A look inside Manchester’s sea labs

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What’s a native Puget Sound oyster taste like? Sadly, most of us – even those born and raised here – have never tried one.

Olympia oysters were long ago harvested to the point of near-extinction. Taking their place was the bigger, faster-growing Pacific oyster, introduced from Japan in 1902.

A little-known research station in Manchester is working to restore not only the Olympia oyster’s rightful place in the sound, but a host of other sea creatures.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 5.19.49 PMTucked between Manchester State Park and a Navy fuel station, the Manchester Research Station is an unassuming collection of white, mostly windowless buildings. Inside are a heck of a lot of tanks – tanks with big, thrashing chinook salmon, tanks with black cod swimming in frigid, green-tinted water, and tanks with pebble-sized Olympia oyster babies waiting to repopulate beaches around the sound.

This week, I tagged along on a tour the station’s manager, Barry Berejikian, gave to the folks who volunteer with Kitsap Beach Naturalists and Kitsap Stream Stewards.

The station is a collaborative place, with scientists from nonprofit groups, universities and federal agencies working alongside each other on various research projects. About two-thirds of the 30 people working there are with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

First up on the tour: big outdoor bathtubs loaded with red seaweed. Rather than a science experiment, this part of the station is more of a farm. A Seattle entrepreneur turns the seaweed into jells, moisturizers and soaps for a skin care line. We had a story about the business in 2011. Read it here.

“I’m actually 120 years old,” Berejikian joked. “I use the face cream every day.”

Gravel-sized Olympia oyster babies.
Gravel-sized Olympia oyster babies.

Across from the seaweed baths is the Olympia oyster hatchery. Run by Bainbridge Island-based Puget Sound Restoration Fund, the hatchery produces tens of thousands of oysters for 19 restoration sites around the sound.

PSRF’s Stuart Ryan has had a taste of the rare natives.

“They have a very distinct taste,” he said. “They’re brinier, slightly metallic – but in a good way, not a bad way.”

Brewing up oyster food.
Brewing up oyster food.
Young oysters attach themselves to old shells.
Young oysters attach themselves to old shells.
The old shells with new oyster starts are distributed around Puget Sound.
The old shells with new oyster starts are distributed around Puget Sound.

Alongside the oyster hatchery is a NOAA project that’s trying to figure out a way to raise black cod (sablefish) in commercial fish farms.

Unlike Atlantic salmon, which are grown commercially in net pens within view of the lab, the cod are native to the sound. Their numbers have declined due to habitat loss, fishing and other factors. NOAA believes the farmed fish could have a strong market in Asia.

NOAA’s rearing tanks are pitch black and very cold to replicate black cod’s natural environment. NOAA tints the water green to help the fish see their feed (apparently, young cod turn to cannibalism if they’re not fed well).

Female black cod are preferred. They grow faster with less food, making them more profitable than males.

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NOAA’s Matt Cook scoops and counts tiny black cod.
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Month-old black cod.

One of the largest buildings at the lab is one marked “Salmon Culture.” Built by the Bonneville Power Administration to mitigate the impact of dams on the Snake River, the building is full of tanks for several salmon-rearing projects.

A really interesting one iDSC_0218s tied to the Redfish Lake sockeye. This central Idaho run almost went extinct, with only 16 adults returning to the lake during the 1990s.

“These fish were very close to winking out,” said NOAA’s Des Maynard.

Thanks to Redfish Lake sockeye reared at the Manchester station, the run now tops 1,000 fish.

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Des Maynard of NOAA.

Also raised here were Elwha River pink salmon before the dam removal project.

“There was concern that the silt (held behind the dams) would smother their eggs when it came down,” Maynard said. “He raised some here as a safety net.”

Last on the tour was what Berejikian likes to call “the phony river.” It’s an artificial river,  with rocks and branches tossed in, where scientists run various experiments. Lately, they’ve used the river to test how much hatchery salmon compete with wild fish for food and territory.

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The “phony river.”

For more about the Manchester Research Station, head over here.

Name that mountaineer: OC needs help ID-ing photos from the George Martin Collection

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George Martin

George Martin was good at making history. Keeping a detailed account of that history? Not so much.

Martin, as I detailed in Sunday’s paper, was a pioneer in outdoor education. He founded Olympic College’s storied mountaineering program and helped establish Olympic Mountain Rescue. His work has been honored by governors, Supreme Court justices, interior secretaries and some of the biggest names in mountain climbing.

OC’s library recently cracked open the dusty archives known as the “George Martin Collection” with the idea of cataloging, scanning and digitizing the hundreds of photos, letters, articles and other documents it contains. Problem is, most of the photos lack any sort information. No dates, names or locations.

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They’re pretty cool photos, apparently showing the early days of the mountaineering class and OC’s once-booming outdoors program.

“We have books and books of photos but not many of them are well marked,” said OC Library’s Constance O’Shea.

OC’s librarians are trying to get more eyes on the photos in the hopes that someone will recognize a face, a trail or a peak.

So far, they’ve relied mostly on the library’s Facebook page to share photos and solicit information.

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The weekend’s low tide action

DSC_0087The great weather and midday low tides brought out the crowds on Sunday.

The tides on Sunday and today are the lowest daytime tides of the summer.

At the Foulweather Bluff Nature Preserve near Hansville, they had a near-record breaking crowd on the beach. One of the volunteers stationed there said 99 people were counted at noon. The most they’ve ever counted there was 150.

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I spotted plenty of live crabs – including some burly Dungeness crabs – in Foulweather’s tide pools. Also in abundance during the minus 3 tide: cockles, horse clams, tiny green shrimp, tube worms, anemone and lots of speedy little fish darting in and out of the thick eelgrass.

Reporter Rachel Seymour was on Bainbridge Island at the same time, covering a Bainbridge Beach Naturalists-led walk at Point White Pier. Check out her story, photos and video here.

For more shots from Foulweather, keep scrolling down.

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Weekend’s low tides offer rare glimpse of undersea world

Tide pool exploration at Lions Park in Bremerton in 2008. Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun
Tide pool exploration at Lions Park in Bremerton in 2008. Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun

Hot weather and extremely low mid-day tides will make this weekend an ideal time to get out and see a side of Puget Sound that’s usually hidden under the waves.

Sunday -3 tide at noon is expected to be the lowest daytime tide of the summer.

“Getting a minus 3 or 3.5 tide during the day, and on a day that’s going to have good weather is pretty unusual,” said Jeff Adams, a Bremerton-based marine ecologist with Washington Sea Grant.

Adams said you can expect to see sea stars, anemone, chiton, big rock crabs, maybe even an “ugly and alien” hairy helmet crab or geoduck necks sticking out of the sand.

Check tidepools for stranded octopus and the amazing midshipman fish, which breathes air when out of water, glows with luminescence when courting and is known to hum (yes, hum) so loud houseboaters have a hard time sleeping.

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Kitsap gets a head start on the crabbing season

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The waters west and south of the Kitsap Peninsula are opening for crabbing about a month earlier than the rest of Puget Sound.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has OK’d the start of recreational crabbing in Hood Canal and the South Sound for next month.

“We’ll send out a schedule for crab fisheries throughout Puget Sound in the coming weeks, but there was no good reason to hold off on these areas,” said Rich Childers, Fish and Wildlife’s shellfish policy manager. “Sport crabbers in these areas have fallen short of reaching their catch quota in recent years, so we can afford to give them more time to fish during the upcoming season.”

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Glacier-trapped camera finds owner thanks to high-climbing dentist and Port Orchard Facebookers

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Lynn Lippert

Three years ago, Lynn Lippert was near the top of Mt. Olympus taking one of those epic shots you can’t wait to show your friends.

As her camera clicked at the edge of an icy crevasse, Lynn lost her balance. She caught herself, but her camera wasn’t so lucky. It dove deep into the crevasse.

“Even if we could have seen it … it would have been impossible to reach,” she said.

Miraculously, Lynn will get to show off those photos off after all. That’s thanks to a bit of global warming, a high-climbing Port Orchard dentist and a Port Orchard Facebook group frequented by a man with “a very particular set of skills.”

Chris Mueller
Chris Mueller

The camera’s happenstance rescue mission began when Chris Mueller, who has a dental practice on Bay Street, was recently trekking up the same route as Lynn.

The glacier had apparently receded, as it has been doing at a fast rate in recent years, allowing a glimpse of Lynn’s long-lost camera. Chris managed to pull out the “ice-encrusted” thing. Inside, he found lots of sunny photos of smiling people hiking, biking and climbing. It was unclear who owned it, but Chris tried “a total shot in the dark”: he posted a few of the photos on the Port Orchard Facebook group’s page.

Here’s his post:

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The page is the kind of place people share (a lot of) backyard bird photos, ask for plumber recommendations, sell old hedge trimmers, or poll Port Orchard residents about whether or not Fred Meyer sells bulk flax seed (rather than, you know, actually calling Fred Meyer). It’s not the kind of place you go looking for mountain climbers who might be missing cameras. But what the group does have going for it is a lot of active members (12,651 at last count).

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Scenes from opening day of the shrimping season

DSC_0504Despite a late start to the season, opening day of Puget Sound shrimping still drew crowds in Hood Canal.

Low tides pushed the opener about a week, forcing many shrimpers to change vacation days, motel reservations and other plans.DSC_0476Quilcene and Dabob bays were as busy as ever, though, with lines to get boats in and out before and after Saturday’s four-hour shrimping period.

Three more days remain for Hood Canal shrimping: tomorrow (Wednesday), May 28 and May 30. For dates and times in other marina areas, head over to the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife’s shrimping page.

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Photos: Dabob Bay on Hood Canal. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Sellout crowd for ‘Return of the River’

IMG_4724Thanks everyone who turned out for Friday’s sell-out showing of “Return of the River” in downtown Bremerton.

The Kitsap Sun hosted the screening as an added feature in our ongoing coverage of the Elwha River dam removal and recovery.

The film documenIMG_4729ts the Elwha’s history, from the early days of dam construction to the long political fight to tear them down.

We hit the theater’s capacity (795 seats) and, unfortunately, had to turn a lot of people away. The filmmakers quickly sold all the DVD copies they brought to the event.

You can still order a DVD by sending the filmmakers an email. Info here. Kitsap Regional Library has a copy for check out but the holds are stacking up.

Part of the ticket sales benefited Great Peninsula Conservancy, so a nice big check’s headed their way.

Photos: Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Parkland Profiles: Eagle Harbor’s hidden park

DSC_0188People traveling Bainbridge Island’s busy Eagle Harbor Drive have no doubt seen it. It’s the green beach meadow with the little white sailboat that’s been grounded there for years.

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, this five-acre slice of waterfront has been publicly owned for more than a decade. A few years ago, it was made a park – though no official dedication or announcement was made. No signs mark it and no park maps identify it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.00.51 PMThat’s because the property known simply as “Lumpkin” is not quite ready for visitors – or at least not a lot of them. Much of the property is dominated by sensitive tidal marsh, limiting the development of trails and other basic park infrastructure.

“But it’s a really nice spot, and it’s a different experience being in it rather that what most people do, which is see it from the other side (of the harbor),” said Dan Hamlin, the district’s park services superintendent.

DSC_0131Despite its limitations, the property offers a scenic viewpoint and a pullout for kayakers and paddleboarders. The water-side half of the meadow is covered in sea beans (delicious sea beans).

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Sea beans

The property shouldn’t be confused with a park-like private property on the other side of the harbor (next to an auto repair shop).

The district has no plans for the Lumpkin property but the public is welcome to visit. Hamlin says it would fit nicely into cross-island trail network that may one day link Winslow with Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve on the island’s west side.

The meadow could be harmed by heavy visitation. The park district might consider building a boardwalk and viewing platform to protect fragile grasses from foot traffic. However, these structures would require special permitting and analysis to ensure that they have little impact on wildlife and tidal habitat, said park planner Perry Barrett.

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Test your Elwha knowledge, win tickets to “Return of the River”

On Friday evening, the Kitsap Sun will host a screening of “Return of the River,” a documentary about the Elwha dam removal project. The show starts at 6.m. at the Admiral Theatre in downtown Bremerton. That’s the trailer above. The filmmakers, John Gussman and Jessica Plumb, will be on-hand for a panel discussion.

Tickets are $12, with proceeds benefiting Great Peninsula Conservancy.

Photo: Admiral Theatre Foundation
Photo: Admiral Theatre Foundation

I’m offering two free tickets to the first person who aces my Elwha quiz.

All of the answers can be found in my recent story, “River Delta’s Rebirth,” which explores the dramatic changes happening at the mouth of the Elwha.

Study up by reading the story here.

Send your quiz answers to me by email, tristan.baurick@kitsapsun.com

ELWHA RIVER DELTA QUIZ

1. How much sediment has flowed down the Elwha since its two dams were removed?

2. How many dump trucks would that fill?

3. How tall was the Glines Canyon Dam?

4. How has the fashion sense of decorator crabs changed since the dams were removed?

5. Port Angeles built a massive seawall near the Elwha’s mouth to hold back what?

6. How much did the dam removal cost?

7. What kind of seafood does the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe say is in greater abundance now that the dams are gone?

8. What human-made feature still blocks part of the river at its mouth?

9. What percentage of shoreline between the Elwha’s mouth and Port Angeles is covered by bulkheads and other beach armoring?

10. What day was the last bit of dam blasted out?

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Don’t have what it takes to be a winner? Don’t worry, you can still buy your way into the a seat at the Admiral. But you’ve got to act quick. As of this (Tuesday) morning, we had pre-sold about 500 tickets, so we’re getting pretty close to capacity. Online ticket sales and more info about the screening can be found here.