Tuesday, December 26, 2017

12/26 Lingcod, orcas, marine atlas, Forbidden Island, bitumen spill, fossil fuel divesture, Keystone, carbon tax, sustainable plane fuel, EPA brain drain, old-growth forests, mountain goats, lege records

Salish Sea Communications will take a break and return in January with news clips and commentary. Until then, chew on an end-of-year blog, America-- Made Great Yet? and do not go gently into the new year. Aloha, Mike Sato.

Lingcod [Chad King/NOAA MBNMS]
This blue-fleshed fish is a conservation success but its future is far from assured
If the West Coast’s colorful, bottom-dwelling rockfish have nightmares, the mouth of a lingcod — cavernous, tooth-studded, lethal — must take center stage. Lingcod lurk among rocky reefs from Baja, California, to the Gulf of Alaska, and they’re among the coast’s most fearsome predators, patient and indiscriminate ambush hunters that explode from their cover to nab whatever hapless prey swims past. Neither true ling nor true cod, lingcod belong to a family called the greenlings, though in truth Ophiodon elongatus is an evolutionary oddball, the only surviving member of its genus. As the Latin suggests, lingcod have long, eely bodies mottled in brown leopard spots that camouflage them on the seafloor, where they use their wing-like pectoral fins to prop themselves up while they wait. But it’s that grinning mouth—wide as the fish itself—that makes lingcod so fearsome. In one video, a lingcod clenches a live salmon, practically its own size, in its jaws, as though trying to figure out whether the unfortunate creature will fit in its belly. Ben Goldfarb writes. (Oceana)

Puget Sound orcas getting a break from boaters -- at no loss to whale-watch industry, study finds 
Restrictions on vessel traffic have helped keep more boaters farther from critically endangered southern-resident killer whales, while not harming the whale-watch industry, a new study has found. Federal restrictions enacted in 2011 require whale-watch boats and other vessels to stay at least 200 yards away from orca whales. That’s a long way — two football-field lengths — and doubled the buffer. Yet whale-watch tourism continues to grow, the technical memorandum from NOAA found. Lack of food — namely salmon in Puget Sound — as well as high levels of contaminants in their environment, and disturbance by vessel noise are the primary threats identified by the agency to the Puget Sound orcas’ survival. The new vessel restrictions were intended to help reduce stress on the whales, which spend less time foraging and more time traveling when disturbed by vessel noise, researchers have found. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

Biologist with Pacific Wildlife Foundation compiles atlas of Salish Sea marine life
For about the past decade, biologist Rob Butler has gone where no one else goes — our own backyard. In his quest to create an atlas of the Salish Sea, he has conducted detailed monthly transects in a small boat in the Gulf Islands, Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet, Indian Arm, English Bay and off the Fraser River. What strikes Butler is how, within a metropolis of about 2.5 million people, he and his collaborator, Rod MacVicar, both of the Pacific Wildlife Foundation, would often be all alone with nature. During the transects, Butler and MacVicar take notes of seabirds and marine mammals, both unusual and uncommon species. The idea is to provide, perhaps by early 2019, user-friendly, online information on the annual movements of various species, incorporating mapping work done by Bird Studies Canada. Larry Pynn reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Forbidden island
To the northwest of Vancouver Island, long past the giant cedars and rainforests and on the precipice of the continental shelf, lies one of the most remote and vulnerable places in Canada. Hard to find on any map, it’s actually one of the most densely populated places on the B.C. coast — if you happen to be a seabird. Triangle Island, which is 45 kilometres from the northern tip of Vancouver Island and named for its roughly geometric shape, is home to about two million birds that fly in every spring and summer to breed. Chris Corday reports. (CBC)

Bitumen spill would harm swimming performance of migrating B.C. salmon: study
Salmon migrating through rivers and streams in British Columbia use all their strength, but new research says even tiny amounts of diluted bitumen weaken their chances of making it back to spawn. Exposure to diluted bitumen hinders the swimming performance of salmon, causes their heart muscle to stiffen and damages their kidneys, Sarah Alderman, a post-doctorate researcher at the University of Guelph, said in an interview. "We're seeing changes from molecules up to what the organ actually looks like. All of this is affecting how they can actually swim." Bitumen has the consistency of crumbling asphalt and doesn't flow freely like oil. It needs to be diluted with another petroleum product for it to flow through pipelines. Dirk Meissner reports. (Canadian Press)

The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels Gains Momentum
Tuesday should have been a day of unmitigated joy for America’s oil and gas executives. The new G.O.P. tax bill treats their companies with great tenderness, reducing even further their federal tax burden. And the bill gave them something else they’ve sought for decades: permission to go a-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But, around four in the afternoon, something utterly unexpected began to happen. A news release went out from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, saying that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels. The state, Cuomo said, would be “ceasing all new investments in entities with significant fossil-fuel-related activities,” and he would set up a committee with Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, to figure out how to “decarbonize” the existing portfolio. Cuomo’s office even provided a handy little Twitter meme of the type that activists often create: it showed three smoke-belching stacks and the legend “New York Is Divesting from Fossil Fuels.” The pension fund under Albany’s control totals two hundred billion dollars, making it one of the twenty largest pools of money on Earth. Bill McKibben reports. (The New Yorker)

Keystone Spill Likely Caused By Construction Damage, Investigators Say
Federal investigators say that construction damage was likely to blame for an oil spill earlier this month from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota. The Keystone Pipeline is a 2,687-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it then splits, with one portion running to Illinois and the other to Texas. It is owned by TransCanada, the same firm that is seeking to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The spill happened on rural farmland near the small community of Amherst, S.D., and was initially estimated to have released some 210,000 gallons of crude. Federal investigators say that they now have an “unconfirmed lower spill estimate,” without specifying how much. Merrit Kennedy reports. (NPR)

Tribes, environmental groups likely to unite behind carbon tax initiative for 2018
A rift between leaders of two influential tribes and an environmental group is on the mend, likely resulting in a muscular coalition behind a 2018 ballot measure to create a statewide tax on carbon emissions. Representatives from the Quinault Indian Nation and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington said Thursday their tribes expect to join the efforts of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy after the group tweaked its original plan for combating climate change. The move is a reversal from earlier this year, when the same tribes announced they would split from the alliance and run their own ballot measure if the blocs could not reconcile their visions for a carbon tax. That could have fractured supporters and lowered the chances of either measure being approved. Walker Orenstein reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

Port of Seattle Commission Becomes First U.S. Port with 10-Year Goal to Transition to Sustainable Aviation Fuels 
The Port of Seattle Commission became the first United States airport operator to set a specific timetable and goals for reducing the use of fossil fuels and transitioning all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to commercially competitive sustainable aviation fuels. In a motion, the Commission called for a minimum of 10 percent of available jet fuel to be produced locally from sustainable sources within ten years, increasing to 50 percent by 2050. (AviationPros)

Brain Drain At the EPA
More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Donald Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration. Of the employees who have quit, retired or taken a buyout package since the beginning of the year, more than 200 are scientists. An additional 96 are environmental protection specialists, a broad category that includes scientists as well as others experienced in investigating and analyzing pollution levels. Nine department directors have departed the agency as well as dozens of attorneys and program managers. Most of the employees who have left are not being replaced. The departures reflect poor morale and a sense of grievance at the agency, which has been criticized by Trump and top Republicans in Congress as bloated and guilty of regulatory overreach. That unease is likely to deepen following revelations that Republican campaign operatives were using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of emails from EPA officials suspected of opposing Trump and his agenda. Lisa Friedman, Marina Affo and Derek Kravitz report. (New York Times and ProPublica)

Old-Growth Forests Can Provide Last Refuge For Declining Songbirds As Climate Changes
A new study from Oregon State University scientists finds that old-growth forests could be an important refuge for songbirds in the face of climate change. Lead author and ecologist Matt Betts tracked songbird populations in different kinds of forests – including old growth and mature tree plantations. “We asked whether or not those declines could be mediated by what forest type is out there.  And the old growth-associated landscapes tended to show reduced declines in the face of warming,” he said. The birds, the Wilson’s and hermit warblers, have been in steady decline over the past three decades, especially in areas where average summertime temperatures have risen. Jes Burns reports. (OPB/EarthFix)

Proposed plan would relocate mountain goats to North Cascades
Those exploring the high altitudes of the North Cascades may see mountain goats more often if a proposed plan is approved. The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, along with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and area tribes, have proposed relocating hundreds of goats from the Olympic Mountains to the North Cascades beginning as early as mid-2018. The plan aims to boost recovery of the species in the North Cascades. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Judge Weighs Arguments in Legislative Records Case
Whether or not individual lawmakers in Washington state fall under statutory definitions that would require their records to be subject to more stringent public disclosure was at the heart of a two-hour hearing Friday in a case brought by a coalition of news organizations. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese peppered attorneys for both the Washington Legislature and the media with numerous questions, trying to pin down why lawmakers believe they don't have to turn over records ranging from daily calendars to work emails, and whether tweaks to state statutes over the years actually did exempt lawmakers, as they now say. "I think you can tell by my questioning that I am somewhat skeptical that legislative offices are not subject to the public records act," Lanese said. Rachel La Corte reports. (Associated Press)

Now, your tug weather--
West Entrance U.S. Waters Strait Of Juan De Fuca-  907 PM PST Mon Dec 25 2017  
TUE
 E wind 10 kt or less. Wind waves 1 ft or less. W swell  6 to 7 ft at 13 seconds.
TUE NIGHT
 SE wind 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 2 ft or less. W swell  5 ft at 11 seconds. Rain likely.

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