A couple years ago, I was intrigued that a number of young women
were making a living as professional mermaids. (See
Water Ways, Jan. 27, 2014). Since then, the idea of becoming a
mermaid for a day, a week or longer has caught on, with mermaid
schools opening throughout the world.
Resort and Spa in the Philippines claims to be the first
mermaid school in the world, but others were soon behind.
In New York, World of Swimming, a nonprofit corporation,
inspires young people to become swimmers through lessons, swimming
camps and other activities.
The first short video on this page features young mermaid
swimmers accompanied by music as they swim about by swishing their
tails. In the second video (also below), ABC News reporter Sara
Haines takes the plunge in a first-person report to see what it is
like to become a mermaid. The piece made the airwaves on
Good Morning America.
In Vermont, reporter Sarah Tuff Dunn goes to mermaid school for
the online publication
“Seven Days” and is thoroughly enchanted after putting on her
mermaid tail with its built-in swim fins.
“I felt the tail rise as if magically,” she wrote. “I released
my hands from the wall and began to swim … like a mermaid. A
doggy-paddling mermaid, mind you, and one who momentarily panicked
when she realized she couldn’t scissor-kick her legs.”
Sarah, who soon catches on to swimming like a dolphin, discusses
the risks of drowning with one’s legs tied together, and she
explains why mermaid schools tend to emphasize safety.
What I find interesting about this mermaid trend is that
children are getting excited about swimming. Being a mermaid or
merman expands their confidence as they hold their breath under
water for longer periods of time while building up their muscles
for what could become a lifelong interest in aquatic sports — or at
least some basic survival skills.
One of the three species of rockfish listed as threatened or
endangered in the Puget Sound region is about to be pulled off the
Endangered Species List, following recent scientific findings.
Genetic studies carried out with the help of fisherfolk from
Kitsap County have determined that canary rockfish are not a
discrete population from those found off the Washington Coast. An
official comment period on the delisting is open until Sept. 6, as
described in the
I first discussed early evidence of this genetic finding a year
ago. Kelly Andrews, a genetics expert with NOAA Fisheries,
confirmed that limited genetic samples of canary rockfish from
coastal areas appeared no different from samples taken from Puget
Sound. Kelly wanted to review analyses from additional samples
before drawing firm conclusions. See
Water Ways, June 18, 2015.
canary rockfish from the Endangered Species List will have no
yelloweye rockfish, listed as threatened, or bacaccio,
listed as endangered. The change also is expected to have no
immediate effects on fishing rules, which are designed to protect
all rockfish in Puget Sound.
Rockfish are considered an important part of the Puget Sound
ecosystem. Understanding the causes of their decline and finding
ways to rebuild their populations could help with the recovery of a
variety of other marine species, experts say.
five-year review (PDF 15.1 mb) on the status of the three
species of rockfish was due last year, but it was delayed until
April of this year to include the new genetic information. In
addition to a proposal to delist canary rockfish, the report
discusses the difficulty in gathering population data. The authors
were able to report:
“The data suggest that total rockfish declined at a rate of 3.1
to 3.8 percent per year from 1977 to 2014 … or a 69 to 76 percent
total decline over that period. We did not find evidence for
subpopulations with different population growth rates.”
Those involved in the scientific effort expressed appreciation
to the anglers who went out with them to track down rockfish and
take fin clips for genetic sampling. The effort also included
information from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife,
where researchers surveyed rockfish areas with divers and remotely
The local fishing experts were able to take the researchers to
the hotspots where rockfish have always been found.
During the sampling, fishers were careful to release the
rockfish with “descending devices” to get them safely back to deep
water, where they reside. That is a technique recommended for all
anglers who catch rockfish while fishing for other species. For
“Bring That Fish Down” (PDF 673 kb) by California Sea Grant and
Washington’s Rockfish” by WDFW.
Among those helping with the survey were Ray Frederick, a
longtime leader in the Kitsap Poggie Club, a local fishing group,
and Randy Jones, a charterboat operator from Port Orchard.
Ray recalls catching rockfish decades ago while fishing for
salmon and other fish. “I considered myself lucky if I caught a
rockfish and brought it home, because they’re really good eating,”
Ray said in a story
written by Ed Quimby, a former NOAA writer. “I prefer salmon,”
Ray added, “but my wife likes rockfish better.”
Efforts to develop a recovery plan for rockfish continue for
yelloweye rockfish and bocaccio as required by the Endangered
Species Act. Details can be found on NOAA’s webpage
“Rockfish in Puget Sound/Georgia Basin.”
On the Fourth of July, what could be more appropriate for this
blog than a combination of water and fireworks? Lets add some
lasers, flashing lights, searchlights and projected images.
It all comes together at Shanghai Disneyland, which opened a
couple weeks ago in China, with an entirely new nighttime
extravaganza called “Ignite the Dream.” Similar to other Disneyland
shows, the action takes place at the Enchanted Storybook
The first video reveals what people see when they attend the
show. Be sure to watch in full-screen. Mickey Mouse offers a tour
of images associated Disney films, including “The Lion King,” “The
Little Mermaid” and “Finding Nemo.” Mickey then moves to other
locations reminiscent of more than a dozen other Disney movies.
Shanghai Disneyland, which opened June 16, is the first Disney
theme park in China, not counting the one in Hong Kong. It is the
sixth park throughout the world. At 963 acres, it is second in size
only to Disney World in Florida. The Storybook Castle is the
tallest of any park in the world.
The associated Disney Resort contains an entertainment district,
recreational facilities, a lake and two themed hotels. The cost is
estimated at $4.4 billion. The Walt Disney Company owns 43 percent
of the resort, while the remainder belongs to a joint venture of
three companies owned by the Shanghai government. The project was
approved by the Chinese government in 2009, and construction
started two years later.
The second two videos feature visits to the new theme park, the
first by CNN’s Matt Rivers, the second by Good Morning America’s
At a community meeting in March, many residents of Harper in
South Kitsap expressed profound disappointment that the latest plan
to restore Harper Estuary would remove a low-key boat launch used
by many people in the area. See
Kitsap Sun story, March 31.
The makeshift boat launch, built on fill, provides the only
access to the beach in that area, community members noted. Many
expressed their belief that county and state officials had failed
in their commitment to maintain beach access.
After the meeting, five representatives of the community met
onsite with officials involved in the project. Several ideas were
discussed, and it appears that a new access to the estuary is
gaining approval, though it won’t allow vehicles with trailers to
reach the water. The new access would be an earthen ramp on the
opposite side of Olympiad Drive.
“Retaining the boat landing in its current location will:
“Block the ability to replace the undersized culvert with a
large bridge in order to restore estuary function and tidal
“Reduce sediment contaminant removal associated with the
“Retain compacted gravel substrate that does not support
aquatic plants or benthic organisms at the existing boat launch,
“Impede restoration of filled estuarine habitat and functional
The proposal now under consideration is to grade the slope
alongside Olympiad Drive at a gentle 5:1 angle. Cars and trucks
could pull off the side of the road long enough to unload their
boats, which would be carried down the slope. For people who just
want to walk down to the water, the ramp would provide the needed
access and perhaps the beginning of a proposed trail system around
A plan to build stairs down to the water from Southworth Drive
raised objections during the March meeting, because it would be
difficult and unsafe to carry boats across the busy roadway and
down concrete steps, which could become slippery. If the stairs are
built, which remains undecided, they could be designed to contain
gravel, making them less slippery.
Jim Heytvelt, a community leader in Harper, said the new access
to the beach would meet the needs of most, but not all, people in
the community. Most people in support of the restoration never
wanted a major boat launch like the one at Manchester, he said.
People are beginning to come around to the reality of the
situation, given conditions needed to restore the estuary, he
During surveys of the property, officials discovered another
problem that could have thrown a monkey wrench into the boat launch
at its current location. The county learned that it does not own
the property where the boat launch was built, as had been widely
assumed. The property is owned by the state Department of Natural
Resources — and nobody has ever been given approval to use the
Even if the restoration could be done without removing the
launch site, nobody knows if the DNR would grant a lease for the
use to continue. Someone might need to assume liability at the
site. The proposed ramp to the estuary seems to eliminate that
problem, as the property is almost entirely owned by the
Delays in preparing the plans, getting permits and putting the
project out to bid has caused the schedule to slip from early
summer into late summer and fall, said Doris Small of the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That assumes the
project can be advertised for bids by the end of this month —
something that is still not certain.
Any further delays could put the funding in jeopardy and might
require new approvals from the Washington Department of Ecology and
possibly the Legislature. The restoration money comes from a fund
set up to mitigate for damages from the ASARCO smelter in Tacoma,
which emitted toxic pollution for decades, some of which reached
The first phase of the project involves excavation to remove
most of the fill dumped into the estuary, allowing the shorelines
to return to a natural condition. To complete the restoration,
additional funding is being sought to build a bridge, which will
replace the culvert under Olympiad Drive. If funding is approved,
the bridge could be built as early as next summer.
Another community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30
p.m. at Colby United Methodist Church, 2881 Harvey St. SE.
Officials will provide an update on the restoration efforts. County
Commission Charlotte Garrido said she would like to continue
discussions about what the community would like to see in the
future, hoping to build a stronger relationship between the county
and the community.
The common murre, which can be spotted in Puget Sound especially
in winter, may be considered “nature’s laugh track,” according to
Bob Sundstrom, writing for “BirdNote,”
a two-minute radio show heard on public radio stations including
I wasn’t sure what he meant until I heard the call clearly, and
then I wanted to share this amusing sound with readers who missed
“The Common Murre’s guttural call carries well over the roar of
the waves, a natural laugh track, far richer than human laughter
canned for a sitcom,” says narrator Michael Stein in the following
For other amusing bird sounds, I pulled a YouTube video created
with the help of Nick Lund, who writes a blog called “The Birdlist.” This
video was posted on National Public Radio’s science program
Andy Jeffrey of
Earth Touch Network points out that the bald eagle’s
less-than-intimidating chirp may not be the strangest call, but it
may be the most surprising. For films and such, Hollywood producers
have dubbed in the screech of a red-tailed hawk to give the eagle a
more imposing sound.
We can’t leave the topic of funny bird sounds without taking
time to listen to the lyre bird, known for its ability to mimic all
sorts of sounds. And who better to sneak with us through the
underbrush and explain this odd bird than the BBC’s David
Attenborough. Check out the video.
While all of these bird sounds are amusing, who would you say is
the most amusing bird? The question is open to debate, but I always
get a kick out of the thievery of the various species of sea gull.
The compilation video below offers a sampling of this clever bird’s
antics. As you’ll see, a few other clever birds also are
June is Orca Awareness Month in the Salish Sea. And, as we’ve
seen in recent years, the Southern Resident killer whales are not
around to help kick off the month-long celebration.
J pod, one of the three Southern Resident pods, typically moves
in and out of Puget Sound through the winter and into spring, but
none of the whales have been seen in inland waters since May 18,
Orca Network. On May 24, the same groups were seen off the West
Coast of Vancouver Island.
Let’s hope they are finding plenty to eat, then come home to the
San Juan Islands in time for Orca Sing at Lime Kiln State Park on
June 25, when people will gather to serenade them. Meanwhile,
plenty of other events will be held during Orca Awareness
Another annual event, planned for this Saturday, is EcoFest,
which has been revamped this year as a more active festival, rather
than a lineup of information booths. Organizers are calling the
event in Kingston “a community science and nature festival.”
A nature walk followed by tips on bird watching, solar power,
medicinal plants and green construction techniques are part of the
festivities, along with music and food. For information, download
press release (PDF 77 kb) from Stillwaters Environmental Center
or visit the Stillwaters
The following day, this Sunday, is the kickoff celebration for
Orca Awareness Month, including a Baby Orca Birthday Bash at Alki
Beach Bathhouse, 2701 Alki Ave. SW in Seattle. Live music by Dana
Water Ways, Jan. 25), face painting, orca bingo and other
activities are planned.
For the remainder of the month, activities include an
informational webinar June 9, a discussion about the toxic threat
June 16, “Orcas in Our Midst” workshop June 18, a march for
endangered orcas June 24, “Orca Sing” June 25, “Oil, Orcas and
Oystercatchers” forum June 25, and “Orca and Salmon: An Evening of
Storytelling” June 29. These and several events yet to be scheduled
can be followed on the Orca
Month website or the Facebook page.
Orca Awareness Month was started 10 years ago by Orca Network
and has been adopted by Orca Salmon Alliance, made
up of organizations working to expand awareness of the relation
between killer whales and salmon, both considered at risk of
I was quite impressed when I watched this video of a diver
cutting away a thick rope that had been slicing into the flesh of a
massive whale shark. The animal, spotted 300 miles southwest of
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, remained calm throughout the operation.
Daniel Zapata, dive team leader aboard the Solmar V cruise ship,
said the divers knew it might be dangerous to cut the whale shark
free, but it was heartbreaking for them to watch while the animal
“We talked about it for some time between dives,” Zapata said in
question-and-answer interview with Joanna McNamara of Project
Aware. “When we saw the whale shark again, I knew I had to help. It
felt so good to cut this whale shark free. I found a thinner
section of the rope and cut through it. I unwrapped the rope from
each side of the whale shark and finally she was free.”
The action may have saved the life of the pregnant female and
her unborn offspring, according to observers.
This video was featured on the Smithsonian Channel as part of
the latest series “Secrets of Shark Island.” The “secret,”
according to promotional material, is that the Revillagigedo
Islands, some 200 miles from the Mexican coast, is home to one of
the greatest concentrations of fish in the world.
“This is the only natural juncture for miles in an otherwise
empty Pacific Ocean and a crucial area for migrating sharks and
other apex predators,” states the
Smithsonian Channel website. “Enter a world where whitetip
sharks, giant lobsters and moray eels share living quarters,
humpback whales breed, and mantas and tuna feast on bait in this
land of plenty.”
The Smithsonian Channel has been going a little crazy over
sharks the past few years. But it isn’t just about sharks. It’s
about the people who love them. Two years ago, we were introduced
to “Shark Girl” aka Madison Steward, who grew up around sharks on
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is as fearless as they come
around the sharp-toothed creatures. See second video on this
“Sharks are misunderstood like no other creature, to the point
where it is actually contributing to their slaughter,” Madison told
Gerri Miller of
Mother Nature Network. “I think it has a lot to do with media,
but also that people cannot go and see them for themselves and
learn the truth.
“Sharks are NOT what you think,” she continued, “and myself and
many other people spend hours in the water with large sharks and
feed them at ease on regular occasions. They are the apex
predators, and nature doesn’t make animals like this for no reason.
They are essential in our oceans. In previous years, the decimation
of the shark population has caused the surrounding ecosystem to
collapse. They are truly the ‘boss’ of our oceans.”
The third video is something of a personal manifesto from
Madison Stewart, spoken in a voice-over as she swims in an
awe-inspiring underwater world with ethereal music playing in the
The U.S. Postal Service today released an image of the “pane” of
National Park stamps that will become available for purchase on
June 2. (Click image below to enlarge.) People may mistakenly call
this group of stamps a “sheet,” but a sheet is actually much larger
— usually nine panes as they come off a printing press.
Four of the images on the 16 National Park stamps were provided
by the National Park Service. They are the oil-on-canvas painting
“Scenery in the Grand Tetons” by Albert Bierstadt (first row,
second from right); the chromolithograph-on-canvas “Grand Canyon of
Arizona from Hermit Rim Road” by Thomas Moran (second row, far
left); the three-masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship
Balclutha, which can be seen at San Francisco Maritime National
Historical Park (third row, far left); and the pastel-on-paper
“Administration Building, Frijoles Canyon” by Helmuth Naumer Sr.
(fourth row, far left).
Images on the other stamps are the work of independent
photographers, and the center of the pane comes from a 1-cent stamp
of Yosemite National Park issued in 1934.
To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the
U.S. Postal Service has commissioned 16 new Forever stamps with
scenes from 16 different national parks.
The first-day issue ceremony will take place June 2 in New York
City as part of the World Stamp
Show NY-2016, an international event for stamp collectors held
once every 10 years. Related events are planned in or near the
national parks depicted on the stamps.
“These stamps celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National
Parks and depict the beauty and diversity of these national
treasures,” Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said in a news
release. “They serve as an inspiration for Americans to visit,
learn and to write cherished memories of their trips to these
Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service,
added, “This set of stamps will take people on a journey to some of
the most amazing places in the world. We are thrilled that the 16
national park stamps issued in ’16 for the centennial depict the
variety of parks that collectively tell the story of our
The star-trail photo of Mount Rainier, the first stamp on this
page, was taken by Matt Dieterich of Pittsburgh, Penn., who worked
as an intern in the National Park Service’s
“This night was one I will never forget,” said Dieterich, quoted
in a news
release. “After working with visitors at the Mount Rainier
astronomy program on June 22, 2015, I noticed there was an aurora,
so I drove down to Reflection Lake to capture it. The location was
perfect as it contained a view of Mount Rainier and water for
“To create this star trails image, I took 200 photos in a
two-hour window between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. with my Nikon D750 and
24mm lens set at F/1.4 and ISO 5000. Since the Earth is rotating,
each 8-sec. exposure shows stars at slightly different locations.
When the photos are combined into one image, the stars create a
circular pattern around the North Star, which is just out of view
at the top of the image.
“The pink aurora spread throughout the background sky.
Mountaineers can be seen with their white headlamps climbing Mount
Rainier on the right side of the volcano.”
The photo of Glacier Bay was taken by Tom Bean of Flagstaff,
Ariz. Glacier Bay National Park encompasses 3.3 million acres of
mountains, glaciers and coastlines in Alaska.
To see the full set of stamps, go to the National Park Service
page for Centennial
Stamps. The following list will take you to a description of
each stamp by the Postal Service. For a better image of the stamp,
click on “PDF” in the upper right corner of the page below the
On this Earth Day, I would like to share some “environmental
victories” at the national level, take note of advancements in
environmental education at the state and local levels, recognize a
global climate accomplishment at the international level and
celebrate the birthday of John Muir, a giant in the conservation
Sometimes, amid the environmental battles of today, it is good
to step back and look at the changes that our country has gone
through since the first Earth Day in 1970. Brian Clark Howard does
just that for
National Geographic by calling out 46 milestones in
The events he describes include various environmental laws,
starting off with the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970;
international agreements, such at the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species in 1975; corporate responsibility, such
as McDonald’s move to biodegradable packaging; community outrage,
such as in Love Canal; and books and movies, including Al Gore’s
call to climate action in “An Inconvenient Truth.”
This is not a comprehensive history of the environmental
movement, but it is a strong reminder about how advancements come
about in the efforts to improve our environment.
Six years ago on Earth Day, I wrote a story titled
The Evolution of Environmental Education (Kitsap Sun, April 17,
2010) about how environmental education became ingrained in
learning through the primary grades — in contrast to the very
limited discussions outside of college up until the 1980s.
In 1990, the Legislature mandated that environmental education
be part of public instruction at all grade levels, then in 2009 new
statewide standards brought a focus to not only ecology but also
social and economic systems.
My story describes the struggle to integrate these additional
studies into overall classroom learning, rather than teaching
separate units on each topic. That effort at integration has
continued, as teachers work together to share information about
what works in the classroom. See
Education for Environment and Sustainability at the Office of
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Climate change agreement
More than 150 world leaders gathered at United Nations
Headquarters in New York City today to sign an agreement designed
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. This is the
formal signing of an accord reached in Paris by more than 170
countries four months ago.
“Today is a day to mark and celebrate the hard work done by so
many to win the battle in securing the Paris agreement,” Secretary
of State John Kerry said this morning, as quoted in a
Newsweek article. “Knowing what we know, this is also a day to
recommit ourselves to actually win this war… Nature is changing at
an increasingly rapid pace due to our own choices.”
Hannah Hickey of
University of Washington News and Information rounded up
comments from UW experts on the topic. Some were hopeful that the
international pact will mean substantial reductions in greenhouse
gases before ever more drastic climate change comes about. Others
seemed to be saying that the agreement is too little too late.
John Muir, whose name is synonymous with the conservation
movement in the U.S., had much to say about the need to protect
special places. Muir’s birthday was yesterday, and I appreciated
10 inspirational quotes about the outdoors that was pulled
together by the Department of Interior.
One of my favorites: “Between every two pine trees there is a
door leading to a new way of life.”
John Muir has been called “the father of the national parks,”
and I think it is fitting that we take time to recognize his
contributions this year, on the 100th anniversary of the National
Park Service. I’ve posted the first of two videos produced for the
park service. Both can be found on YouTube:
I usually wait until June to post some of the best views of
wildlife you will ever see, because that is when the animal kingdom
seems to really become active. But this year I thought we could
show up a little sooner and see what happens on live wildlife
cameras in early spring.
Especially amusing are a pair of bald eagle chicks hatched about
three weeks ago in a poplar tree in the U.S. National Arboretum in
Washington, D.C. Their parents, who began nesting in this location
two years ago, were named “Mr. President” and “The First Lady.”
Go to WASHINGTON,
D.C., LIVE EAGLE NEST CAM for the live video, since embedded
videos are not allowed. The video on this page shows the hatching
of the first chick at about 5 minutes in, when the adult eagle
stands up and moves to the side.
The nesting site contains a pair of cameras that operate 24
hours a day. You can easily switch from one camera to the other for
better viewing at different times.
American Eagle Foundation, which operates the camera with
permission from the U.S. government, makes this statement on its
Eagle Nest Cam web page:
“This is a wild eagle nest and anything can happen. While we
hope that two healthy juvenile eagles will end up fledging from the
nest this summer, things like sibling rivalry, predators, and
natural disaster can affect this eagle family and may be difficult
Two ospreys, known as Tom and Audrey, are back at their nesting
site on Maryland’s eastern shore, where Chesapeake
Conservancy does a great job with its osprey cam. I’m no
expert, but it looks like a lot of nest-building activity at the
moment. Make sure your sound is on, as there seems to be
We need to wait a little longer for the ospreys to arrive at two
locations where the University of Montana operates live osprey
cameras as part of its Montana Osprey Project. They are at the
Canyon nest site in Missoua and Dunrovin
Ranch in Lolo. According to the project’s Facebook
page, the ospreys are on their way and should arrive soon
(based on satellite tracking).
I was disappointed to hear that an osprey cam operated by the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Gig Harbor is offline
this year. WDFW posted this note on the website: “This camera
is out of alignment and now offline for 2016. Ospreys have nested
and we cannot disturb them to repair or re-angle the camera.”
Alberta Conservation Association and its sponsors last year set
up cameras to observe three prime nesting boxes for peregrine
falcons in Edmonton, Alberta. Chicks hatched in each of the nests,
where we could watch the mothers taking care of their little
bundles of fluff, all in real time. The message on the website
says, “It’s not long now.”
One of my favorite live cams is still Pete’s Pond (video player
at right), a watering hole on Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana,
Africa. It began as a National Geographic project and is now
operated by WildEarth, which
features several other wildlife cams. Operators, working remotely,
turn the camera to find the best action at any moment.
I’ve started watching a
live camera in a cove at Anacapa Island in Channel Islands
National Park in Southern California. Nearly 1,000 marine species
live in the area, and often fish and tiny swimming creatures come
into view of the camera.