Category Archives: 2009 Puget Sound Georgia Basin conference

Contaminant deposition in NW National Parks

Dixon Landers

2002-2008 WACAP study ocused on high-elevation and remote systems with lakes as precipitation collectors.  We weren’t supposed to inform fluxes to Puget Sound, but we may have discovered that the snow that melts into our inland sea starts out contaminated!  Data sources are snow samples, sediment cores, fish samples, lichen, and water.  We looked at broad suite of volatile organic compounds, metals, and nitrogen from the Arctic to Texas.  In WA we sampled Olympic, Rainier, and N Cascades Parks (vegetation and snow only).


  • Mean whole body fish [DDT]sum = 1-4ng/g, pretty uniform across PS parks (implying global, not local sources), but well below toxicity thresholds.  [Hg] are among highest of all Western Parks; sediment cores show increase in Hg in recent years, probably due to global sources.

Atmospheric deposition of POPS to Georgia Basin

Marie Noel

PCBs are transported through the atmosphere in both gas and particulate phases.  In Great Lakes and Baltic Sea, the majority of aquatic PCBs come from atmospheric transport.  Transport from Asia to BC takes 2-10 days.  One sampling site at Ucluelet as reference for Saturna Island samples (gas (86% of PCBs, 63% PBDEs), particulate (porportionally more heavy congeners), and rain phases).  PCB heavy congeners dominated by tri and tetra; PBDEs by tetra, penta and deca.

PBDE deposition was higher than PCBs overall.   PCBs about same between sites, suggesting global sources.  ~50% of PBDEs are coming from local sources, and the increase above reference is mostly due to heavier PBDEs (tetra, penta, deca).  The point of origin is 20% from Asia; no north American sources can account for the coastal deposition in BC.

2004 deposition mass: 3.5 kg PCB, 20 kg PBDE (BDE 209 makes of 56%)

Duwamish contaminant in suspended sediments

Thomas Gries

We collected samples upstream of the southern boundary of the lower Duwamish clean up area and then compared with samples taken further downstream.   Background: focus on Harbor Island and a cleanup site at river mile 4.8, site selection and future load inluenced by sediment transport model and analysis report:

  • >95% sediment load from upstream
  • 50% fine suspended sediment passes through site

Upstream sampling at 6/1oth max depth was chosen to avoid upstream transport by salt wedge, but downstream of most point-sources.  Looked at 63 and 250 micon sediment size fractions. We saw high [PCB, dioxins, arsenic] in August, low in November and December.  Suspended sediment PCB loading may be lower than predicted.  Peak loading is associated with storm events.

PCB bioaccumulation model for Puget Sound

Jeff Stern

Mapping C flow through the food web can help us understand trophic strucure and species interactions and ass feeding guilds and which species may be most at risk from bioaccumulation.  Our model is a steady state partitioning (Arnot and Gobas, 2004; Condon, 2007) that uses Tim Essingtons trophic structure data, diet data from John Ruem (2006 UW thesis), and other parameters from many others.  Essington’s data show that biomass and diet change dramatically with depth strata.

Our simplified model for the central basin of Puget Sound yields 9 out of 10 estimates for species or feeding guilds that are within factor of 2 of field measurements.  We have almost no data for plankton and spiny dog fish in the central basin.


  • For every unit you reduce water concentrations of PCBs, you get a 0.7 unit reduction in tissues; this is a linear response for all species; for 50% reduction in loading you get about 55 picograms/l in tissues.
  • The ratio for sediment conentrations of PCBs is 0.3; taking out all PS hot spots will reduce tissue concentrations by only about 15%.
  • These ratios vary by species (benthic, pelagic); eg English sole is most affected by sediment concentrations.  (Scott thot: SRKWs are known to eat Dover Sole in non-summer seasons…)
  • Even in most optimistic scenario, tissue reductions are only likely to be 15-25%.

Simplified food web structure seems to do well in approximating carbon flows, so we believe we are accurately modeling transfer of PCBs, generally.  You can add complexity to understand specific species’ situations.  We also believe you’ll need different simplified model for each basin in the Salish Sea.  That means we’ll need data from each basin!  And it means that we’ll need more complicated (trans-basin) models for species with complex foraging behaviors, like killer whales.

Toxics assessment process in Puget Sound

James Maroncelli

Phase 1 of toxic loadings to PS initiated in 2006 by a coalition (PSAT+WA Ecology+…): realized that air deposition was an important pathway

Phase 2: spring 07 $300k from EPA, $300 from Ecology TPA, $55k NOAA funded all programs (because we established a framework for project prioritzation)

  1. Surface runoff
  2. Atmospheric depositino
  3. Permitted wastewater
  4. CSO discharges
  5. exchange with ocean
  6. exchange with contaminated sediments
  7. flux to/from biota


  1. residential areas contributed ~3/4 of loading
  2. permitted contributed <1%

Phase 3: hope to attain funding from national estuary, trying to align with action agenda, but didn’t want to wait in part because Norm Dix wanted to start fixing problems asap.  Year 1 projects focused on analyzing surface runoff, sediments, biota, including $310k from WA legislature on atmospheric deposition (via PSP).  First of these projects will report in June, 2009.

Phase 3, year 2: starting to use action agenda for guidance, PSP wanted an inventory of toxic chemicals by spring 2010 to inform second version of Action Agenda which is due in Sept 2010.  Projects: 3-6 may be funded, proposals due to EPA March 1; Transferring responsibility for toxic loading to PSP science panel.  Joel Baker says funding will be “pragmatic.”  Decision process for potential Oct 2009 funding is to be more formal and rely on recommendations of PSP Science Panel.

Toxics control web site (including loading data)

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).

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