Monthly Archives: February 2009

A toxics-based biological observing system (tBiOS) for PS

Lyndal Johnson, NWFSC

Pre-spawn mortality of salmon is occurring in restored urban streams.  It is associated with urban development, road traffic, and storm water runoff, but concentrations of toxics aren’t high enough to account for the convulsions and lethargy.  We suspect a synergistic effect of multiple pollutants.

PAHs affect embryo development in spawned herring eggs (e.g. heart defects).

These problems would not have been identified without monitoring for contaminants as well as biological effects.  Sometimes the source is the food web, not water or sediments.  Contaminants may be having damaging effects at sub-lethal concentrations (e.g. copper at 5-20 ng/l decreasing predator evasion and other behaviors that depend on olfaction).

What monitoring is currently being done in PS as part of PSAMP?

  • contaminants are measured in a few species
  • liver disease is monitored in English sole
  • bethic community structure and sediment toxicity to invertebrates in bioassays

What is a biologically-integrated Observing System for Toxics (tBIOS):

  • assess exposure and effects in biota across ecologically relevant habitats and food webs
  • focus research projects (30% of monitoring budget) which piggyback on monitoring framework
  • link design of monitoring program to conceptual models (e.g. food webs, toxic loading and transport)

Persistent organic pollutants in killer whales

Persistent organic pollutants as chemical tracers for Puget Sound marine biota, Gina Ylitalo

Chemical tracers can be used to determine geographic ranges.  Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like PCBs and PDBEs in Salish Sea herring (3 yr old males collected ’99 and ’04) showed elevated levels in Puget Sound relative to Georgia Strait, though difference was small in DDT.  West et al, 2008, Science of the Total Environment showed herring could be differentiated by these differences in contaminant concentrations.

Regional differences are shown by whole-body analysis of Chinook salmon from CA, Columbia River, and the Salish Sea.  PS resident Chinook (blackmouth) have [PCB]~90 ng/g  ww — twice non-resident PS Chinook.  CA Chinook were highest in [DDT] where it was used much more extensively than in the Northwest.

In NE Pacific killer whales, west coast transients have highest [DDT, PCB, PDBE].  SRKWs are most contaminated of residents (relative to Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian residents).  West Coast transients (feeding off CA coast) have highest DDT:PCB.  Breaking down SRKWs, L pod has highest DDT:PCB of all pods (not sure if K pod was assessed).  For PBDE:PCB, WC transients still highest and no significant difference between SRKW pods (L slightly higher ~0.7 vs 0.6).

Six gill sharks: [DDT]sum~40k ng/g lipid in mom and unborn pups that washed ashore in 2008, comparable to L pod concentration; local PS juveniles’  [DDT]sum is more similar to (~0.5x) J pod values.  This implies not only that the six gill mother was a Californian, but also that J pod really isn’t going too far south during any wintertime foraging excursions…

Endocrine Disruptors in Puget Sound

Irvin Schultz

We’ve done lab work on fish/embryos response to exposure to estrogens, androgens, thryroid active agents (e.g. PBDEs), pychoactive drugs (e.g. Prozac).  Placed fish cages and water sampling by grab & passive equipment at field sites in Bell Creek (dairy farm runoff), Sammamish River (near stormwater outfalls), Tulalip tribal wastewater facility (secondary treatment water in tanks), White River (Enumclaw waste water).


  • detected compounds with both sample methods
  • no response (induction of vitellogenin, fertility reduction via aneuploidy)  from fish, possibly because exposure was too short

Etymology of the “Salish Sea”

During the Coast Salish plenary, Bert Webber described the process by which our marine ecosystem has gained a new (and much better) name.

Living in Bellingham, it became apparent that this place on both sides of the U.S./Canada border shares a language-history.  In 1980’s Bert submitted the place-name “Salish Sea” to a sub-program of the WA Dept. of Natural Resources, without much of a positive response.  Groups on Saltspring and San Juan Islands then picked up the idea and pushed forward on the work of renaming.  Finally the Coast Salish people were looking for more shared identity and through their gatherings developed a need for a place-name as they committed to enhanced, collaborative stewardship of the inland sea.  They agreed the name was good and the re-naming was complete.

But, as usual, the Province of BC and State of WA have lagged behind a bit…  Forms have been filled out and a May 15 meeting will decide what to do next.   Then we go to the Federal level.  And then a joint International body…

Scott thot: It sure would be nice if we could now rename this ungainly conference.  Who’s attending the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference?  There, I said it (and it was much easier).

Oceanography from Coast Salish canoes

A panel presentation about a 2-week journey in 2008 in which YSI probes and GPS units were carried by traditional canoes .  They observed a low dissolved oxygen area around the San Juan archipelago.

Web site

Plans for 2009:

  • interpret wrt physical oceanographic models (e.g. currents)
  • continuous monitoring by moorings
  • depth profiles from chase boats (echosounders)
  • maybe plankton tows and grab samples
  • broader participation, including from Oregon!

Juvenile Salmon Use of Nearshore Habitats in San Juan County

Tina Wyllie-Echeverria

Collaboration with Eric Beamer and Kurt Fresh (tows), and many students/volunteers

1950-2006, about 50 sites around the San Juans have been sampled and have found juvenile salmon.  Of 656km of SJI shoreline, 430km is rocky beach.  Tow nets (164 tows at 37 sites, monthly from Apr-Sep) caught juveniles of 5 species and 785k fish overall; 657 beach seins at 27 sites caught juveniles of 5 species and~100k fish overall.

% of catch (seine, tow): sculpins (29%,0%); smelt, sand lance, herring (17%, 98%); salmon (16%, 0%?); surf perch (16%, 0%); gadids (7%, <1%); hexagrammids (lingcod, kelp greenling 2%, <1%).

Chinook mostly present apr-sept (mostly august), about 2 months later than in Skagit estuary.  Juvenile salmon  are common Mar-Sept and were present year-round in all environments at all sites.

Along west side, catch was ~10x higher near Eagle Point than near Henry Island, but Rosario side was generally dominant (especially herring).

Nearshore Chinook use in Strait of Juan de Fuca

Anne Shaffer

Focus on central and western strait, trying to identify restoration actions associated with dam removal on the Elwha.   The area is also an important migratory corridor, ultimately seeing about 85% of the outflow from the Salish Sea.  430 seines in many habitat types over last 18 months, 16 snorkel surveys, 2 yrs surf smelt spawn surveys.

Embayed shorelines, spits, and bluffs have higher diversity than lower rivers, but only at drift-cell scale.  Took genetic samples to see if PS chinook use the area.  63 juvenile chinook, 46% came from Elwha/Dungeness, 44% from Columbia, and 10% from inland WA.  Smelt densities change dramatically between years, usually peaking between April and September.   Kelp beds have higher densities of fish.

Fish Response to Shoreline Habitats

Jason Toft

Comparing along-shore snorkel surveys between cobble beach, sand beach, rip rap, deep rip rap, and overwater structure.

We see biggest difference when you have sub-tidal modifications.

Gastric lavage of juvenile Chinook: insects dominate in shallow habitats, plankton/benthic dominate when shoreline is steep.

At Olympic sculpture park, we looked at pocket beach and subtidal bench before and after construction.

Pocket beach example:

  • 94% juvenile salmon and few predators
  • lots of post-larval fish ~3cm

Duwamish turning basin example:

  • Chinook only use deeper portions; chum use both shallow and deep

Seahurst park (invertebrate example) where they took away a sea wall:

  • higher diversity in first year, though abundance is still lower than reference site

Juvenile Chinook use pocket estuaries near natal rivers

Eric Beamer, Juvenile Chinook salmon use of small non-natal estuaries  in the Whidbey Basin, eastern Admiralty Inlet, and the San Juan Islands

Most of our juveniles are coming from the Skagit, accumulating early in the year (feb-may, some years as early as december, often associated with floods).  Pocket estuaries are safer places (most fish are too small to eat fry) and maybe better (warmer?) places to grow.  Abundance (e.g. 1000s of fish/hecatre in Skagit Bay) is higher than in adjacent nearshore environments.  On outer (W) Whidbey island pocket estuaries, juveniles are smaller and arrive later (may/june).

San Juan Islands

  • fry-sized Chinook: spencer spit; third lagoon; jackson’s lagoon (only July); False Bay (April, but probably released from within the creek)
  • some other salmon seen, but not much higher use than adjacent environments

There are lots of other fish in these pocket estuaries: juvenile smelt, shiner perch (birthing), sculpins.

North Kitsap Nearshore Fish

Paul Dorn, Preliminary Results of Beach Seine Sampling in 2007 and 2008.

Unmarked coho dominated our seines, particularly in may/june.  Coho size about 120-140cm, larger if from hatchery.  Lots of juvenile chum in apr/may/june (many more in 2007 than in 2008, probably due to Dec 07 floods).  2008 pink salmon (may/june) show this is part of the pink highway for fish leaving Puget Sound.  Shiner perch in 07, 08.

Large vessel wakes are like winter storm events during the summer on the calmest of days.