Monthly Archives: October 2008

Groundfish conservation in Puget Sound

Live blog of a talk entitled “Managing Puget Sound’s Groundfish Resources from the Bottom Up by Wayne Palsson at NWFSC

11:00 Background/motivation

28 species of rockfish, but poor habitat maps (compared with spotted owls, say)

Decline of groundfish like Pacific Cod in south Puget Sound has been prominent in last 10-15 years. Walleye pollock is endangered; 18 species were covered in ESA petitions in 1999. Many PS species are vulnerable.  Copper and quillback petition was judged not warranted in 2006.  2007 petitions are pending for ~5 species.

Lingcod is an exception.  North and south populations have been increasing since about 1995.  Fisheries were restricted ~1990 after overfishing in late 70’s and early 80’s (big drop in catch/trip in 84-85).

11;17 History of habitat studies:

  • Miller mid-1970s — nearshore habitat surveys
  • Moulton 1977
  • Cross 1991, Rocky intertidal
  • Becker 1984, English sole
  • Richards 86-87, depth substrate, relief (sub-based?)
  • Matthews, 1990abc, rockfish, telemetry
  • Murie, 1994, depth, complexity, wall

Rockfish, lingcod, greenling are associated with boulders and walls

Null hypotheses:

  1. Fish are randomly distributed
  2. Distributions are independent of: depth, substrate, slope, complexity, water quality, time, light, food, life stage

11:23 Showed map of continuous bathymetry map in a GIS for all PS, N to Pt. Roberts, and offshore to about outer boundary of Sanctuary

11:24 Bottom trawl surveys (since 1987, ~only in springtime) yield maps with consistent coverage that gets sparse only in SJdF and Georgia Strai [~200 trawls in San Juan Islands since 2001; about 130 are within uniform substrate areas)

  • Starry flounder associated with shallower water
  • Some English sole in S Haro Strait
  • Three geographic groups of similar species: Western Strait of Juan de Fuca, N Puget Sound, and S Puget Sound
  • Depth patterns:  Dover, Hake, Skate are deep species > 120 fathoms; Dogfish and English sole are at all depths
  • Substrate patterns (based on Gary Greene’s multibeam data):
    • flathead sole characteristic of deep mud stations
  • ROV surveys in San Juan Channel (58 in 2004; 70+ in 2005) reveal:
    • rockfish like rocks (especially copper and quillback), so do lingcod and greenling

11:43 Drop camera results (consistent with ROV results)

Philip Block got substrate maps out of NOAA, but still have need for better seafloor maps in the Salish Sea…

11:47 Conclusions: managing from the bottom up

200-300 ROV transects in the San Juans happening now!

11:49 Questions

  1. seasonality? is a factor, but we’ve not looked for it yet
  2. what are threats to sub-tidal habitats?  Not clear what really matters, but likely factors are trawling and climate change
  3. Recreational fishing is a threat to rockfish populations (see recent stock assessment)
  4. What’s controlling population structure?  Fishing, climate change, marine mammal predation… We can probably recover from all these… Ling cod are now dominant biomass at Edmonds.

12:01 end

Orcasphere library revamped

Theses and grey literature related to southern residents can be hard to find and share.  The Orcasphere library eases your pain by providing such documents in PDF format.  Recent additions are the theses of Sara Heimlich-Boran and  Monika Wieland.  Other hard-to-obtain theses that have been archived are those by: Fred Felleman, Rich Osborne, Andy Foote, Shannon McCluskey, and Donna Hauser.

Please comment here if you know of other materials that should be added!

Marine mammals and climate change

Notes on a talk by Sue Moore entitled “Marine Mammals: Insight to climate change through surveys and song” at UW (16:00-16:45)

Overarching question: are grey whales a sentinel species to climate change in the Arctic and North Pacific?

Polar bears now expected to be down 30% by 2050.

Arctic ice down 3Mkm^2 from 7M.  10x increase in walrus haul-out on land in Russia in 2007.

Grey whales

  • ~18-10k whales (delisted in 1992)
  • 99-00 mortality event was a puzzle (post 97-98 El Nino)
  • 1967 abundance estimates (3%/yr, steady until event)
  • Six observations tell a story
    1. 1 week delay after ’78 NPAC shift (Rugh et al., 2001)
    2. calving increases in years after ‘early’ ice-free Chirikov Basin (Perryman et al., 2002) — due to early access to feeding in Chirikov
    3. fewer calves in lagoons after ’98 El nino (Urban et al.); more calves sighted off S CA…
    4. Surveys in 2002 vs 81-85, 17x drop in central Chirikov, but many 100s further north in Chukchi Sea (Moore et al, 2003)
    5. 10-100s of greys feeding year round offshore Kodiak Island, AK (Kate Wynne)
    6. ARPS recorded grey whale calls through the winter (Bioscience cover; Moore et al., 2006; Stafford et al., 2007)
  • Acoustic tools: HARP and SeaGlider
  • Kristin Laidre recorded bowhead whales song in March with sonobuoy (main period of conception)


1986: Feeding ecology of the killer whale (4.4Mb)
“Feeding ecology of the killer whale (Orcinus orca)” by Fred Felleman. A Masters thesis (177 pages) from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington.

1988: Association patterns and social dynamics in greater Puget Sound (3.4Mb)
“Association patterns and social dynamics of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in greater Puget Sound” by Sara Heimlich-Boran. A Masters thesis (98 pages) from San Jose State University.

1999: A historical ecology of Salish Sea “resident” killer whales (2.9Mb)
“A historical ecology of Salish Sea ‘resident’ killer whales (Orcinus orca) with implications for management” by Rich Osborne. A doctoral thesis (262 pages) from the Department of Geography, University of Victoria.

2000: Northern resident noise compensation (1.5Mb)
“Analysis of the vocalizations of Orcinus orca in response to anthropogenic noise” by Carolyn Talus. A masters thesis (139 pages) from University of Alaska Fairbanks that analyzes northern resident call frequency and rates.

2005: Correlates of variability in killer whale stereotyped call repertoires (3.2Mb)
“Correlates of variability in killer whale stereotyped call repertoires” by Andrew Foote. A masters thesis (137 pages) from the University of Durham.

2006: Distribution and population of southern resident orcas and Pacific salmon (3.0Mb)
“Space Use Patterns and Population Trends of Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Relation to Distribution and Abundance of Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in the Inland Marine Waters of Washington State and British Columbia” by Shannon McCluskey. A masters thesis (184 pages) from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington.

2006: Summer space use of southern residents (7.3Mb)
“Summer space use of Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) within Washington and British Columbia inshore waters” by Donna Hauser. A masters thesis (130 pages) from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington.

2007: Repertoire usage of Southern Residents (12.6Mb)
“Repertoire Usage of the Southern Resident Community of Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)” by Monika Wieland. An undergraduate thesis (88 pages) from Reed College.

2008: Social behavior and ecology of southern residents (5.3Mb)
“Social behavior and ecology of southern resident killer whales (Orcinus orca)” by Jennifer Marsh.  A doctoral thesis (113 pages) from the University of Washington Department of Psychology.



Masters and PhD theses related to orcas and their ecosystem(s).

2002: Do orcas use symbols? (208K)

An online treatise by Howard Garrett positing that the theory of symbolic interactionism may help account for the divergent and complex cultural traditions found in sympatric orca populations. (October, 2002; 15 page PDF.)

2005: Proposed conservation plan for southern residents (NOAA) (1.1M)

October, 2005 draft of the “Proposed Conservation Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)” by National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Regional Office (183 pages). Delineates actions that the best available science indicates are required to conserve and protect the species. Source: NOAA Conservation planning page for Puget Sound orcas.

Live blog: Bill Ruckelshaus on ecosystem based management

Notes on “Ecosystem Based Management – It’s now up to us” at the NOAA/NWFSC Monster Jam seminar.  Bill introduced the talk by discussing how 97% of Puget Sound residents feel obligated to pass on a clean marine environment to their children, but very few think there are any substantial problems with Puget Sound.

11:15 Puget Sound Partnership led by E.D. Dave Dix has three components:

  1. Leadership Council (Bill leads a council of 6 appointed by Governor)
  2. Science Panel (~100 scientists)
  3. Ecosystem Coordination Board (representing disparate interests providing advisory function)

Yesterday we presented a draft Plan and we got spirited advice back from the ECB.  A year-round tug owned in Neah Bay is on that list.

11:20 Important past/current efforts (some now incorporated):

  • Salmon Recovery Plan (came from PS Shared Strategy)
  • PS Regional Council (4 central Counties with a vision for Puget Sound in 2040)
  • Cascadia Land Conservancy (100 year plan for Puget Sound)
  • 12 counties that border the Sound

11:30 Despite fractious players, he believes citizens can understand the complexities and derive solutions.  The Partnership will need to use carrots ($) and sticks (e.g. exhaustion through courts and legislature)

11:35 Progress and problems

  • + Most discharge permits are in compliance
  • + Reduced use of pest/herb-icides and fertilizers
  • + Improved shoreline habitat for fish, birds, etc.
  • - Our monitoring protocols are poor (can’t measure Salmon Recovery Board’s progress after 7 years and ?? million spent)
  • - Easy actions have already been done
  • - Population is growing at 100k/yr (2x U.S. avg growth) with ~4M presently around Puget Sound

11:40 Ultimately, our land use will be a major factor in how Puget Sound does.

  • Controlling existing and future runoff pollution will be key.
  • Forest management and development are huge
  • Farmers and rural developers will need help
  • Making dikes and dams less impactful is a daunting challenge

11:45 The restoration of Lake Washington is a good example of how we can tackle difficult environmental problems.  “No one else has figured out how to restore great ecosytems and maintain the level of human prosperity that we seem to demand.”  The blue crab in Chesapeake Bay is not yet recovered.  The Everglades progess was just heavily criticized. Restoration of the Great Lakes is being attempted yet again.

11:51 Takes questions

  1. How do we sustain momentum given the current State deficit? One of our roles is coordinating.  Sometimes we have 6 watershed groups working on one stream, some with State funding, some with Federal, etc.  Some of their resources could be pooled, or the (sometimes redundant) projects could be made more cooperative/efficient.  $200 million is slated for Puget Sound in current biennium; 1 billion has been spent in Puget Sound.  We’re going to spend money on something, so what is important to us?  One of our jobs is to ensure the public understand the threats.
  2. What sort of sacrifices do we expect Joe/Jane 6-pack to make? Most lists of “10 things you can do” have not been vetted scientifically.  We should take an adaptive management approach (in case we’re wrong about our priorities presented to the public).
  3. Will a year-round tug be funded? It’s in our draft plan.
  4. Fred Felleman: Do you favor permit systems that include fees to cover independent monitoring, like the fees associated with wastewater discharge permits?  Would you support a chronic assessment of herring larvae at discharge points?  And what about ships which don’t currently need permits to discharge? Weigh in with those ideas.  Our draft plan contains a no-discharge rule for ships in Puget Sound.
  5. What strategies could lead to a systematic monitoring system? Rationalizing our monitoring system is critical and it may be easier (to make it more efficient) in lean financial times (like now).  Indicator work has started.  We have interim indicators and a promise of long-term ones.  An issue is who should pay — there is a habit within the State agencies of assuming some other level will pay for the coordination.  There is a *lot* of inertia — folks don’t want to give up the monitoring they’ve already done!
  6. You seem to assume that public understanding will lead to funding.  Why haven’t we had success with our transportation system?  The public gets confused when there isn’t a unifying voice offering a clear solution to the transportation problem.  Our role (at the PSP) is to present the problems clearly and ultimately gain their support — after all 97% say they have an obligation to hand down a healthy PS to their children.

12:10 end