Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The west coast of the North America is experiencing a very strong toxic algal bloom that reaches from Mexico to Alaska.  It is unusual to this early in the season...usually we see these in July and August but not at this level.  Shellfish harvesting and Dungeness Crab harvest have been cancelled for the time being.  These algal blooms usually are strongest when the water warms, upwelling brings up nutrients from deep water, and there is abundant sunshine.  All three of these factors are currently present.  So to some degree it is not surprising that we see these blooms now.  How long they will last in anybody's guess...perhaps throughout the summer.  Check the link for more information:


Commercially harvested shellfish for sale in stores and restaurants are closely monitored for toxins and are considered safe to eat.....but do not eat shellfish that are sport harvested...or that you harvest...you may be very sorry....but not remember why.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Harbor Seal pupping season has begun in Puget Sound.  Seal Sitters volunteers (NOAA authorized stranding network organization) monitored a premature pup for three days on Alki Beach West Seattle beginning June 11th.  The pup was a premature birth and still had the lanugo coat (usually shed in the womb before birth).  While there was an adult seal in the area there were no observed feedings of the pup for 3 days.  Premature pups have a mortality rate of 90% in the wild even if there is a mother with them.  Often mothers abandon the premature pups.  It was determined that the pup had not been fed since first observed and was weak and dehydrated.  Under NOAA protocols the pup was removed from the beach by authorized Seal Sitters personnel for health evaluation.  The examination determined that the pup had not been fed by the mother and was in very poor condition.  For these reasons (and that survival even with medical care was extremely doubtful) the pup was euthanized by a WDFW marine biologist.  While this is a sad start for the pupping season the Puget Sound seal population is healthy.  

On a side note a group of Transient Orca whales was seen in the area on Friday the 12th.  These Orcas feed on marine mammals including harbor seals, porpoises, sea lions, elephant seals and whales.  A larger than average number of these mammal eating whales have been seen in Puget Sound since last fall.  The whales impact on the harbor seal population over that period is not known.
Seal Sitters volunteers spent long hours monitoring this first pup of the season and will likely be spending many more hours doing the same monitoring as the pupping season ramps up. 

 Anyone seeing a marine mammal on a West Seattle beach can contact Seal Sitters at 206 905 SEAL.  They will respond quickly and monitor the animal as long as it is on the beach, keeping it secure from disturbance of people and dogs.  Pups need rest out of the water for 50% of the time in order to conserve energy and heat.  Forcing a pup into the water and shortening its rest period can greatly reduce the pups chances of survival.  Disturbing a marine mammal by coming too close is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and can incur a fine and possible jail sentence.  Please remember to share the shore.  Thank you.

Premature Harbor Seal pup being removed from beach

Premature Harbor Seal pup with lanugo coat

Seal Sitters Volunteers removing Harbor Seal pup for medical evaluation

Thursday, June 11, 2015


It's no secret that last winter was a low snow pack year for Washington 's Olympic and Cascade mountains.  Combine that with a number of days with temperatures in the 75 to 85 degree range and you have conditions in the mountains on June 10th that look more like late July or even early August.  On the Naches Peak Loop trail in Mt. Rainier NP this is especially evident.  Streams are dry and ponds are noticeably smaller.  Flowers are in bloom that would usually be waiting for the snow to melt.  While Washington's mountains did get a somewhat average precipitation this winter most fell as rain in the area below 5,000 feet resulting in the very low snow pack.  Less runoff for Puget Sound....ya that's the marine link in this post.  :)

In June this lake should still be snow covered

Editor limps along...beats staying home every time

The shrinking pond

Tiger Beetle

Leaf blower amid the silence of Mt. Rainier NP

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Constellation Marine Reserve- Alki Seattle (entire park down to minus 2.2ft. tide level):
Pisaster ochraceus (Purple Star)  78 healthy and 19 with SSWD (all with SSWD had low to moderate levels, none were disintegrating)  The images show the level of SSWD on individual Purple Stars.
Two small Sunflower Stars were seen both being eaten by gulls....SSWD was not seen on either but it was hard to tell.

Condo pilings south of Constellation Marine Reserve:
Pisaster ochraceus (Purple Star)  35 healthy and 4 with SSWD - again low to moderate level and none disintegrating.
Largest star had ray (arm) length of 6 inches which is near maximum size for this species.
The pilings under the condos is the only area where large Purple Stars are seen in this area.
It may be that being out of direct sunlight and in a cooler habitat has allowed some of these stars to survive the SSWD epidemic.

Survey results show that the level of SSWD is down from 2014 when infection rates were above 80% in the area.  Many Pisaster o. have been lost over the past 2 years.  The count of Purple Stars in 2011 prior to SSWD for Constellation Marine Reserve was 609.
While this is good news it does not mean SSWD is on the way out.....only time will tell.

SSWD = Sea Star Wasting Disease

Purple Star (Pisaster o.) with SSWD

Purple Star (Pisaster o.) with SSWD

Purple Star (Pisaster o.) with SSWD

Gull with Sunflower Star

Damaged small Sunflower Star (gull damage)

Large Purple Star on condo piling

Purple Stars on condo piling

Purple Star with SSWD on condo piling

Large Purple Star on condo piling

Purple Stars on condo piling (large one with SSWD on upper arm)

Purple Star with SSWD on condo piling

Small Purple Stars (healthy) on condo piling

Condos south of CMR

Purple Star with SSWD - CMR

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


A count of Pisaster o. was done 6-2-15 on the south side of the breakwater just south of Constellation Marine Reserve West Seattle.  A total of 95 Pisaster o. were observed and all appeared healthy.  This compares to a count of 92 healthy and 1 sick Pisaster o. done for the same area on May 17th 2015.  So there appears to be little change in the number or health of the stars on the south side of the breakwater.  In 2014 over 90% of the observed Pisaster o. on the breakwater were suffering with SSWD.  So today's count gives us some hope that for this specific area we may be seeing the end of SSWD.....but that remains to be seen as summer progresses.
An attempt was made to count Pisaster o.  under the condos on pilings but tidal and wind conditions made that impossible.  In May a number of large Pisaster o. were seen on the pilings but a count was not conducted.

South side of breakwater south of CMR

Purple stars on breakwater

Purple star on condo piling
Condos south of CMR West Seattle

Monday, June 1, 2015


A host of environmental organizations from the Northwest participated in Flipper Fest at the Alki Beach House on Sunday.  Both Government and NGO organizations participated.  Nearly 600 people attended this highly successful environmental education and general fun event.  A number of local businesses and organizations provide items for a successful fund raising raffle.  Dozens of organization staff and volunteers made sure visitors were will provide with information and answers to questions concerning the work of the participating organizations.  Many visitors were families and activities were provide to both entertain and educate the children.