A second European green crab has been found in Puget Sound, this
one in Padilla Bay — about 30 miles southeast of where the first
one was discovered about three weeks ago.
Green crabs are an invasive species known to devour a variety of
native species and alter habitats where they have become
established. Keeping green crabs out of Puget Sound has been a goal
of state officials for years.
After the first green crab was caught in a volunteer trapping
program three weeks ago, experts mounted an intensive trapping
effort to see if other green crabs were in the area around Westcott
Bay in the San Juan Islands. (Water
Ways, Sept. 3). No live crabs were found, but one cast-off
shell (molt) was discovered nearby (Water
Ways, Sept. 15).
The latest find is a young female crab, 34 millimeters across,
which may have grown from a larva dispersed last winter.
“We were relieved to find very little evidence of a larger
population of invasive European green crab in Westcott Bay,” Emily
Grason of Washington Sea Grant said in a
news release (PDF 371 kb). “But finding an additional crab at a
site more than 30 miles away suggests that ongoing vigilance is
critical across all Puget Sound shorelines. WSG’s Crab Team is
committed to continuing the efforts of volunteer monitoring as
resources allow, but we also rely on beachgoers to keep a watchful
eye out for this invasive species.”
A second rapid-response effort will get underway Monday with
more traps being deployed over a larger area than last time. The
goal is to locate any crabs that may have made a home in the area
and determine where the crabs might be gaining a foothold.
No European green crabs were caught this week during an
intensive two-day trapping program designed to see if any of the
invasive crabs have gained a foothold in the San Juan Islands.
If you recall, a single adult green crab was trapped Aug. 31 by
a team of volunteers in the San Juan Islands. It was the first
green crab ever found in Puget Sound, but experts have been worried
about the crab for years. (See
Water Ways, Sept. 3.) The volunteers are involved in a citizen
science monitoring program to locate green crabs when they first
arrive in Puget Sound and before they become a breeding
The response by professional leaders of the Crab Team was to
place 97 traps in and around the location where the first crab was
found. The effort was started on Monday and repeated on Tuesday.
The maps on this page show the locations and the number of traps
place at site on the two days. Hundreds of native crabs were
trapped and inspected, but no green crabs were found.
Although no live crabs were found, one molt (cast-off shell)
from a green crab was found by Jeff Adams, a marine ecologist for
Washington Sea Grant who manages the Crab Team of volunteers. The
molt was close to where the live crab was found. The experts have
not determined if the molt came from the first crab or if there
might be other crabs in the area.
The next step is still being planned. It could involve another
intensive trapping effort, perhaps in the spring, as well as
increasing the number of volunteer trapping sites in the San Juan
Islands. The volunteer program takes a hiatus in the winter, when
the crabs are less active, but it will resume in the spring.
The next green crab training program is scheduled for March,
when new and former citizen science volunteers will be taught how
to identify green crabs and conduct an effective trapping effort in
up to 30 locations throughout Puget Sound. To learn more about the
volunteer program, check the Washington Sea Grant webpage
“Get Involved” or sign up for a free email newsletter called
“Crab Team News” (click “Newsletters”).
Emily Grason, Crab Team coordinator for Washington Sea Grant,
was involved in the two-day intensive trapping program. Emily blogs
about the effort on the Crab Team website:
A European green crab, one of the most dreaded invasive species
in the world, has finally arrived in Puget Sound.
A single adult green crab was caught in a trap deployed on San
Juan Island by a team of volunteers involved in a regionwide effort
to locate the invasive crabs before they become an established
Until now, green crabs have never been found in Puget Sound,
although they have managed to establish breeding populations along
the West Coast — including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in
Washington and the western side of Vancouver Island in British
Here’s what I wrote: “Puget Sound has so far avoided an
invasion of European green crabs — at least none have been found —
but the threat could be just around the corner….
“Green crabs are but one of the invasive species threatening
Washington state, but they are getting special attention because of
fears they could seriously affect the economy and ecosystem of
Puget Sound. Besides devouring young native crabs and shellfish,
they compete for food with a variety of species, including fish and
In Canada, one breeding population has been identified in Sooke
Inlet near the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island. That’s about
40 miles away from Westcott Bay, where Puget Sound’s first green
crab was found on Tuesday.
It is likely that the crab traveled to San Juan Island in its
early free-swimming larval form by drifting with the currents, said
Jeff Adams, a marine ecologist for Washington Sea Grant who manages
the Crab Team of volunteers. This crab likely settled down in
suitable habitat and located enough food to grow into an adult.
Based on the crab’s size, it probably arrived last year, Jeff told
Finding a green crab in Puget Sound is alarming, Jeff said, but
it is a good sign that the first crab was found by the volunteer
monitors. That suggests that the trapping program is working. If
this first crab turns out to be a single individual without a mate,
then the threat would die out, at least for now.
The concern is that if one crab can survive in Puget Sound, then
others may also be lurking around, increasing the chance of
male-female pairing. The next step is to conduct a more extensive
trapping effort in the area where the first green crab was found,
then branch out to other suitable habitats in the San Juan Islands,
Jeff said. The expanded effort is planned for the week of Sept. 11
and will include a search for molts — the shells left behind when
crabs outgrow their exoskeletons and enter a new stage of
Researchers and others who work with invasive species quickly
recovered from their initial surprise at finding a green crab in
Puget Sound, then got down to business in planning how to survey
for crabs and manage their potential impacts.
Allen Pleus, coordinator of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program
at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told me several
weeks ago that if green crabs show up in Puget Sound, one idea
would be to conduct an extensive trapping program to eradicate or
at least reduce their population. First, however, the extent of the
infestation must be identified. I expect that more extensive
trapping will be planned next spring and summer to look for
offspring from any successful mating in the San Juan Islands.
This video shows a green crab found in Willapa Bay on the
Typically, green crabs are found in marshy areas, which are
habitats extensively used by our native hairy shore crab. But Jeff
tells me that some populations of green crabs seem to be expanding
their habitat into more exposed rocky areas.
With roughly 400 suitable sites for the crabs in Puget Sound,
invasive species experts are calling for everyone who visits a
beach to look for green crabs and their molts. One can learn to
identify green crabs from the
Washington Sea Grant website. The volunteer trapping program is
funded by the Environmental Protection Agency with a grant to Fish
A public discussion about green crabs and how people can help
protect Puget Sound from an invasion is scheduled for Sept. 13 at
Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. See Crab
Team Public Presentation.
We hear about the “balance of nature,” but it’s not something
that we can truly understand until the balance is thrown out of
whack by something like climate change or invasive species.
Until I began a recent reporting project for Puget
Sound Institute, I never realized that San Francisco Bay was
such a hotbed of invasive species. Beginning with the California
Gold Rush, ships began moving in and out of the bay in unbelievable
numbers, arriving from ports all around the world. Now, more than
200 non-native species are making their permanent home in the bay —
including some species that have thoroughly altered the local
So far, we have been lucky in Puget Sound. Experts say we have
about 75 firmly established non-native species, yet none of them
have created the widespread damage caused in San Francisco Bay by
European green crabs and Asian clams or in the Great Lakes by zebra
mussels. The video on this page does a good job of telling the
Great Lakes story, which has been repeated all over the world.
Once people in Washington state realized how disruptive invasive
species can be, the struggle was on to protect Puget Sound from
alien invaders — particularly those found in San Francisco Bay,
which is just a short hop away on the world scale. My series of
stories talks about concerns for Puget Sound and the efforts to
control a possible invasion.
Invasive species range in size from microscopic viruses to
four-foot-long striped bass. In California, the striped bass became
a prized sport fish after it was intentionally introduced in 1879.
But over the past decade concerns have grown for their effects on
the salmon population. The jury is still out on whether high
numbers of stripers should be sustained for anglers or the
population should be fished down rapidly to save salmon and other
species. Check out these stories:
Meanwhile, striped bass have been moving up the West Coast,
possibly because of warmer waters due to climate change. A few
years ago, a 55-pounder was caught in the Columbia River, and I’ve
heard rumors that they have been seen in the Strait of Juan de
On the small side, I report on a tiny crustacean, an invasive
copepod that has almost entirely displaced native copepods in
Samish Bay in northern Puget Sound. Copepods are important prey for
small fish, including herring, which feed the larger salmon. The
invasive copepods are smaller and more difficult for fish to see,
which could have a cascading effect on the entire food web.
A major concern for Puget Sound biologists is the European green
crab, which could move into Puget Sound from San Francisco Bay in
ballast water or with warm ocean currents during an El Niño year,
like the one just past. As I describe in the new series, a major
program involving citizen science volunteers is ongoing in a search
to find the first green crabs before they gain a foothold.
Pacific oysters, another non-native species, were intentionally
brought to the Northwest from Japan in the early 1900s to replace
the native Olympia oyster, which had been decimated by poor water
quality. Pacific oysters soon became a mainstay of the shellfish
industry in the Puget Sound region and are now growing thick in
Similar introductions of Pacific oysters occurred in California
beginning more than 100 years ago, but for some reason the oyster
populations never took hold, according to a report in the
Fish and Game (PDF 1.7 mb). Finally, in the early 2000s, the
invasion began to take off.
“It remains unclear why there should be a successful invasion
now, given the failure of previous attempts to deliberately
introduce the species both locally and throughout California…,” the
“If populations in Southern California waters do continue to
expand and grow, as they have in other areas where they have
invaded, it will undoubtedly bring changes to the way our estuarine
intertidal habitats function as well as in the way we must manage
“Because Pacific oysters rapidly reach large sizes, they could
pose problems related to fouling of maritime equipment,
infrastructure, and vessels,” the report continues. “Pacific
oysters stand out as one of the most transformative invaders of
As Washington state takes steps to keep alien species from
invading Puget Sound from California, California officials may
adopt similar measures to block invaders from coming into that
Please take a look at this package of stories I wrote for Puget
Sound Institute, with editing by Jeff Rice and design by Kris
This is a campaign slogan going out to Puget Sound crabbers. It
is a positive message, built upon the goals of:
Helping people avoid losing their crab pots,
Reducing the number of crabs that go to waste, and
Increasing the number of crabs available for harvest.
We’ve talked about the problems of lost crab pots that keep on
catching crabs on the bottom of Puget Sound. About 12,000 crab pots
are lost each year in Puget Sound, killing an estimated 178,000
legal-sized Dungeness crabs that would otherwise be served up for
dinner. In January, I described some simple alterations to crab
pots that allow crabs to escape when a pot gets lost. See
Water Ways, Jan. 28.
Even more basic, however, are proven techniques that help people
select equipment and place their crab pots so they don’t get
damaged or lost in the first place.
The Northwest Straits Initiative, authorized by Congress in
1998, has been working on the problem of derelict gear for years,
retrieval of thousands of lost nets and crab pots from Puget
Sound. When it came to enlisting the public’s help in prevention,
campaign organizers realized that everyone was on the same side,
said Jason Morgan of the nonprofit Northwest Straits
“We previously focused on the doom and gloom of it, talking
about so many crabs killed each year,” Jason told me.
Working with sociologists, campaign organizers realized that
“the better way to reach people is not to talk about dead crabs but
to say we want you to catch more crabs and keep your crab
The Northwest Straits Foundation has developed a three-year plan
of action, including education for the public; improved
communication among crabbers, vessel operators and government
officials; and recommendations for improving regulations.
The plan was put together by a working group of 35 people
involved in various aspects of crab harvesting, boat traffic and
“It was a great collaborative process,” Jason said. “There was
no butting of heads or anything like that.”
“Crab pots are lost for a variety of reasons. Causes for loss
generally fall into three categories:
Vessel interaction (both recreational and commercial
Improperly configured gear, including improperly tied knots;
Improperly placed gear.
“All these categories usually include a degree of user error,
either on the part of the crabber, or on the part of the boater or
The plan includes at least 25 strategies for reducing conflicts
between vessel traffic and crab pots, reducing tampering and
sabotage, improving crabbing equipment and pot configuration, and
removing abandoned crab pots during non-crabbing days.
One of the interesting ideas is to require online registration
for recreational crab endorsements on fishing licenses. Applicants
would take a short quiz to make sure they know the rules.
Rich Childers, shellfish manager for Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife, said the various regulatory proposals in the
plan are under advisement. One idea, which has proven effective, is
to reduce the size of allowable escape cord (“rot cord”) that opens
an escape hatch for the crabs to get out. Studies have shown that
approved escape cord takes between 30 and 148 days to disintegrate,
and most people use larger cord to last longer.
The time that crabs are trapped and dying on the bottom could be
reduced if the rules were changed to require smaller cord. Any rule
changes would include a grace period, Childers said, and it would
be nice if crabbers could obtain the smaller cord for free.
With crab season underway, a series of videos on the theme
“Catch more crab!” couldn’t come at a better time:
Our native Olympia oyster may seem small and meek, but its
slow-growing nature may serve it well under future conditions of
ocean acidification, according to a new study.
In fact, the tiny Olympia oysters appear to reproduce
successfully in waters that can kill the offspring of Pacific
oysters — a species that grows much larger and provides the bulk of
the commercial oyster trade in Washington state.
Unlike Pacific oysters, Olympias don’t begin forming their
shells until two or three days after fertilization, and the
formation progresses slowly, helping to counteract the effects of
corrosive water, according to the author of the new study, George
Waldbusser of Oregon State University.
Betsy Peabody of Puget Sound Restoration Fund said people who
work with Olympia oysters have long suspected that they may have
some advantages over Pacific oysters. Olympia oysters keep their
fertilized eggs in a brood chamber inside the shell until the
larvae are released into the water about two weeks later.
In contrast, the eggs of Pacific oysters are fertilized in the
open water and the resulting larvae must fend for themselves right
While the brood chamber may protect the larvae from predators,
the new study showed that the brood chamber does not protect
against ocean acidification. Corrosive water still circulates
through the mother’s shell, exposing the larvae.
To test how Olympia oysters would do in open waters, the
researchers grew baby oysters outside the brood chamber where they
were exposed to acidified water, noted Matthew Gray, a former
doctoral student in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. He
is now conducting research at the University of Maine.
“Brooding was thought to provide several advantages to
developing young, but we found it does not provide any
physiological advantage to the larvae,” Gray said in an
OSU news release. “They did just as well outside the brood
chamber as inside.”
It appears that a major difference in the development of Pacific
and Olympia oysters lies in their reproductive strategies,
including differences in managing their energetics.
“Pacific oysters churn out tens of millions of eggs, and those
eggs are much smaller than those of native oysters, even though
they eventually become much larger as adults,” Waldbusser said.
“Pacific oysters have less energy invested in each offspring.
Olympia oysters have more of an initial energy investment from Mom
and can spend more time developing their shells and dealing with
The research team found that energy stores in young Pacific
oysters declined by 38.6 percent per hour, compared to 0.9 percent
in Olympia oysters. Pacific oysters put their energy into building
their shells seven times faster than Olympia oysters. The exposure
to acidified water affects shell development. While the larval
oysters may get through the shell-building stage, they often don’t
have enough energy left to survive, Waldbusser said.
Restoration Fund has been working for nearly 20 years to
restore Olympia oysters at 19 priority locations throughout Puget
Sound. The new study lends credence to the effort and support for a
recommendation by the 2012 Blue
Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. The panel called for
restoring the native oyster to Puget Sound to build resilience into
the ecosystem, according to Betsy Peabody.
“It was a recommendation that came out before we had the
critical science to support it,” Betsy told me. “He (Waldbusser)
has just given us the underlying research that supports that
recommendation. Our grandchildren may be cultivating Olympia
oysters rather than Pacific oysters.”
The panel, appointed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire, called for
maintaining the genetic diversity of native shellfish to provide
the species a fighting chance against ecological changes brought on
by climate change.
Benefits of the Olympia oyster, including so-called ecosystem
services, are described in an article by Eric Wagner in the
of Puget Sound. Healthy oyster reefs offer benefits such as
cleaning up the water, protecting shorelines from erosion and
increasing habitat complexity, which can expand the diversity of
So far, Puget Sound Restoration Fund has restored 50 acres of
shellfish to Puget Sound, working toward a goal of restoring 100
acres by 2020.
Oyster hatcheries in Washington state underwent a temporary
crisis a few years ago when Pacific oyster larvae were dying from
acidified seawater pumped into the hatcheries. The water still
becomes hazardous at times, but careful monitoring of pH levels has
allowed hatchery operators to overcome the problem. When the water
in an oyster hatchery moves beyond an acceptable pH level,
operators add calcium carbonate to alter the pH and support the
oyster larvae with shell-building material.
Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms said older oysters might be
affected in the future as ocean acidification progresses. “We know
things are going to get worse,” he told me.
Because of their small size and high cost of production, Olympia
oysters will never overtake the Pacific oyster in terms of market
share, Bill said, but they are in high demand among people who
appreciate the history of our only native oyster and its unique
The new research by Waldbusser raises the question of whether
the highly commercial Pacific oysters could be bred so that their
larvae grow slower and perhaps overcome the effects of ocean
Joth Davis, senior scientist for Puget Sound Restoration Fund
and senior researcher for Taylor Shellfish, said the market is
strong for a smaller Pacific oyster, so most growers would not
object to one that grows more slowly with greater survival.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to maintain the genetic
diversity of Olympia oysters and other native species, as growers
begin to think about cultivating more natives. Transplanting
species from one area to another and boosting their populations
with hatcheries creates a potential to override local populations
and weaken overall genetic diversity, Joth said.
Geoduck clams, which can be started in hatcheries and grown on a
large scale, don’t appear to be genetically distinct from one place
to another in Puget Sound, Joth said.
Researchers have found some evidence that Olympia oysters may be
genetically distinct when comparing one area of Puget Sound to
another. But finding genetic differences does not always mean the
population is uniquely adapted to that area, Joth said. Variations
might relate to a random population that settles in a specific
location. Sometimes it takes careful study to make sense of the
Rich Childers, Puget Sound shellfish manager for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the state currently has no
firm rules for transferring native species from one place to
another. With growing interest in cultivating Olympia oysters, sea
cucumbers and other native species, the agency is opening
discussions about what kind of controls might be needed.
“We’ve learned lessons from salmon that you can’t spread
everything from hell and gone,” Rich said. “Should we be looking at
some management or hatchery guidelines that would help maintain
genetic diversity? Should we have laws or policies? These are the
questions that are just starting to surface.”
Automated equipment installed Monday off the Washington Coast
will track concentrations of six species of plankton that could
become harmful to humans and marine species.
The Environmental Sample Processor, or ESP, collects discrete
samples of water and processes them for analysis. Imbedded modules
can test for DNA and antibodies to identify the organisms picked up
in the seawater. Concentrations of the plankton and their toxins
are sent to shore-based researchers via satellite.
The equipment was installed by scientists with the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of
Washington. The device was developed at the
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Stephanie Moore of
NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center explains the benefits of
the device in the first video on this page. The second video
provides a few more technical details with graphic depictions of
The ESP was deployed in the Juan de Fuca eddy, a known pathway
for toxic algae 13 miles off the Washington Coast near LaPush. The
remote, self-operating laboratory will operate about 50 feet
One of the primary targets of the monitoring is
Pseudo-nitzschia, a harmful algae capable of producing
domoic acid. This toxin can accumulate in shellfish and can cause
diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, which can progress to severe
illness. Last year, a massive bloom of this toxic algae canceled
scheduled razor clam seasons on Washington beaches with untold
The harmful algal bloom (HAB) affected the entire West Coast,
from California to Alaska. It was the largest and longest-lasting
bloom in at least 15 years, according to NOAA’s National Ocean
“Concentrations of domoic acid in seawater, some forage fish and
crab samples were among the highest ever reported in this region,”
says a factsheet
from the service. “By mid-May, domoic acid concentrations in
Monterey Bay, California, were 10 to 30 times the level that would
be considered high for a normal Pseudo-nitzschia
“Other HAB toxins were also detected on the West Coast.
Shellfish closures in Puget Sound protected consumers from
paralytic shellfish poisoning and diarrhetic shellfish
Paralytic shellfish poisoning is associated with a group of
plankton called Alexandrium, typically Alexandrium
catenella in the Puget Sound region.
In addition to sampling for Alexandrium and four
species of Pseudo-nitzchia, the ESP is monitoring for
Heterosigma akashiwo, which is associated with massive
fish kills, including farmed salmon.
It has always been a question to ponder: Will the most
significant changes to the Elwha River ecosystem occur upstream of
where two dams have been removed or downstream where the river
enters the Strait of Juan de Fuca?
Soon after each dam was torn down in succession — the lower one
first — salmon began migrating upstream, while more than 30 million
cubic yards of sediment began moving downstream.
It could take a number of years to rebuild the extensive runs of
salmon, including the prized chinook for which the Elwha was famous
among salmon fishermen across the country. Will we ever see the
legendary 100-pound chinook return to the Elwha, assuming they ever
existed? That was a question I explored in a story for the
Kitsap Sun in September 2010.
On the other hand, massive amounts of sediment have already
spilled out of the Elwha River, building an extensive delta of sand
and gravel, including about 80 acres of new habitat and two miles
of sandy beach.
Reporter Tristan Baurick focused on the dramatic shoreline
changes already taking place at the mouth of the Elwha in a
well-written story published in
Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.
The Coastal Watershed Institute, which is monitoring the
shoreline near the mouth of the Elwha has documented increases in
critical forage fish populations, including surf smelt, sand lance,
eulachon (candlefish) and longfin smelt. See CWI
Blog. These fish feed a host of larger fish, birds and marine
Tristan describes the changes offshore, where an area starved of
sediment is turning into prime habitat for starry flounder,
Dungeness crab and many other animals. Rocky outcroppings that once
provided attachment for bull kelp is giving way to fine sand, which
allows for colonization by eelgrass and a host of connected
species. I described some of the early changes in the flora in a
Kitsap Sun story in March of 2013.
For people to view the restoration first-hand, I described a day
trip to the Elwha in a
Kitsap Sun story in April of 2013. Along the way, you can check
out the history, enjoy the vantage points and learn about the
changes taking place. Tristan offers a suggestion worth heeding to
ensure ongoing beach access.
“Access to the beach is granted by the dike’s owners. They could
take that away if the area’s overwhelmed with trash, noise and
other nuisances, so keep that in mind when you visit.”
If you’d like to see a video record of dam removal and ecosystem
recovery, you may wish to view the film “Return of the River” to be
shown at Bremerton’s Admiral Theatre on Friday, March 13. The film
will be followed by a panel discussion involving the film’s
producers, John Gussman and Jessica Plumb. For details, check the
A simple alteration to recreational crab pots could save
thousands of crabs from going to waste each year, all because crabs
are unable to escape from lost crab pots that keep on working,
according to a new study.
The Crab Pot Escapement
Study, commissioned by the Northwest Straits Foundation, is the
first to measure how well crabs use the escape routes provided in
the design of every crab pot sold in Washington state.
The findings were somewhat of a surprise, according to Jason
Morgan of the Northwest Straits Foundation. Jason told me that he
is eager to get the information out to recreational crabbers, who
could voluntarily take steps to reduce crab mortality. The findings
might even lead to revised regulations for crab pots.
The study, in partnership with Natural Resources Consultants,
placed live Dungeness crabs into six common types of crab pots,
using 13 various configurations. After the seventh day, the
biodegradable escape cord (“rot cord”) was severed to provide an
opening through which the crabs could escape — at least in theory.
The researchers then measured the time it took for the crabs to get
out, if they could.
One thing the researchers learned was that crab pots with hinged
doors tended to keep the crabs trapped, especially when the door
was located away from the edge of the pot. The doors simply stayed
closed after the escape cord broke free.
A modification of the doors with a bungee cord significantly
increased the number of crabs that could escape. The doors were
modified to spring open when the escape cord broke.
The best configuration of all involved the use of escape rings —
a circular opening at least 4.25 inches across. These rings are
required by law in all crab pots to allow females and under-sized
males to get away before the pot is brought to the surface or in
the event that it becomes derelict.
Many crab pots sold today tie the rings into the crab pot with
escape cord. When the cord breaks, the ring falls away to provide a
larger opening for the crabs to get out.
“It’s still a small opening for the crab to crawl out,” Jason
said. “We did not expect it to be effective at all, but it works
In some crab pots, the required rings are welded into place on
the iron cage. It would be easy enough for people to cut the rings
out with a strong pair of wire cutters and then tie them back in
with escape cord, Jason said.
Manufacturers of crab pots have become interested in the study,
Jason told me, and he expects some will quickly convert to tying
the rings in place rather than welding them. The difference in
cost, if any, should be small, he said, and drawbacks seem
Requiring this method of escape for future crab pots sold in
Washington could be another result of the study, but nothing is
proposed at this time, Jason said. The next round of studies is
likely to look at commercial crab pots, which are generally larger
but still require an escape route in case they become lost.
A related issue that needs attention is the escape cord, which
is made of cotton and designed to deteriorate in a reasonable
period of time when left in saltwater. Cords that last longer are
likely to cause more crabs to die. Studies have shown that approved
escape cord takes between 30 and 148 days to disintegrate, with
most people selecting larger cord that can last toward the longer
end of that range.
“That is certainly something that we are not happy with,” Jason
said. “We would like to see regulations that would require escape
cord to be smaller.”
A smaller cord would break sooner and allow more crabs to
survive when a crab pot is lost, though it would require crabbers
to change the cord more often. That would seem to be a small
inconvenience to avoid the kind of waste often seen in photos of
derelict crab pots filled with dead and dying crabs. Even longtime
experienced crabbers can lose a pot now and then, Jason said.
Northwest Straits Foundation is working on one or more videos to
help people see the benefits of providing escape for crabs and to
demonstrate how to modify their crab pots.
According to the study, the right modifications to crab pots
could allow 99 percent of the crabs to get free when a crab pot is
lost in the depths of Puget Sound.
Beards Cove Community Organization and Newberry Hill Heritage
Park Stewards are this year’s winners of the Hood Canal
Environmental Achievement Awards.
The awards, sponsored by the Hood Canal Coordinating Council,
recognize people and groups that have taken actions and fostered
relationships to improve the health of the Hood Canal
The 500 property owners in the Beards Cove community were
credited with developing relationships with Great Peninsula
Conservancy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to
restore an estuary near the Union River on the North Shore of Hood
The Beards Cove Restoration Project completes the final segment
of 1.7 miles of unbroken saltmarsh along the shoreline. The project
removed 45,000 cubic yards of fill, derelict structures and a
septic system. The work included reconfiguring the shoreline and
planting the area with native vegetation, all to enhance salmon
The Beards Cove project was described in a
Kitsap Sun story by Arla Shepherd Bull and in a
Water Ways blog entry I wrote about the history of the Beards
Cove development leading to the need for restoration.
Stewards working to improve Newberry Hill Heritage Park are
protecting fish and wildlife in the area, which includes the
Anderson Creek watershed, which drains to Hood Canal. The group
built a fence to protect a beaver dam, which provides habitat for
coho and other fish, along with a foot bridge that maintains access
to a flooded trail. The group helped develop a forest-management
plan to restore ecological health to the park. Members are known
for expanding their knowledge about forests, streams and
The awards will be presented Friday at a conference that will
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Hood Canal Coordinating
Council. Speakers will include Donna Simmons, one of the council’s
founders who will describe the history of the organization. U.S.
Rep. Derek Kilmer will discuss his Save Our Sound legislation and
how to move forward with ecosystem restoration. I will contribute
to the discussion by talking about my reporting career as it
relates to Hood Canal.
The event will be held at Lucky Dog Casino Event Center. Those
who would like to attend should contact Robin Lawlis at the
coordinating council, (360) 394-0046 or email@example.com. For
information, check the fact
sheet on the HCCC’s website.
The Hood Canal Coordinating
Council was established in 1985 to improve the water quality of
Hood Canal. It has expanded its mission to include improving the
ecological health of the canal. The group is made up of the county
commissioners in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties along with
the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes.