How large is the Salish Sea’s smelt population, and why does it matter?

Sand lance and surf smelt USGS photo

"Can you imagine making your family’s budget without knowing how much is available to spend? That is essentially what’s happening with smelt." Joe Gaydos of the SeaDoc Society and Ginny Broadhurst of the Northwest Straits Commission recently wrote a joint statement calling for increased investment in the study of the small schooling fishes that form a foundation for the food web of the Salish Sea: On April 11th the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear from the public about a proposed rule change regarding fishing for surf smelt. Smelt are small fish – the type you might use … [Read more...]

How to better communicate as a scientist

Why does good communication matter when it comes to science? In a recent article for The Wildlife Professional, a journal published by The Wildlife Society, Joe Gaydos discussed the imperative for scientists to become better communicators. "[Wildlife scientists] are thinkers motivated by questions and answers and a dedication to managing resources for long-term sustainability and the good of the whole. ...But we are living in an age where most people get their information from places other than where scientists publish. Consequently our information is often not read, heard, used, or … [Read more...]

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April 2014 update

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In this issue: Where have the Western grebes gone? GiveBIG is May 6. New videos from our Marine Science Lecture Series on prehistory, harbor porpoise, and derelict fishing gear. … [Read more...]

Video: Robyn du Pre on derelict gear removal

derelict fishing gear

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, Robyn du Pre of the Northwest Straits Foundation came to Orcas to talk about how the local effort to remove lost fishing nets and crabbing gear has strengthened our local economy and helped recover marine wildlife populations. Over the last decade, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed 4,605 nets from shallow waters in the Salish Sea, saving the lives of more than 3.5 million marine animals that would have otherwise been entrapped and killed by these nets each year. And guess what, it's cost-effective. A joint Northwest Straits - SeaDoc Society study … [Read more...]

Video: John Calambokidis on Harbor Porpoise and other cetaceans in the Salish Sea

john calambokidis lecture

Although the harbor porpoise is the most abundant and widely dispersed cetacean species in the Salish Sea, its probably one of the least well known. Believe it or not, we still know very little about their habitat preferences in the Salish Sea, if the population is increasing, decreasing or stable, how they are related to harbor porpoise outside of the Salish Sea, and even when and where they have their young. We do know that Harbor porpoise are among the smallest of the cetaceans, reaching an average size of about 5 feet and 120 pounds. They can dive deep, more than 655 feet, but usually … [Read more...]

Video: Julie Stein on archaeology and early coastal settlement patterns

Julie Stein lecture

From the press release: Have you ever wondered how people lived in the San Juan Islands thousands of years ago? What resources did they depend upon? Did they always eat salmon? What about elk? Where did they live? Dr. Julie Stein, author of “Exploring Coast Salish Prehistory,” will share the stories that archaeology tells about life in the San Juan Islands before recorded history. A professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington and the director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Dr. Stein has made her career studying adaptations of coastal prehistoric … [Read more...]

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How to keep killer whales out of oil spills (Exxon Valdez anniversary)

how do you keep killer whales out of oil spills killerwhale-flickrcc-mod2760426315_a8cbb49e97_b-1

Imagine if you woke up one day and parts of your town were coated in a hard-to-see but highly-toxic chemical. How would you know what to areas to avoid, where to find safety, or even which grocery stores had non-contaminated food? For humans the answer is signs, police tape, announcements on the radio, and breathless disaster reporting on the television. But for marine mammals the techniques are a little different. 25 years ago today, the Exxon Valdez spilled tens of millions of gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. Back before the Exxon Valdez oil spill, people … [Read more...]

Video: a Harbor Porpoise says hello

harbor porpoise says hello - YouTube

Harbor Porpoises are the smallest cetacean (whale or dolphin) in the Salish Sea. They're also the only year-round cetacean residents. Even the "Southern Resident" population of killer whales spends much of the year outside of the Puget Sound / Georgia Basin area. Because they're here year-round, studying them reveals information about what toxins and diseases are in the water. Usually we don't see much of harbor porpoises - they have only a short fin that hardly breaks the water when they breathe - but viewed from underwater you can see how curious and intelligent they are. This video was … [Read more...]

How to participate in the Surf Smelt rulemaking process

smelt in bucket

Quick facts: The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is taking comments on smelt fishing rules until April 11, 2014 SeaDoc has prepared a fact sheet about smelt in the Salish Sea. We encourage you to use the available data on smelt to form an opinion about smelt fishing and to share your conclusions with the Commission. SeaDoc is focused on identifying problems in the marine ecosystem and then using science to help find solutions. Recently we were able to provide some important data on some very important fish: Surf Smelt. Now these data on the recreational harvest of … [Read more...]

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Eelgrass disease study investigates vulnerability to Labyrinthula

kelp crab on eelgrass by NOAA

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) plays a key role in the health of the Salish Sea ecosystem. It stabilizes sediments, reduces the impact of wave action, provides habitat, and is an important nursery and foraging area for multiple species, some of which are endangered. SeaDoc's involvement in eelgrass issues goes back to 2003, when we convened a meeting of eelgrass experts, resource managers, and land-use specialists to analyze the sudden disappearance of 35 acres of eelgrass in San Juan Island's Westcott Bay. Eelgrass can be damaged by pollutants, by shading from docks and structures, and by … [Read more...]