I’ve been captivated by live videos on the Internet this year,
and I hope you won’t mind another live feed, this one from the sea
floor of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts.
The video comes to us live from a remotely controlled submarine
traveling up to 10,000 feet below NOAA’s research vessel Okeanos
Explorer. Be sure to click to full-screen. The current expedition
will continue until Friday, but others are planned. If you don’t see anything, the
activity may be over for the day. Hours normally are 5:30 a.m. to
1:30 p.m. in our time zone. See the mission’s web page,
Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition.
Some of the most remarkable videos saved from the expedition can
be found on the
Photo and Video Log. While the live shots are surprising, the
recorded ones truly are highlights of the exploration. A
description of the work being done has been posted on the
Daily Updates page.
Reports on earlier research by the Okeanos Explorer is organized
by year and can be found on the
A technique that could flag the presence of human waste in a
sample of water is under development in a partnership between the
Kitsap Public Health District and University of Washington’s Center
for Urban Water.
Shawn Ultican, left, a water-quality
investigator with Kitsap Public Health District, and University of
Washington-Tacoma undergraduate Derek Overman test the water from a
drainage pipe at Silverdale Waterfront Park.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid.
As I explained in a
May 29 story in the Kitsap Sun, it could be helpful for
pollution investigators to know whether bacteria are coming from
human waste or from animal waste.
For example, if bacterial levels are high in a stream but human
waste is not present, then investigators could look for deposits of
dog waste or livestock waste or else search out signs of wildlife.
In that case, one could avoid testing for failing septic systems,
saving a lot of time and money — not that this would occur in most
The technique under review involves testing for certain
chemicals associated with humans, such as caffeine, medicines,
personal care products, flame retardants, pesticides and human
hormones. The current research is trying to identify which of these
compounds could serve as the best routine test for human waste.
This week, I’d like to bring you a couple of engaging pieces — a
podcast and a magazine article — both longer than what I usually
post for “Amusing Monday.”
Both include stories about octopuses. But what I love about both
of these is the human interaction. They also take me back about 35
years to a time when I was actively scuba diving all over Puget
In the podcast, the interviewer, Jeff Emptman, expresses a
curiosity about scuba diving in Puget Sound, and he is rewarded
with a vivid and accurate description by a janitor named John:
Jeff: “What’s that feeling like, dipping below
John: “In Puget Sound, the first feeling is,
‘Oh my god, it’s so freakin’ cold!’”
I used to feel happy for teenagers who got together on a weekend
to wash cars and raise money for a good cause. I would often take
time to drive in, get my car washed and praise the teens for their
efforts. And I would give them a nice tip.
Now, when I see a charity carwash, I just want to know where the
water is going. If the water is washing into a storm drain that
spills into a stream, I can’t help but wonder if these kids care
about fish and wildlife, or if they might not have gotten the
message about the harm caused by dirty, soapy water.
Sometimes, being an environmental reporter causes one to think a
little too much about the environment. Sure, carwashes probably are
not going to kill everything in sight. But they are just another
insult from a human society that has not yet learned how to protect
the living Earth.
The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 declared that it was illegal
to discharge polluted water into any natural stream or waterway. At
the time, industrial discharges were so severe that soap and heavy
metals from carwashes were insignificant. But now, after 40 years,
those industrial point sources are greatly diminished, and
researchers are learning that the greatest threat to water quality
today comes from thousands of small sources.
Gov. Jay Inslee has declared this month “Puget Sound Starts Here
Month,” according to a
press release issued by the Puget Sound Partnership. The idea
is for each of us to pay attention to how we affect Puget
Here’s the message from Marc Daily, the partnership’s interim
“It’s not just about the pipe coming out of the factory anymore.
Today, stormwater runoff is the single largest contributor to our
water quality problems. That pollution comes from our cars and how
we wash them, from the chemicals we put on our lawns, and from not
picking up after our pets. When it rains, bacteria and toxic
chemicals from these and other sources end up in our local
waterways. That’s a problem.”
From King County Water and Land
One way to keep charity car washes alive is to capture the wash
water and direct it into a toilet or sink that connects to a
municipal sewer system, not a septic system.
King County provides instructions for making and using a
carwash kit to handle the water.
People can also sell tickets to commercial carwashes, which is
the method being pushed by most water-quality programs across the
nation. It’s not just here that carwashes are getting increasing
Like many people, I feel a tinge of sadness that carwashes will
probably die out. Like many harmful traditions, such as burning
garbage and smoking, it might be time to give this one up.
Still, if you want to operate a weekend car wash, get yourself a
carwash kit to deal with the wash water. Then stand on the corner
and wave signs promoting the fact that this is a clean and safe
carwash that protects the environment. If I see you, I’ll even stop
and donate to the cause.
Ocean acidification is hitting Washington’s shellfish industry
even before we begin to experience the full effects of climate
change, and Gov. Chris Gregoire placed this state in the forefront
of action Tuesday when she signed an executive order on the
The order supports the findings of the governor’s Blue Ribbon
Panel on Ocean Acidification. Check out the story I wrote for
yesterday’s Kitsap Sun.
The panel released the report during an hour-long presentation
of the findings. If you have time, I recommend watching the
informative presentation, provided by TVW in the player at
The executive summary of the report, as well as the full report,
its appendices and the governor’s order, can be downloaded from
webpage on the Washington Department of Ecology website.
Gregoire’s order is considered the first state-level action on
ocean acidification — and that has attracted attention from across
the country. For example, stories were written by environmental
reporter Juliet Eilperin of the
Washington Post and by Virginia Gewin of
Ocean acidification has been called the “evil twin” of global
warming, because the effects can be more swift and more severe than
gradual warming of the Earth. That’s not to discount other serious
effects of climate change, including increased frequency of severe
storms, sea level rise with increasing flooding, and heat waves
with crippling effects on agriculture. But acidification affects
organisms at the base of the entire food web.
The effects of ocean acidification will not be reversed for a
long, long time, even if greenhouse gas emissions are brought under
control. The upwelling of old water along the coast brings this
problem right to our doorstep now and for the foreseeable
The shift from coal to natural gas, along with the downturn in
the economy, has significantly reduced emissions of carbon dioxide
in this country the past couple years, but the levels of
atmospheric greenhouse gases continue to go up.
“Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will
continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again
reached new records,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general for
the World Meteorological Association, in a
press release issued yesterday.
The WMA reported that the years 2001–2011 were all among the
warmest on record, and it appears that 2012 will continue the
trend, despite a cooling influence from La Niña early this
“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such
as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on
a seasonal to annual scale,” Jarraud said. “But they do not alter
the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to
climate change as a result of human activities.
“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The
alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching
changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere,” he
Environmental correspondent Alister Doyle reported today for
Reuters that the United Nations Panel on Climate Change now
believes that it is more certain than ever that humans are the
primary cause of global warming.
In its 2007 report, the panel pegged the certainty at more than
90 percent. Now, it appears likely that the scientists will
increase that certainty in the next report in 2013, said Rajendra
Pachauri, head of the panel who spoke with Doyle at a climate
conference in Qatar.
“We certainly have a substantial amount of information available
by which I hope we can narrow the gaps, increase the level of
certainty of our findings,” he said, adding that analyses also will
increase the predicted rate of sea-level rise.
Meanwhile, the “Draft National Ocean Policy and Implementation
Plan” is still undergoing review by the National Ocean Council. The
report contains a chapter called
“Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean
Acidification” (PDF 732 kb). That chapter contains some of the
same recommendations offered by Washington state’s Blue Ribbon
Panel, but the state plan is more specific and comes with a
recommended $3.3 million budget to begin work on the problem.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, chairman of the House
Natural Resources Committee, is attempting to derail the plan,
saying it creates an unnecessary bureaucracy and asserts federal
controls not approved by Congress. Read the
news release about House action against the plan.
I have not talked to anyone on the council lately, but it
appears that President Obama’s election campaign over the past year
effectively derailed any movement on this issue. In his first press
conference after the election, he pledged to jump-start the
climate-change effort, but no mention was made of the ocean policy.
Review the video below at 42:20.
A giant Pacific octopus with 4- to 5-foot tentacles washed up
dead this week at Elandan Gardens in Gorst. Diane Robinson, who
owns the gardens with her husband Dan, called to tell us about it,
and I went by and took a few photos.
Marine biologist Jeff Adams of Washington Sea Grant, who writes
a blog for the Kitsap Sun, says there are probably plenty of places
for the creatures to live in Sinclair Inlet, including rocky shores
and sunken boats. Jeff wrote about octopuses in his blog
Sea Life in February of 2010.
Diane Robinson with an octopus that
washed up dead at Elandan Gardens near Gorst
Photo by Christopher Dunagan
The record size of a giant Pacific octopus is about 30 feet
(9.1 meters) from tip to tip with a weight of more than 600 pounds
They live to about 4 years old, and both males and females die
soon after breeding. Females usually live long enough to take care
of their eggs and watch them hatch.
They hunt at night. living mostly on shrimp, crab and fish.
Their suckers can taste and capture their prey, which is brought to
a sharp beak, the only hard part on its body.
They can change colors to blend in with their
They are highly intelligent with a brain that encircles the
throat and extends down to each tentacle. In laboratory tests, they
have been been able to distinguish shapes and patterns, solve mazes
and twist off jar lids.
During sleep, they demonstrate brainwave patterns that suggest
One of my Amusing Monday pieces focused on a video of a battle
between an octopus and a shark. I later learned that the video was
taken at the Seattle Aquarium, and I told the story behind the
I was looking about for some jokes and stories involving
shellfish, mainly about clams and oysters with maybe a few quips
about mussels. All I could find was either too raunchy, too
childish or just plain lame.
What I did discover on YouTube, however, is that clam chowder is
funnier than clams, and oyster stew is funnier than oysters.
First, in the video player at right, is “The Clam Chowder Song”
by Thessaly Lerner, whose comedy is all over the place, including a
series of bits she calls Ukulady, geared mainly for
A classic seafood battle is Curly’s skirmish with the oyster in
a Three Stooges comedy that I remember from years ago. I was happy
to find it posted on YouTube with context from the story. If you
want to skip directly to the oyster part, you’ll find it at
While not about oyster stew, I found a poster I want to share
for the oddity of it all (below). The poster is one of three used
in an ad campaign to raise awareness about the plight of the
homeless. The campaign, launched by the German magazine “Biss,”
shows one person inside the shell of a snail, another inside the
shell of a turtle and a third inside the shell of an oyster a clam. Below each
image are the words, “Nature doesn’t provide everyone with a home.”
AdPunch for details.
Although I wasn’t able to locate enough worthy shellfish jokes
to share, you may find some amusement in previous “Amusing Monday”
postings about shellfish:
In recognition of what ought to be a great summer of crabbing on
Puget Sound, I’ve compiled a variety of crab-related videos.
In the video player at right, you’ll learn about The Crabman,
Brodie Anderson, a brave young man who communes with nature by
catching crabs and talking to them.
Ever wonder how crabs act as they approach a crab pot sitting on
the bottom of Puget Sound? What are they thinking as they partake
of the goodies inside the trap? How do they feel when they realize
they can’t get out? OK, maybe we won’t get answers to all these
questions, but you can learn a lot from this time-lapse video
(below) taken off Camano Island by Squire Productions. For more
info on crabbing in Puget Sound, begin with the news release by the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In a series of rather odd videos, actor Patrick Duffy carries on
discussions with a friend, who just happens to be a crab. My
favorite is his conversation about “American Idol.” I always
wondered if a singer prefers to be called “pitchy” if he or she is
off-key or misses a few notes.
Crabs are famous for their mass movements of molting and mating,
as shown in these videos from Australia and
this should give you something to think about when you’re pulling
in that crab pot.
Work on the Washington State Shellfish Initiative is shifting
into high gear, as I learned yesterday during a meeting of the
Shellfish Initiative Advisory Group.
The initiative is being directed by a “core group,” made up of
representatives from seven state and federal agencies. Advice is
coming from a much larger advisory group in quarterly meeings like
the first one yesterday. See
“Purpose Statement” (PDF 44 kb) for details.
Manchester Research Station
During the meeting, the group reviewed progress on a work plan
that includes more than 30 different tasks, each assigned to a
small working group. I made notes on many of the projects, which
I’ll share with you in future news stories or blog entries.
I did focus on one Kitsap County project with relevance for the
entire Puget Sound region: a new oyster hatchery at Manchester
Research Station to produce baby Olympia oysters. It will be
part of an ongoing effort to restore the native Olympias. See the
story I wrote for
today’s Kitsap Sun.
One anonymous person commented at the bottom of the story: “Hey,
an organization that actually accomplishes something! Keep up the
good work and don’t get bogged down in doing studies and producing
reports that no one will read or respond to.”
I understand why people are sometimes frustrated by the planning
that seems to go on and on. But without planning, I’m not sure who
would grap the limited money. Without planning, the projects would
have no focus and the work would be done haphazardly.
It is interesting to contemplate how the new National Shellfish
Initiative, announced in June, and the Washington Shellfish
Initiative, announced last week, could change things in Puget
Newton Morgan of the Kitsap County
Health District collects a dye packet from Lofall Creek in December
of 2010. This kind of legwork may be the key to tracking down
pollution in Puget Sound.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan Reid
One of the most encouraging things is an attempt to expand
Kitsap County’s Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC)
Program to other counties, with increased funding for cleaning up
the waters. Check out the story I wrote for
last Friday’s Kitsap Sun, in which I describe the
search-and-destroy mission against bacterial pollution.
As most Water Ways readers know, I’ve been following the ongoing
monitoring and cleanup effort by the Kitsap County Health District
for years with the help of Keith Grellner, Stuart Whitford, Shawn
Ultican and many others in the district’s
water quality program. In fact, just two weeks ago, I discussed
what could be a turnaround for a chronic pollution problem in
Lofall Creek, a problem that has taken much perseverance to
Kitsap Sun, Dec. 2.) Unfortunately, the story is far from
I’ve talked about the importance of old-fashioned legwork in
tracking down pollution, and I’ve suggested that other local
governments use some of their stormwater fees or implement such
fees for monitoring of their local waters. See
Water Ways, June 30, for example.
Water free of fecal pollution has benefits for humans and other
aquatic creatures. Thankfully, Washington State Department of
Health’s shellfish program is
careful about checking areas for signs of sewage before certifying
them as safe for shellfish harvesting. Maybe the new shellfish
initiative will allow the state to open beds that have been closed
for years. That’s what happened in Yukon Harbor, where more than
900 acres of shellfish beds were reopened in 2008. (See
Kitsap Sun, Sept. 25, 2008).
Certifying areas as safe for shellfish harvesting means that
waterfront property owners are safe to enjoy the bounty of their
own beaches. It also offers an opportunity for commercial growers
to make money and contribute to the state’s economy.
Of course, this does not mean that intensive shellfish-growing
operations ought to be expanded to every clean corner of Puget
Sound, any more than large-scale crop farming or timber harvesting
should be allowed to take over the entire landscape.
Some environmentalists have expressed concern that the
Washington Shellfish Initiative could become a boondoggle for
commercial shellfish growers. Laura Hendricks of the Sierra Club’s
Marine Ecosystem Campaign sent me an e-mail noting these concerns
about the expansion of aquaculture:
“Washington State has more native species listed as endangered
than any other state in the USA. We see no mention of the adverse
impacts in this initiative on nearshore habitat, birds and juvenile
“Governor Gregoire and the various speakers failed to mention
that ALL of the pending shoreline aquaculture applications they
want to ‘streamline’ are for industrial geoduck aquaculture, not
oysters. Red tape is not what is delaying these applications…
“Shellfish industry lobbyists who pushed for this expansion are
silent on the following three serious threats to our fisheries
resources, forage fish, birds and salmon:
“1. Shellfish consume fisheries resources (zooplankton —
fish/crab eggs and larvae) according to peer reviewed studies. A
DNR study documented that forage fish eggs did not just stay buried
high on the beach, but were found in the nearshore water column.
Continuing to allow expansion of unnatural high densities of
filtering shellfish in the intertidal “nursery,” puts our fisheries
resources at risk.
“2. The shellfish growers place tons of plastics into Puget
Sound in order to expand aquaculture where it does not naturally
3. Mussel rafts are documented to reduce dissolved oxygen
essential for fish and are known in Totten Inlet to be covered in
invasive tunicates with beggiatoa bacteria found underneath…”
Ashley Ahearn of KUOW interviewed Laura Hendricks, and you can
hear her report on
Have intensive shellfish farms in Puget Sound gone too far in
their efforts to exploit the natural resources of our beaches? Can
shellfish farmers make money without undue damage to the
environment? Which practices are acceptable, which ones should be
banned, and which areas are appropriate for different types of
Other research in our region is needed as well, although it is
clear that environmental trade-offs will be part of the deal
whenever commercial interests cross paths with natural systems. For
a discussion about this issue, check out the executive summary of
the NOAA-funded publication Shellfish
Aquaculture and the Environment (PDF 4.2 mb), edited by Sandra
Needless to say, we’ll be keeping an eye on this process for
years to come.