Category Archives: Recreation

Hope is alive for restoration of Puget Sound shellfish beds

Officials in Washington state’s Shellfish Program have identified a clear pathway to meet a state goal of restoring 10,800 net acres of shellfish beds to a harvestable condition by 2020.

The 10,800-acre target, established by the Puget Sound Partnership, was considered overly ambitious by many people when the goal was approved in 2011. Many still believe that the shellfish restoration effort will go down in flames, along with other goals, such as increasing chinook salmon and killer whale populations by 2020.

In reporting on the Shellfish Implementation Strategy, a document still under development, I’ve learned that the goal is within reach if enough of the ongoing recovery efforts around Puget Sound continue to make progress. Please check out my latest stories “Bringing the shellfish back” and “Closing in on the magic number in Samish Bay,” both published in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

The 10,800-goal is especially challenging because it requires a net improvement in shellfish harvesting areas. That means when any shellfish beds are closed by pollution, that number counts against the total.

In 2011, about 4,000 acres of shellfish beds in Samish Bay near Bellingham were downgraded from “approved” to “conditionally approved,” which prohibits harvesting after significant amounts of rainfall. That downgrade was a devastating setback, a major reversal toward the 10,800-acre goal.

Officials in the Samish Bay watershed are working hard to clean up the pollution that caused the downgrade. Water-quality data show that they are getting closer to standards that will trigger an upgrade and resumption of year-round shellfish harvesting.

The pathway to reaching the 10,800-acre goal requires that Samish Bay be upgraded to its previous status to remove the 4,000-acre deficit, said Scott Berbells of the Washington State Department of Health’s Shellfish Program. In addition, several other growing areas with ongoing cleanup programs must be successful.

Trends in water quality are highly variable. They may show improvement for a time, then show a decline. That’s why it is difficult to predict whether improvements in a specific location will be enough to allow shellfish harvesting to resume.

Especially challenging are watersheds with a lot of livestock and aging septic systems located where the soils don’t absorb much water. The pollution problems can be overcome when property owners are willing to work on solutions with the help of available experts. Sometimes it requires enforcement actions.

Because success in cleaning up pollution is so dependent on the response from the community as a whole, I focused my primary story on Drayton Harbor near Blaine, where the community worked together to overcome pollution. Getting the community involved is considered critical to any successful pollution-cleanup effort, according to the Implementation Strategy being developed for Puget Sound shellfish restoration.

In Drayton Harbor, Geoff Menzies dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to restoring the shellfish beds, in part because he believed passionately in the quality of shellfish that can be grown in the bay. In 2003, Geoff and Betsy Peabody were named Local Heroes for Puget Sound by Gov. Gary Locke for starting a “community oyster farm” under the umbrella of Puget Sound Restoration Fund. Jeff and Betsy always believed that harvesting could be restored if the community were to take ownership of the problem.

Geoff Menzies during era of Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm.
Photo: Betsy Peabody

Geoff was also named an environmental hero by the group Resources for Sustainable Communities, and he was later honored by the Washington Environmental Council, Whatcom Land Trust and Environmental Protection Agency.

Leaders in shellfish-restoration efforts throughout Puget Sound always seem to reflect the real credit onto property owners in the watershed. That’s certainly the case in Samish Bay, where entire communities worked together to reduce the impacts of human sewage, for example.

When a community is confronted with a public health problem that prevents the harvesting of shellfish, the first natural reaction is to question the overall findings. After that, people begin to ponder whether there is a single major source of the problem, with a general tendency to blame others. When a community really comes together, people throughout the watershed begin to ask a question that ultimately leads to progress: “What can I do to help solve the problem?”

For information, including a list of actions that people can take, go to Puget Sound Partnership’s Vital Signs for Shellfish Beds.

More coho salmon are expected, but fishing will remain limited this year

Total returns of coho salmon to Puget Sound this year are expected to be significantly higher than last year, and that should help smooth negotiations between state and tribal salmon managers working to establish this year’s fishing seasons.

But critically low runs of coho to the Skagit and Stillaguamish rivers in Northern Puget Sound could limit fishing opportunities in other areas, as managers try to reduce fishing pressure on coho making their way back to those rivers.

In any case, both state and tribal managers say they are confident that they can avoid the kind of deadlock over coho they found themselves in last year, when a failure to reach agreement delayed sport fishing seasons and threatened to cancel them altogether. See reporter Tristan Baurick’s stories in the Kitsap Sun, May 4 and May 28.

“We’re in a much better situation than we were last year,” Ryan Lothrop, a salmon manager with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told a large gathering of sport and commercial fishermen yesterday in Olympia.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Catching fish by hand can be a rare spectacle

Robert Earl Woodard, an Alabama farmer and retired football coach, has spent 40 years perfecting his technique for catching bass by hand.

As you can see from the first video, his careful procedure involves dangling some bait in the water and waiting for a fish to strike. He then grasps the fish by inserting his thumb into the “V” at the bottom of the mouth and waits for the fish to calm down.

The large mouth bass that Woodard caught in the video weighted in at 16.03 pounds, just half a pound less than the Alabama state record of 16.5 pounds set in 1987.

Continue reading

Thoughts run to an orca called Granny and her clan of five generations

Looking back on the various comments that followed the death of the killer whale named Granny, I realized that there were a couple of thought-provoking tributes that I never shared with readers of this blog.

Granny, designated J-2, was believed to be more than 100 years old, and she was the obvious leader for many of the Southern Resident orcas that frequent Puget Sound. Granny went missing last fall and was reported deceased at the end of the year by the Center for Whale Research. See Water Ways, Dec. 30.

Some tributes to Granny were written and posted soon after her death notice, including one by Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. I posted my thoughts along with some others in Water Ways on Jan. 4.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Entertaining videos don’t show real holograms

An amusing video that shows a young family experiencing close-up encounters with killer whales, a polar bear and several penguins has been making the rounds on social media. The technology has been described as a hologram by many people posting and reposting the video, the first on this page.

Frankly, I was amazed at first, believing that people were really up close and personal with a 3D image in a shopping mall. The animals, which I assumed were projected for all to see, appeared so real that it was no wonder that people in the video were reaching out to touch them. Unfortunately, that’s not what we are seeing, according to observers.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Ray Troll visits Puget Sound with Ratfish Wranglers

Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, one of the most amusing bands in the Pacific Northwest, is touring Western Washington this month, with stops in Port Townsend, Gig Harbor and Seattle.

Two years ago, when writing about how fishermen can save rockfish from barotrauma, I featured a video by Ray and the band in Water Ways (June 22, 2015). This video includes a rockfish puppet and an original rap song by Ray Troll and Russell Wodehouse telling all about the problem.

Besides music, Ray is well known for his “fin art,” which is mostly about fish of all kinds, especially salmon. Ray prides himself on the realistic images of fish, produced with scientific precision, which he combines with humor to create some edgy posters.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Did any of the commercials bowl you over?

It’s becoming an annual tradition for me to feature some of the amusing Super Bowl commercials on the day after the big game, especially focusing on those with water-related themes. I also try to share a little of the backstory about the commercials on my list.

Kia ad with Melissa McCarthy

A day after actress Melissa McCarthy appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, Melissa was back on television in a Super Bowl commercial, doing her best to save whales, trees and rhinos.

McCarthy, who has won at least 20 awards for comedic roles in films and television, plays a tragic eco-hero in the Super Bowl commercial. In real life, she has accepted a position as Kia spokeswoman to promote the brand-new Niro, a car that captured a Guinness World Record for the lowest fuel consumption by a hybrid vehicle, tested during a coast-to-cost trip. For details, check out Carscoops online magazine.

Continue reading

Stormwater projects in Silverdale offer hope for a degraded Clear Creek

Detailed planning and design, followed by thoughtful construction projects, have begun to tame the stormwater menace in Clear Creek, an important salmon stream that runs through Silverdale in Central Kitsap.

A renovated stormwater pond at Quail Hollow near Silverdale includes a walking trail and enhanced wildlife habitat. Photo: C. Dunagan
A renovated stormwater pond at Quail Hollow near Silverdale includes a walking trail and enhanced wildlife habitat. // Photo: C. Dunagan

Stormwater has been identified as the greatest pollution threat to Puget Sound. In Kitsap County, many folks believed that the dense development pattern in and around Silverdale has doomed Clear Creek to functioning as a large drainage ditch for runoff into Dyes Inlet.

But reducing stormwater pollution is not beyond the reach of human innovation, as I learned this week on a tour of new and planned stormwater facilities in the Clear Creek drainage area. The trick is to filter the stormwater by any means practical, according to Chris May, director of Kitsap County’s Stormwater Division and a key player in the multi-agency Clean Water Kitsap program.

Projects in and around Silverdale range from large regional ponds of several acres to small filtration devices fitted into confined spaces around homes and along roadways.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: New steelhead license plate enhanced by inspiration

plate

Washington Department of Licensing has embraced a stylistic work of art in its new steelhead license plate, which became available for purchase last week.

The new license plate, which focuses on the eye and head of a steelhead trout, is an obvious departure from previous wildlife license plates that feature realistic images of animals. Derek DeYoung, the artist who created the new plate, specializes in what he calls abstract paintings of fish faces and flanks, as well as whole fish. The original steelhead painting is called “Abstract Steelhead — Horizon Eye.”

Derek, based in Livingston, Mont., is a rare combination of expressive artist and skilled angler.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Baring for the cold in annual New Year celebration

The Polar Bear Plunge in Olalla is an age-old tradition of jumping into the cold waters of Puget Sound on New Year’s Day. Olalla in South Kitsap is just one of many places throughout the region and across the globe where swimmers dare to reinvigorate themselves by washing away the year 2016 and welcoming a new year.

Colin Eisenhut wears a polar bear mask while taking the Polar Bear Plunge in Olalla. Photo: Meegan M. Reid, Kitsap Sun
Colin Eisenhut wears a polar bear mask while taking the Polar Bear Plunge in Olalla yesterday.
Photo: Meegan M. Reid, Kitsap Sun

Swimmers — including Colin Eisenhut, who jumped from the Olalla bridge wearing a polar bear mask — were cold enough and quite amusing yesterday, but I was able to locate some videos that might just make you shiver to watch them. For the Olalla event, photographer Meegan Reid posted 35 very nice photos on the Kitsap Sun website.

I wasn’t aware that snow swimming was such a sport until my wife Sue pointed me toward an amusing video that showed up on her Facebook page. After searching the term “snow swimming,” I sorted through dozens of videos to come up with a few I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading