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Puget Sound

Drone image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the J50 feeding effort
NOAA Fisheries, under permit # 18786

Scientists have taken an unprecedented step to save one of the Salish Sea’s 75 endangered orcas: They tried to feed her in the wild.

Jeff Foster of the Whale Sanctuary Project checks the pole that will be used to collect breath samples during the planned health assessment of J50
John Gussman/NOAA Fisheries

As scientists searched Salish sea waters for the young, emaciated orca known as J50, they spotted her relative, still carrying her dead calf.

Less than 200 years ago, the easiest way to get around a lot of the Pacific Northwest was by canoe. The first American steamship to provide regular service among Puget Sound ports arrived in 1853.

This small steamship, propelled by paddlewheels attached to its sides, was called the Fairy. But its success was short-lived. It soon blew up and sank.

Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C., on August 7.
Brian Gisborne, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

J50 is alive.

The emaciated, 3 1/2-year-old orca had seemingly gone missing over the weekend, leading some biologists to worry that she may have died.

Plans were underway to feed the young whale with live salmon – possibly laced with medicine – or to inject her with antibiotics, in the hopes of saving the youngest orca in this endangered group.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA, confirmed that the young orca was found west of Vancouver at the Port Renfrew near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Baby orca J54 swims with its mom, J28, in the waters off San Juan Island this month.
Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

Laura Blackmore of Puget Sound Partnership speaks with KUOW's Kim Malcolm about the task force kicking off on Tuesday to discuss the overall health of the killer whales local to the Washington state and Canadian coast lines, known as J-Pod. 


Orca whale, Tahlequah or J35, carrying her dead calf
Photo courtesy of Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research

Last Tuesday, a new Orca calf was born to one of Puget Sound’s resident pods. The birth should have been a moment of celebration for the endangered population, but it quickly turned to tragedy when the calf died within a half hour.

Orcas in the Puget Sound.
Flickr Photo/tifotter (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/7SJy6t

In honor of Orca Awareness Month in Washington state, here are three facts about orcas we didn't know before, courtesy of a talk by Prof. Jason Colby of the University of Victoria. 

Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research

An endangered killer whale has gone missing and is presumed dead, but it's not the only orca in trouble in Washington waters.

Eight local orcas have died in just the past two years. 


A file photo of a member of Puget Sound's Swinomish tribe participating in a ceremonial salmon blessing. Northwest tribes hold vigils along the Columbia River to pray for the return of salmon.
KCTS9 Photo/Katie Campbell

Tribal leaders on both sides of the border said Canada's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline would not weaken their opposition to the pipeline's planned expansion.

The project would triple the amount of oil flowing from Alberta tar sands through British Columbia and increase oil tanker traffic through Puget Sound.

The Ballard Locks, at the west end of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

Seattle and King County will have to pay tens of millions of dollars more than expected for their major utility project. The two governments are building a tunnel and new storage tanks from Ballard to Wallingford to hold sewage and storm water.

Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium orca show, 2006.
Wikipedia Photo/Marc Averette (CC BY 3.0)/https://bit.ly/2Iv7sS3

At Penn Cove, on the north end of Whidbey Island, gulls and other birds fly overhead, and a muddy beach leads down to the water.

It’s quiet today, but, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was the place whale catchers came to capture orcas.


KUOW PHOTO / CASEY MARTIN

How many different plant and animal species exist in the Puget Sound region?

That's what hundreds of volunteers have been trying to answer as part of the international competition known as the City Nature Challenge.


A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kim Malcolm talks with Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes about a new study that looks at the impact of drugs picked up by juvenile Chinook salmon in Puget Sound.

Wikimedia

While the orcas of Puget Sound are sliding toward extinction, orcas farther north have been expanding their numbers. Their burgeoning hunger for big fish may be causing the killer whales’ main prey, chinook salmon, to shrink up and down the West Coast.

Washington DNR

The Canadian owner of an Atlantic salmon farm that collapsed last summer near Anacortes vows to use the North American Free Trade Agreement to save its fish farms in Puget Sound. New Brunswick, Canada-based Cooke Aquaculture says it will pursue mandatory arbitration under NAFTA if the Washington legislature tries to phase out Atlantic salmon farming.

Brian Allen is up to his elbows in cold, black water. He’s hanging over the side of a small boat, trying to pull in a tangle of ropes.

They’re heavy and being dragged sideways by the current. He strains against them.

Allen is a researcher with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund. He’s working within a 2.5 acre plot of open water near the mouth of Hood Canal, west of Seattle.  The area is roped off on two ends, and inside dozens of buoys bob in the low chop.

Mussels cling to netting of a collapsed Atlantic salmon farm off Cypress Island on Aug. 24, 2017.
April Bencze

Washington state officials are looking at some new suspects in the collapse of an Atlantic salmon farm: sea creatures clogging the floating structure’s nets.


Google Maps

More trouble for the Canadian company that let 160,000 of its Atlantic salmon escape into Puget Sound this summer: Washington state officials announced Sunday that they had terminated Cooke Aquaculture's lease for its fish farm in Port Angeles after finding “serious safety problems” there.

In an emailed response, Cooke vice president Joel Richardson said the multinational company will use “all means at our disposal to protect our ability to continue to operate at this farm site.”

A view of Puget Sound from the Amtrak Cascades ride. The new view will be of Interstate 5.
KUOW Photo/Casey Martin

Amtrak riders in Pierce County are getting a change in scenery. The roughly 30 mile train ride between Tacoma and Olympia is being rerouted.

Right now the  trip hugs the coastline along Point Defiance with views of Puget Sound. 


WDFW

Call it Puget Sound piracy.

Thieves boarded a floating salmon farm a few saltwater miles from Anacortes on a Saturday night in September. In their wake, they left a trail of blood.


Jill Davenport

Nearly half the anchor lines on an Atlantic salmon farm snapped one evening in July, a month before an even worse accident caused the aging pens to collapse completely.


Fugitive Atlantic salmon have been caught as far as 250 miles from the Cypress Island fish farm they escaped from in August.
Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Atlantic salmon have spread far and wide in Pacific Northwest waters since 160,000 of them escaped from a collapsed fish farm near Anacortes in August. The fishy fugitives have swum 130 miles south past Tacoma, 250 miles northwest past Tofino (most of the way up Vancouver Island) and up a half-dozen rivers around the region, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Nathan Cultee dumps 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into a container on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks to Lynda Mapes, The Seattle Times environment reporter, about Washington's disappearing salmon population and what it says about the health of our coast and Puget Sound.  

Washington state Department of Natural Resources

A state-ordered inspection has found "severe corrosion" at another Atlantic salmon farm in Puget Sound, this one along the ferry route between Bremerton and Seattle.


A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Cooke Aquaculture and state officials knew at least six months ago that the floating salmon farm that collapsed in August was "nearing the end of serviceable life," with accelerating corrosion eating away at its hinges and steel structure.

A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The farmed Atlantic salmon that spilled into Puget Sound would have gone to market soon.

More than 300,000 were in a privately owned net off of Cypress Island when the net broke Aug. 19.

Seventeen thousand years ago, a massive glacier the height of five Space Needles covered what is now Seattle and a large part of western Washington.
Courtesy of the Burke Museum

Seattle was carved by ice.

Beach-goers in Seattle enjoy a Puget Sound shore in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

While the Trump administration aims to slash funding for environmental protection nationwide and eliminate funding for cleaning up Puget Sound, the Republican-controlled Congress hasn’t seen things the same way.

Recent University of Washington oceanography graduate, Frances Eshom-Arzadon, collecting samples for microplastics study.
Courtesy of Frances Eshom-Arzadon

If you put any fleeces in the wash lately, there’s a chance small pieces of plastic fibers from the clothing could be sitting on the sands of a Puget Sound beach.

A recent University of Washington graduate conducted a local study on microplastics. They’re teeny, tiny pieces of plastic that can be smaller than a grain of rice. 

The Ballard Locks, at the west end of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

This year marks the 100th anniversary for the Ballard Locks and a new report says its age is showing. It faces a repair bill that could be from $30 million to $60 million.

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