Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Salish Sea News and Weather Begins 6th Year

Good morning, Salish Sea. Here's your news and weather.
Salish Sea News and Weather enters its sixth year of weekday compilations. It actually began in 2007 as Puget Sound News and Weather when the real People For Puget Sound was in action and became Salish Sea News and Weather after I was fired in 2011. So, has anything changed over the years?

The format has gone through some changes but the editorial focus has remained the same: to educate, inform and activate folks about environmental issues in the Salish Sea basin by compiling news from print and broadcast media. The inaugural issue of September 1, 2011 contained news clips about hot weather, stormwater pollution, an elephant seal stranding, bluebirds, a youngster fighting dolphin hunting, fake sea bass, Dupont gravel mining, China’s coal appetite, and how fish may have made the leap to colonize the land. And the marine (tug) weather forecast for the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca where all incoming and outgoing vessels pass in the Salish Sea.

This year’s September 1 compilation contained news clips about Canada premier Justin Trudeau, a BC fuel spill, the value of forage fish, a fine for selling endangered abalone, the value of razor clams, shellfish harvest closure, pier construction, wolf kill controversy, radio station KNKX, new Pacific marine national monument, and a job posting for a new director of the Northwest Straits Commission. And the marine (tug) weather for the west end of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Over the years, the landscape of environmental reporting has changed. Profit margins make it increasingly rarer to have reporters dedicated to environmental science, policy and activism issues and events. There is always the media frenzy over “big” stories like an oil spill, dam removal, killer whale death and mass protest but we’re less likely to get knowledgeable reporting about ongoing land use, water quality, research and policy issues.

At the same time, those who might serve as “newsmakers” like government agencies and environmental not-for-profit groups do their jobs but say less and less about the state of the Salish Sea. The Puget Sound Partnership and the restoration of Puget Sound has faded from public view. Attention has shifted to ocean acidification, global warming and climate change, and it’s rarer to hear anyone speaking on behalf of the Salish Sea.

During the last few years, however, a most notable exception has been the emerging role of Treaty Tribes and First Nations in the Salish Sea. As government and non-profit advocacy voices for the health of the Sound and Straits have ebbed, native leaders have spoken and acted decisively in fossil fuel issues, sustainable harvest, and habitat protection and restoration-- as sovereign nations.

That’s welcomed. We cheer the successful restoration of the Elwha River and the Nisqually Delta. We watch for results from expensive cleanup of our bays and harbors and new stormwater infrastructure. We worry about vessel mishaps coming from increased vessel traffic, dying sea stars, fish and shellfish toxins... Since there no longer are timelines for the Sound’s recovery, we wonder, in a time of changing climate and ocean chemistry whether our progress in habitat restoration, pollution removal and toxic chemical reduction exceeds, or at least equals, the Salish Sea’s growing population, economic growth, impervious surfaces and consumer consumption and waste.

As readers might have noticed, some days there’s a lot of Salish Sea news, some days not. What’s reported depends on what editors and reporters think important enough to write about and what there’s time and resources to research and write about. Nobody expect a full feature article every week about the state of the Salish Sea but it would be good for news to be reported with a fuller understanding of the interconnectedness of the land, water, plants and animals and human activities in the Salish Sea basin. A killer whale story is as much about our activities on land, the nearshore environment, toxic chemicals and forage fish as it might be about salmon prey availability. A local land use or development issue is as much a story about climate change, runoff, salmon and forage fish. You know the drill: it’s all one ecosystem, connected, vulnerable, wonderful.

We rely on some good reporters doing their jobs and you will see their bylines in the clip compilations: Lynda Mapes and Hal Bernton at the Seattle Times, Bellamy Pailthorp at KNKX, Phuong Le at Associated Press, Allison Morrow at KING, Jeff Burnside at KOMO, Tristan Baurick at Kitsap Sun, Noah Haglund at Everett Herald, Kimberly Cauvel at Skagit Valley Herald, Samantha Wohlfeil and Kie Relyea at Bellingham Herald, Derrick Nunnally and Jeffery Mayor at Tacoma News Tribune, Paul Gottlieb at Peninsula Daily News, Chris Dunagan at Watching Our Water Ways, Bob Simmons at Cascadia Weekly, Floyd McKay at Crosscut, Martha Baskin at Green Acres Radio, Amy Smart and Bill Cleverley at Times–Colonist, Larry Pynn at Vancouver Sun, Mark Hume at Globe and Mail, and a whole slew of spot news folks at the CBC.

A couple of housekeeping notes: Folks have asked ‘why tug weather?’ and the answer is:  to maintain a focus on one of the most vulnerable areas in the Salish Sea, where thankfully there is now a full-time rescue tug stationed but where ships proceed unescorted by tugs. The other high risk area, as more fossil fuel exports are proposed is the narrow channel of Haro Strait where all Canadian traffic enters and exits the northern Salish Sea.

Folks have asked how long it takes to put the weekday clipping together. Maybe there’s a handy app that compiles news clippings efficiently but, because I enjoy the task and am a news junkie, it only takes about an hour to scan publications and broadcasts online. The most problematic part is oftentimes finding an appropriate photo and story to lead the day’s blog, an image and story at least mildly informative, relevant and engaging to get your early morning read started.

I’ll keep compiling; I hope you will keep reading.

--Mike Sato


  1. Here in the lower Salish Sea of Burley Lagoonn, Pierce County has issued a determination of significance for Taylor Shellfish permit application to convert 25 acres of clams and oysters to geoducks. Unprecedented 25 acres in middle of residential neighborhood and salmon spawning Burley and Purdy Creeks!

    1. Big geoduck farm planned in Burley Lagoon
      A large shellfish farm proposed on a south Kitsap Peninsula lagoon will undergo special scrutiny over its potential impacts on water quality and wildlife. Taylor Shellfish, the state's largest shellfish grower, plans to convert existing commercial shellfish beds in Burley Lagoon to one of the region's largest geoduck-growing operations. The 25-acre tideland would be covered with a grid of plastic tubes and mesh that protect the large clam's seed during its first years. Plastic netting would be draped over the area as an added barrier to predators. The lagoon is in Pierce County, just south of the Kitsap County border and about 5 miles from Gig Harbor. The area Taylor wants to convert to intensive geoduck cultivation is scatter-planted with oysters and clams, and has much less of a visual and environmental impact, according to environmental groups opposed to geoduck farming. Tristan Baurick reports. (Kitsap Sun)

  2. Right on.
    Thanks, Mike

  3. Congratulations on this ongoing effort. Reading your blog is one of the first things I do each day. It gives a nice overview of what people are covering — and not covering — in the region. I also enjoy your personal perspectives on the news and fate of the Salish Sea. Keep up the good work!

    1. Christopher blogs at Watching Our Water Ways, . Well worth subscribing. I do.

  4. Thanks, Mike. It's great to have a collection of important but ephemeral environmental news.

  5. Adding my thanks. I appreciate the collected coverage and often pass stories on.


  6. After I happened upon your blog, it's become a morning staple for me. Thank you!


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