Monday, May 23, 2016

5/23 Salmon disease, marine toxics, coal port, Navy killings, BC pipe, gopher ESA, eelgrass, OR ocean center

Swainson's Thrush (Jack Daynes/BirdNote)
Salmonberry Bird
The native names of birds sometimes distill the essence of their appearance or behavior. In the Cherokee language, for instance, the Meadowlark is called "star," because of the way the bird's tail spreads out when it soars. To the Northwest Coastal people, this Swainson's Thrush is known as the "Salmonberry Bird." The name derives from its annual arrival in the Pacific Northwest in May, when salmonberries ripen in the forests. Here, the Salmonberry Bird is seen eating elderberries. (BirdNote)

Deadly salmon disease found in B.C. farmed stock, federal scientists say
A feared viral disease proven deadly in Norwegian fish farms has been confirmed for the first time by federal scientists studying farmed salmon in B.C. Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) has been linked to the deaths of up to 20 per cent of stock at some Norwegian farms. "The concern is that it is a disease that hasn't previously been detected in B.C. and at the present time we really don't have sufficient evidence to know if it causes mortality or is a production issue here," said Kristi Miller, part of a team of federal scientists studying farmed fish samples from sites along the B.C. coast. Yvette Brend reports. (CBC)

New theory rethinks spread of PCBs and other toxics in Puget Sound
Recent findings about how toxic chemicals creep into the food web, causing harm to species from herring and salmon to killer whales, could strengthen commitments to control pollution pouring into Puget Sound. Researchers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and other agencies have been tracking toxic chemicals — including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — as they move from smaller to larger animals in Puget Sound. In doing so, the researchers confronted a perplexing problem. Compared to other waterways, Puget Sound seems to have a considerably higher level of PCBs in its living creatures — even though the concentration in bottom sediments is not as high as in other regions.  Jim West and Sandie O’Neill of WDFW say the difference may lie with the beginning of the food web, where harmful chemicals first enter the waterway. If borne out, their findings could result in a shift in thinking about the biological transfer of contaminants. (Encyclopedia of Puget Sound)

Coal hearing expected to draw big crowds Tuesday
It’s finally here. A hearing on a draft environmental impact study for the controversial Longview coal terminal will take place Tuesday at the Cowlitz Expo Center. Expect big crowds, rallies, traffic, signs and flags. The marathon day of presentations and public testimony kicks off at 1 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m., with an hour-long break at 4 p.m. Estimates of the potential crowd size vary, but a previous public hearing on Millennium Bulk Terminal’s proposal drew 1,300 people. Marissa Luck reports. (Longview Daily News)

Navy Allowed to Kill or Injure Nearly 12 Million Whales, Dolphins, Other Marine Mammals in Pacific 
What if you were told the US Navy is legally permitted to harass, injure or kill nearly 12 million whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions and seals across the North Pacific Ocean over a five-year period? It is true, and over one-quarter of every tax dollar you pay is helping to fund it. A multistate, international citizen watchdog group called the West Coast Action Alliance (WCAA), tabulated numbers that came straight from the Navy's Northwest Training and Testing EIS (environmental impact statement) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Letters of Authorization for incidental "takes" of marine mammals issued by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. A "take" is a form of harm to an animal that ranges from harassment, to injury, and sometimes to death. Many wildlife conservationists see even "takes" that only cause behavior changes as injurious, because chronic harassment of animals that are feeding or breeding can end up harming, or even contributing to their deaths if they are driven out of habitats critical to their survival. Dahr Jamail reports. (Truthout)

First Nations vow to fight Trans Mountain despite NEB approval
The First Nation question — can aboriginal opponents stop Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — looms large after the project passed a major hurdle with approval Thursday from the National Energy Board. Some First Nations, including the Simpcw in the Interior, are supportive. But key First Nations on the coast remain opposed, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam. First Nations in the northwest U.S. are also opposed and reiterated their opposition Thursday, saying they were “extremely” disappointed with the NEB decision. Gordon Hoekstra reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Big oil vs. big whale: Will pipeline trump iconic orca?
If you don't live on the West Coast, perhaps it's hard to appreciate just how poorly approving an oil pipeline at the expense of an endangered population of killer whales might play out. To give it an Eastern perspective, it's a bit like saying Bonhomme might have to die to make way for a new museum dedicated to Stephen Harper's legacy. In approving Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion this week, the National Energy Board said it weighed the benefits of the project against its burdens. Among the "adverse effects" deemed to be most "significant" were those likely to impact a population of about 80 southern resident killer whales found off the coast of Vancouver Island. Jason Proctor reports. (CBC)

If you like to watch: Octopus goes head-to-head with robot
An octopus laid claim to a cable coil as a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) was trying to do some work on the Ocean Networks Canada underwater observatory off the coast of Vancouver Island. The octopus can be seen fighting with the ROV named Hercules — the octopus tries to get in the way of it so it can`t undo a knot. Watch here.  Tina Lovgreen reports. (CBC)

Correction ordered for Thurston County gopher review process
Opponents of Thurston County’s interim building permitting process on potential Mazama pocket gopher habitat hope a recent state board ruling will bolster a lawsuit they filed last year in Lewis County. The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled last week that a portion of Thurston County’s permitting process was out of compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act. The board found that the county’s Interim Screening Process resulted in de facto amendments to the county’s Critical Area Ordinance by placing controls on land use activities that differ substantially from the current Critical Area Ordinance adopted in 2012. It also determined that the county didn’t include public comment or participation in the change to the development regulation. Lisa Pemberton reports. (Olympian)

Eelgrass a vital source food and shelter in Salish Sea
Eelgrass is appropriately named because it’s an underwater grass, not a seaweed. Meadows of eelgrass grow from muddy, sandy bottoms in shallow marine waters in Whatcom County and elsewhere in the Salish Sea. Like other grasses, eelgrass flourishes in the spring and summer and decays in the fall and winter. The bacteria and decaying plant and animal matter that collect on and in eelgrass provide important food for assorted marine creatures. That, in turn, makes eelgrass beds important feeding areas for birds and fish. It also provides shelter and breeding habitat for young fish, crabs, snails, and other marine life. (Whatcom Magazine)

Grand Opening Saturday For New Marine Life Center On Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast is getting a new tourist attraction. The University of Oregon is holding a ribbon cutting and grand opening Saturday in Charleston at the mouth of Coos Bay for its new Marine Life Center. The center is part museum, part aquarium and part learning lab and gallery. It was a long time in coming. Several directors cobbled together grants, donations and leftovers from other projects to create the facility from relatively little money over about nine years. It is located on the campus of the University of Oregon's marine lab overlooking the marina in Charleston. The attraction features five galleries of exhibits and fish tanks with highlights including complete whale and sea lion skeletons, touch tanks and a working undersea robot vehicle. The focus is on the marine life and fisheries of Oregon. Tom Banse reports. (KPLU)

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