. This practice is detrimental to salmon populations because it does not leave any fish to propagate the salmon species.
In addition to technological advancements in fishing, invasive species and natural predators threaten the remaining salmon population. These include, but are not limited to, harbor seals, sea lions, killer whales and various sea birds. While these species are natural predators of salmon, juvenile salmon also have competition to deal with when gathering food. One major source of competition are jelly fish who feed on the same organisms as juvenile salmon. The proliferation of jelly fish and decrease of salmon could potentially lead to the "infestation" of jelly fish in local waters. Shifting Baselines Also, as the organisms which salmon feed on begin to dwindle due to factors including overfishing and invasive species, salmon are further threatened as their food sources become precarious, as is the case with herring populations around Puget Sound (Puget Sound Action Team).
Dams affect almost all the major rivers in the Pacific Northwest region, particularly near the Puget Sound. Some important river systems for salmon affected by hyrdroelectric dams include the Baker River (Washington), Nisqually River and Green River (Washington) systems. As mentioned before dams impede the natural lifecycle of salmon by creating physical barriers to their spawning grounds with detrimental consequences. Reduced water velocity from these barriers significantly increases the time needed for young salmon to travel down the river to start the ocean phase of their lifecycle. This augmentation in migration time for salmon and alteration in "timing" possibly leads to disorientation and an increased susceptibility to predation. Foundation for Water and Energy Education Another adverse effect known as "supersaturation" can occur as well for fish encountering dams that is similar in nature to the "bends" that can kill humans. Dams also play a major role in "taming" once "wild" rivers, the latter much more beneficial to sustaining wild salmon populations, thus negatively altering the natural environmental dynamics of ecosystems suitable for salmon. (Montgomery 2003, p. 239).
Currently, fisheries are managed to minimize impacts on weak and endangered stocks of fish. Nearshore and freshwater fisheries are regulated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the treaty Indian tribes. Ocean fisheries off the coast of Washington are managed through the Pacific Fishery Management Council and Pacific Salmon Commission processes. Fisheries impacting endangered species are required to have permits under the Endangered Species Act.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is now attempting to combat its exotic species problem with the Washington State Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan. Under this plan, Washington State Patrol Commercial Vehicle Inspectors search incoming vessels for harmful invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, and decontaminate the vessels before they can spread the organism. Washington Fish and Wildlife The plan also established an Aquatic Nuisance Species committee to find other ways to protect Washingtonians from the harm done by invasive species. The committee coordinates responses to threats at the federal, state, local and tribal as well as private levels, and presents a biennial report to the Governor's office to ensure that the situation is always under control.
The population in the greater Seattle area has grown by over 18% from 1990 to 2000 (censusscope.org). This population will continue to grow and increasingly pollute Puget Sound. The strain on Puget Sound is augmented by the fact that it is still legal to discharge chemicals such as lead, PCBs, and mercury into Puget Sound waterways. These chemicals are dangerous not only to humans but to marine organisms as well, as the PCB's build up their systems. In fact, over 70 waterways in Washington State have unsafe levels of these and similar chemicals (pugetsound.org). Hydrocarbons result because of burning coal or petroleum. Many industries and steamships also use coal as a power source. In the early 1900s, pollution increased dramatically because of these hydrocarbons. By 1943, the pollution began to decline. In 1970, the level of hydrocarbons dropped to its original level of fifty years before. Puget Sound Environmental Issues In addition to the dangers posed discharging chemicals directly into Puget Sound, storm water runoff contributes significantly to the level of pollution. During rainy weather, the toxins on city streets will be swept away by the running water and will be delivered to storm drains. This toxic water is directly delivered to Puget Sound.
Oil spills pose another major threat to the Puget Sound marine wildlife and ecosystems. Since 1989, there have been 225 oil spills in Puget Sound. Nearly everyday Puget Sound imports 550,000 barrels of unrefined oil each day. Thus making Puget Sound one of the country's primary centers for refining petroleum. (Puget Sound Action Team) One such spill on October 14th, 2004 in Dalco Passage leaked nearly 1,000 gallons over Vashon and Murray Island. The effects of oil spills were wide spread affecting the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve which inhabits sensitive eel grass and forage fish spawning areas which are necessary for native salmon and orca populations. (People for Puget Sound)
223 of these spills have been deemed ‘serious,’ and have released a combined 114, 405 gallons of oil in the Sound. Two of the 225 spills have been called ‘major,’ and include the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and another in 1999 off the coast of Bellingham, Washington. Puget Sound Online Because more than 600 vessels travel through Puget Sound every day, many believe that a disastrous oil spill is imminent. People for Puget Sound An oil spill even bigger than the Exxon Valdez incident could devastate the precious Puget Sound environment. Toxins could infiltrate every aspect of the Sound, including all marine and plant life.
Times have changed since the 1970’s when a billboard in Seattle read “the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights” (Montgomery 2003: 8). The expansion of Microsoft and Boeing has spurred on an economic growth in the area. The 12-county Puget Sound region including Seattle and Tacoma, has quadrupled to 4 million people since the 1950’s and the state predicts 1 million more residents by 2025 (Pugetsound.org). This has major environmental implications including pollution runoff and the altering of important shorelines. “One-third of Puget Sound shoreline has already been altered” (Klinger, 2005). Population can also indirectly cause problems for fragile marine environments; for instance, the gravel mining operation at Maury Island, started in part to provide materiel for the proposed third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as well as to repair overused roads in the area, carries with it a host of aquatic environmental implications.
Another factor contributing to the salmon decline in the Puget Sound region is coastal development. The concrete walls that are often used to protect coastal housing from large surf are also contributing to the destruction of coastal habitat. These concrete walls can often destroy the gravely beaches that are essential parts of salmon habitats. These walls can also affect eelgrass beds that are located just off shore. Salmon and many other fish rely heavily on eelgrass beds for food and protection. These concrete walls are known as bulk-heads, and from 1977 to 1992 in Thurston County, shoreline amoring (which includes bulkheads) doubled - right where the Deschutes River dumps into the Puget Sound. Shared Salmon Strategy These bulkheads also alter shore drift, riding beaches of important sediments, shelter, and food for salmon. Shoreline vegetation and feeder species are also often lost due to bulkheads. Wa. State Dept. of Ecology - Salmon There are very few remaining undeveloped coastal beaches in the Puget Sound; however one of the few remaining "pristine" undeveloped beaches those along the shores of Maury Island. These beaches are almost as close as you can get to pristine, and that is because they have been carefully zoned to protect the coastal waters. If we want to keep the remaining salmon habitat we need to conserve and protect the remaining semi-pristine coastline.
Although Puget Sound and its inhabitants all must face difficult issues, there are many significant forces working hard to counteract the degradation of the region. In regards to salmon, the National Research Council recommended a publicly-accountable scientific advisory board to help direct conservation efforts on a larger scale (National Research Council, 1996). Many grassroots organizations, ie. People for Puget Sound, have developed into powerful centers for lobbyists and have created and enacted programs to monitor, restore or preserve the environment People for Puget Sound In addition, the state government has expressed its concern for the region, creating groups like "Puget Sound Action Team" to restore and maintain the health of the sound. . This organization, like many others currently has programs to remove fishing gear, increase salmon population and health, and improve nearshore habitat. With the support of local communities and state sponsorship, organizations are able to help provide restoration and protection regarding a wide range of issues in the region. The Washington State government has also adapted the federal government's "marine protected area" or MPA system into designated Aquatic Reserves, defined as "aquatic lands of special educational or scientific interest, or lands of special environmental importance that are threatened by degradation" (WAC 332-30-151). Like its national MPA counterpart, Aquatic Reserves are meant to serve as aquatic versions of national parks or sanctuaries. Through the Aquatic Reserve Program, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources hopes to control these areas in an effort to restore, preserve, or enhance habitats and species that directly tie in to the aquatic ecosystem. The first Aquatic Reserve created under the new program was at Maury Island in November of 2004 (see also: South Maury Island environmental issues). Further candidate sites now under review include Cherry Point, Fidalgo Bay, Cypress Islands, and Orca Pass.
Federal involvement is also crucial to the long term survival of salmon. The majority of the decline in salmon population is attributable to the effects of population growth within the region, such as damming of Puget Sound tributaries and pollution of Puget Sound. However, some proposed solutions have little to do with directly addressing the effects of population growth. Federally sponsored actions have been proposed in defense of salmon including the poaching of seals and sea lions (which are also federally protected species) in waterways (such as the Puget Sound) where the salmon runs are depleted and the seals and sea lions are threatening the survival of the salmon (Earth Island Journal, 1998). Another commonly proposed solution is the increased implementation of salmon hatchery programs. Proponents of the plan argue that hatcheries are essential to the survival of salmon within the Puget Sound region and beyond. Other groups argue against the hatcheries because they claim that it offsets the environmental balance by introducing the artificially raised salmon populations and pitting them against the natural population. There are debates over the effectiveness of hatcheries and a summation is presented by E.L. Brannon in “The Controversy about salmon hatcheries.” (Brannon, 2004).