I really love this picture by Araminta “Minty” Little, a seventh
grader at Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap. Her
picture shows an octopus grasping trash that has been thrown into
Apparently, the judges in the annual Marine Debris Art Contest
also liked Minty’s picture. They named her one of 13 winners
nationwide out of more than 600 students from 21 states who entered
the contest, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and
Minty’s drawing is a fine piece of work, but she also got high
marks for her concept, which carries a message about the dangers of
marine debris. As part of the contest, she was required to write a
bit about the problem. As quoted on the Central
Kitsap School District’s website, she explained:
“The picture I drew depicts a sea creature surrounded by
garbage. The octopus … is wrapping its tentacles around stray trash
preparing to throw it all back onto land. In the top right tentacle
is a sign reading ‘S.O.S.’ in parody to … an old sailing term.”
If you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll be impressed with this
video, which shows a bottlenose dolphin apparently asking for help
from some scuba divers, who noticed the animal tangled in fishing
line with a hook imbedded in its fin.
Martina Wing of Ocean Wings Hawaii captured the action, which
really begins at 3:30 into the eight-minute video, though the early
part sets the scene with some beautiful shots of manta rays. The
encounter took place Jan. 11 off the west coast of the Big
Reporter Philip Caulfield of the
New York Daily News quoted Keller Laros, the diver who came to
the rescue, as saying the dolphin was responsive to his gesture and
deliberately moved in close to be helped:
“I noticed he had a fishing wire wrapped around his left fin. I
reached out with my left hand … and gestured with my index finger
‘Come here.’ And he swam right up to me. The fact that he seemed to
recognize my gesture, that blew me away.”
Laros was able to cut away the line and remove the hook, and the
dolphin swam away.
The video has been viewed nearly 2 million times, with more than
2,000 comments posted to the site. I found some observations to be
DavidKevin: I am overwhelmed.
I have been certain for over 35 years that we shared the
planet with another sentient species, the dolphins, and this is
just more evidence of it. We don’t have to go off-planet to find an
alien species with whom to communicate, we just have to look
If we cannot learn to communicate with our distant mammalian
relatives, we’ll never be able to communicate with true
extra-terrestrials, should we ever meet them.
Marvelicious75: We use the word ‘sentient’
in a dialectic manner, but it is quite obviously not accurate. It
is arrogance that makes us consider ourselves separate from
‘animals’ like the dolphin. This story isn’t truly surprising in
light of the countless stories of dolphins rescuing humans. The
only limiting factor is our surprising lack of empathy….
Hobbitfrdo: Sad day for the world if we
stopped loving all creatures. Respect to you all.
Russell Laros: The diver cutting the line
off in the video is my father. He was really happy to be able to
make this connection to the animal and was pretty impressed by it’s
intelligence. Apparently this dolphin has been in contact with
humans before, though. It has been seen and interacted with workers
at a local open ocean fish farm nearby. Still really amazing
Misa Eniaki Amane: This dolphin is smarter
than all of us…..went up for air and back down to continue with the
supertekkel1: There are numerous_ ancient
stories of dolphins rescuing sailors who went overboard. Whether
they are true or not, it’s nice to see that we are finally able to
do something to return the favor.
1Irisangel: What a blessing to have
captured these moments on film. No words needed, only love and
compassion for a fellow traveler on planet Earth. Wonderful capture
OonaCanute: Now to get rid of all the
fishing nets and lines and hooks that kill thousands of dolphins
like this beauty every year.
Alex Bruce: The trust the dolphin had in
the humans in his time of need is humbling to me. Dolphins are very
intelligent creatures and know when to allow man to handle and help
them. The men that helped the dolphin have to have felt some sense
of pride derived from their kindness and humane actions. I know I
did when many years ago I helped rescue a pelican that had a 3-barb
hook anchored in its wing and a weight that was attached to the
fishing line. He said. “Thank you” in his way and took off in
bcmom5: Awesome. It swam around until it
found the right person to help it. That person and all who had a
hand in it were blessed with Dolphin Medicine which teaches us to
get out and breathe, explore, play. Breathe new life into your
life. Awesome. Thank you for helping and for
userbc44: What a touching and pure video! I
love the part at 4:33 when the diver goes to take off his lights
and puts them on the sea floor, the dolphin swims right in front of
him as to say, “Theres more! don’t go, here I am!”
POMPCATZ: Wonderful to watch this
intelligent creature seek your help and let you finish the job
after going up for air. This is just more proof these beautiful.
intelligent life forms should not be slaughtered for ignorant
tradition and profit.
KillerinExile: Dolphins seem almost
sapient. If they’re smart enough to ask for help maybe we shouldn’t
be eating and abusing them like we do.
starsbydaylight: … I am sure the majority
of people are naturally happy to help distressed animals that keep
their calm, sometimes being out of fear unreasonable while being
rescued. Once I witnessed a toddler busy carefully rescue a
butterfly drowning in a puddle of water. The intelligence of the
dolphin and the kind manner of the diver made me cry. In fact the
dolphin saved its own life….
flowerseva: This is the ‘Real News’
happening on Planet Earth! Imagine if the 6 o’clock nightly news
was filled with these images and emotions – What kind of world
would we then be creating??
Silverdale’s waterfront is seeing the effects of recent storms
in our area, as documented by Susan Digby, a geography instructor
at Olympic College.
Recent storms have brought a lot of
trash and marine debris to Silverdale’s waterfront. /
Photo by Susan Digby
High stormwater flows have washed litter, debris and dead salmon
into Sinclair and Dyes inlets, where currents and winds from the
south carry the materials to Silverdale’s beaches, including
Silverdale Waterfront Park and Old Mill Park.
“The north end of Dyes Inlet is like the end of a sock,” Susan
told me. “When we get rain and wind, everything piles up
Photos of all this debris — including parts of three docks —
were taken by Susan on Sunday, just two weeks after her students
cleaned up the beach entirely as part of an ongoing study that
counts and categorizes marine debris that collects there.
A phenomenal amount of trash winds up on our beaches, including
discarded food wrappers that people have carelessly discarded. Just
about anything that floats can wash into a stream or storm drain to
be carried into one of our local inlets. Some debris may be coming
from the nearby streets and parking lots in Silverdale, but some
could be coming all the way from Gorst, as suggested by
drogue studies (PDF 1.6 mb) conducted by the Navy.
As Susan points out, the debris includes lots of Styrofoam,
which can be ingested by birds and sea creatures, as well as baby
diapers and syringes, which are a reminder that disease organisms
are making their way into our local waters with uncertain effects
on the fish and shellfish we eat.
I plan to cover Susan Digby’s student research project in more
detail early next year, after 2012 data are compiled.
A piece of a dock washed up on
Silverdale’s waterfront during a recent storm. Parts of two other
docks also were found. / Photo by Susan
Sand is widespread on beaches throughout the world. But if you
get the chance to look really, really close, you are likely to see
colorful rocks, bits of shell and other natural and man-made
Every grain of sand is virtually unique, but when similar types
come together, we find ourselves walking on beaches that vary from
a finely ground silt to pebbles that are easily seen. You will see
stretches of coast that can appear white, red, green or black.
Gary Greenberg has been taking pictures of sand and has compiled
his best photographs into a book called
“A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder.” I like what Geology.com has
done on its website, offering a glimpse of Greenberg’s photos,
telling us where the sand was found and describing the types of
Taking microscopic art a step further, micro sculptor Willard
Wigan transforms grains of sand, bits of dust and hairs from
insects to produce amazingly small sculptures that can bring in
hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may have already seen his
amazing story told on various television shows, including the video
shown here from the Wall Street Journal. You can view Wigan’s
of more than 50 tiny sculptures on the artist’s website.
“It began when I was five years old. I started making houses for
ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made
them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my
dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticize me.
That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”
Wigan, who cannot read or write, found another way to express
himself. In an interview with Nick Watts of ABC News, Wigans noted:
“The teachers at school made me feel small. They made me feel
like nothing. I’m trying to prove to the world that nothing doesn’t
It was refreshing this week to join 250 students of all ages at
the GreenSTEM Summit in Belfair, where young people shared
environmental projects they had been working on through the year.
Check out my story in
Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun.
Jaclyn Davis, 9, a third-grader at
Breidablik Elementary School in North Kitsap, looks for birds
during Tuesday's GreenSTEM Summit.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall
The students came prepared to discuss their projects with
others. While some students were more technically astute than
others, it was clear that most had learned a great deal from the
experience. Most of the 10 schools represented at the summit were
engaged in some type of ecosystem analysis, such as monitoring
streams for water quality.
During the first part of the day, the students visited
educational displays, where experts talked about issues ranging
from steelhead to cooking oysters and clams, including
Later in the day, they became involved in “nature mapping” at
the 40-acre Pacific Northwest Salmon Center. Nature mapping
involves observing animals and writing notes in data sheets, as
professional researchers would do.
To me, Earth Day has always meant two things: education and
action. Of course, I would never object to the entertainment that
accompanies many Earth Day events, because learning and good deeds
ought to involve fun and laughter.
For years, my wife Sue and I drove over to Sequim on the
Saturday after Earth Day to help clean up Dungeness Spit, which
happens to be the place she and I went on our first date many years
ago. We stopped going for health reasons but hope to get started
Tracyton resident Don Larson has organized the Sinclair Inlet
Cleanup twice each year for the past 21 years. Now Don and his
fellow organizer John Denis are a couple of guys who truly
understand the Earth Day spirit and what it means to give back to
Don told me this week that he was impressed with the crew that
showed up at Saturday’s cleanup. He was particularly inspired by
Jim Anderson, a 66-year-old Bremerton resident who regularly picks
up trash along the Bremerton boardwalk as he moves along in an
electric wheelchair, accompanied by his guide dog Raffle.
“He’s a phenomenal guy,” Larson said. “He has these hand-grabber
picker-ups. He and his wife Jackie clean up periodically all year
long as he moves around the waterfront.
“With Jim and Jackie, the human spirit really comes out. You
hear about all the bad stuff in the world, then you meet a person
like that who gets out and helps the community. It just makes you
I’ve become intrigued by the work of artist Mary Babcock, whose
latest creation with Christopher Curtin uses sheets of fabric to
evoke a feeling of flowing water.
An exhibit called Teem uses fabric
to evoke the feeling of flowing water. / Photo courtesy
of Don Frank Photography
Babcock chairs the Fiber Program in the Department of Art and
Art History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. (Review her
resume.) Her latest artwork, in partnership with Curtin,
“superimposes metaphors of water (movement/potentiality) and the
sea (the infinite, comfort, danger, aloneness) to evoke a sense of
dreamspace — the space of possibility,” according to the artist’s
description on the
Teem, as the exhibit is called, got its beginnings at the
Netshed at Alderbrook Station in Astoria, Ore. Now, I wish I would
made the trip to Oregon while the exhibit, called Deluge, was still
open. It has now moved, with some changes, to the Textile Arts
Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
As the description states, “Teem uses textile to create an
environment where viewers find themselves under the surface of the
water at the powerful juncture where river currents meet the ocean
tides, where the individual meets the collective….
As the California Assembly faces a showdown over a proposed ban
on plastic bags throughout the state, the environmental group
Heal the Bay has released
a humorous “mockumentary” about the wayward life of a creature that
has the uncanny ability to travel across land, water and air.
This short video is narrated by Academy-Award-winning actor
Jeremy Irons. Its release comes as the deadline approaches for the
California Assembly to take action on the bag-ban bill, AB 1998. A
vote is expected by the end of the month.
The California bill would ban plastic bags except for those
needed for sanitary purposes, such as meat. For details about the
bill and about various efforts by opposing sides of the debate,
check out Friday’s story in the
Ventura County Star by reporter Timm Herdt.
For a nationwide perspective, see the Aug. 15 story in the
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader by Ali Eaves, who mentions
Seattle’s experience with a proposed bag fee: In 2008, the city
council passed a ban, which was later overturned by referendum.
For 30 years, I’ve wondered about the Public Trust Doctrine and
whether you and I have a right to walk across private tidelands
throughout the Puget Sound area.
On a few occasions, I’ve written about the general principles of
the Public Trust Doctrine, but last week I dug a bit deeper and
came up with a story published in
Tuesday’s Kitsap Sun.
I’ve received a lot of nice comments about my balanced approach
to the story. That’s much appreciated, given the contentious nature
of this subject. As of this writing, the story has received 75
comments from readers. The discussion got so heated at one point
that someone asked Kitsap Sun editors to call a halt to the debate.
Comments are still coming in, and things have calmed down.
Please take a moment and weigh in with your opinion in the poll
over in the right-hand column of this blog. Also, feel free to
comment here, or join the discussion on the story itself.
So, do average citizens have the right to walk across someone’s
private tidelands? As I explain in the story, this question cannot
be answered today, because our state Supreme Court has never ruled
on the subject. The Public Trust Doctrine certainly provides for a
public right to float across private tidelands in a boat and to
take fish and other creatures in conformance with state law.
Shellfish are another issue, however, since the state recognizes
that these embedded creatures belong to the property owner in most
The vast majority of waterfront property owners I interviewed
for this story said they would not object to someone crossing their
tidelands, provided the person does not cause any damage along the
way. Some commenters added that people also should not pick up
anything on the beach. Now this is another unanswered question for
me, and perhaps one of you has the answer: Do beach-walkers or even
people in a boat have the right to pick up something that washes in
with the tide?
I seem to recall that visitors are not allowed pick up driftwood
or other natural items that may be habitat for critters, which are
generally protected under state law. But if a man-made item washes
ashore, such as a glass float, does the property owner have a
greater right to claim the object than someone walking along the
beach? I don’t know, but perhaps this is one of these unresolved
issues — such as where someone may walk legally.
Assistant Attorney General Joe Panesko, who has been researching
the Public Trust Doctrine for an upcoming article, pointed out that
some commenters seem confused about where property rights end on
the shoreline. It is not a simple issue in Washington state.
As Joe describes it, the state once owned all the tidelands and
still owns the vast majority of bedlands, which are below the
extreme low-tide mark. Between 1899 and 1911, tidelands sold by the
state went from the ordinary high tide line down to the mean low
tide line. In 1911, the state changed the definition of tidelands
to extend all the way down to extreme low tide.
The state also sold a separate category of lands for the
cultivation of oysters under two 1895 laws, the Bush Act and the
Callow Act. Most of these lands were identified with legal
descriptions that included “metes and bounds” instead of tidal
elevations. Perhaps because of imprecise surveys, some of these
lands still go down below extreme low tide. (This relates to recent
stories about “trespass” by shellfish growers. (See
Water Ways, June 24.)
Panesko tells me that a big challenge for tideland owners is
that legal descriptions on deeds have become muddled as property
has changed hands over the years.
“I’ve seen many current deeds for waterfront properties that
include tidelands but fail to articulate the exact tidal boundary
of the tidelands,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Also, as your article
hints at, establishing the exact location of tidal boundaries on
the beach really does require the sophisticated services of a
competent surveyor. GPS devices don’t help much with regard to
While the Washington State Supreme Court has not defined the
limits of the Public Trust Doctrine, courts in other states
continue to address the issue. In some states, water resources and
even habitat for wildlife are being included as holdings in “public
The case for beach-walking was nip and tuck for the shores of
the Great Lakes in Michigan as recently as 2005. In Glass v.
Goeckel, property rights advocates were delighted in 2004, when the
Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that people could not walk along
the beach unless their feet were in the water. (See Michigan Land
Institute, July 27, 2004.). But about a year later, Michigan
residents were back strolling the beach on dry land. (See MLI,
Aug. 2, 2005.)
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is hosting an
interesting conversation this week about the potential of leasing
state-owned tidelands for geoduck aquaculture.
A typical geoduck farm involves seeding tiny clams on the beach
and protecting them from predators for about two years. Normally, a
section of PVC pipe is inserted into the beach, one surrounding
each clam. The DNR is providing a variety of
background information in support of this week’s
Each day this week, a new question about geoduck aquaculture is
being raised. The participants in this forum are the very people
involved in the debate at the local and state levels, so one can
learn a great deal about this debate by skimming through the
On Monday, the question was: Are there effects of geoduck
aquaculture on public access and aesthetics, and if so, how can
they be mitigated?
Most of the commenters were opposed to geoduck farming on state
lands, saying that the tubes were ugly, intrustive and restricted
public access in various ways. Geoduck farmers also weighed in,
saying the problems are minimal when the farms are managed
Tuesday’s question was: When seeking to balance the public
benefits from state-owned aquatic lands, how much of a priority
should DNR give to job creation and revenue generation when
developing a geoduck aquaculture program on state
This lively discussion involved a range of interests discussing
the balance between jobs/economic benefits versus protection of the
ecosystem. Some people made the point that money raised by leasing
state land can be used for environmental restoration.
On Wednesday, the question turned to: What does science
tell us about the impacts of geoduck aquaculture on Puget
I found this discussion more confusing, in part because
references to scientific studies were mixed in with personal
observations. Many of the comments were interesting, but the
discussion was too scattered to really address the scientific
questions, for which some studies are still under way.
Today’s forum is called “unknowns”: If DNR moved forward on
a program leasing state-owned tidelands for geoduck aquaculture,
are there significant unknowns that we need to be aware of, and if
so, what are they?
As of the time of this posting, only a couple people had weighed
in today, but you may want to comment on this item or on any of the
topics in previous days. One can navigate through these various
topics from the main page of DNR Forum.
I would like to know what you think of this forum by DNR and if
we might want to encourage discussions like this on other important
issues of the day.