Thursday, February 7, 2019

2/7 Catshark, seal harvest, warm year, Green New Deal, wildfire smoke, tidal boundary suit, oyster pesticide, Columbia dams, whale watching rules, orca med care, NW Forest Plan, fish pen permit, seabird deaths, sewage spill

Brown catshark [NOAA Okeanos Explorer]
Brown Catshark Apristurus brunneus
The brown catshark ranges from British Columbia, Canada to northern Baja California, Mexico, and probably south to Panama, Ecuador, and Peru.  They are found on the outer continental shelf and upper slope over muddy or sandy bottoms in water depths from 33 to 950 m (108-3,116 ft). Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the outer Washington coast with otter and midwater trawls.  (WDFW)

B.C. First Nations to harvest seals for toxin tests, build industry
If local harbour seals are fit to eat, they could soon find themselves on the menu in fancy restaurants from Montreal to Beijing and beyond. First Nations hunters and fishermen up and down B.C.’s coast are being asked to harvest seals for lab tests that will determine if they are safe for human consumption. The Pacific Balance Pinniped Society is asking for samples of liver, heart, flesh and blubber for laboratory testing with an eye to selling into markets hungry for seal and sea lion meat in North America, Europe and Asia. Many coastal First Nations are already entitled to hunt seals and sea lions under their Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy agreements with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said society director Thomas Sewid. Randy Shore reports. (Vancouver Sun)

It’s Official: 2018 Was the Fourth Warmest Year on Record 
NASA scientists announced Wednesday that the Earth’s average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth highest in nearly 140 years of record-keeping and a continuation of an unmistakable warming trend. The data means that the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001. The quickly rising temperatures over the past two decades cap a much longer warming trend documented by researchers and correspond with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. John Schwartz and Nadja Popovich report. (NY Times)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline
Whether it’s a deadly cold snap or a hole in an Antarctic glacier or a terrifying new report, there seem to be constant reminders now of the dangers that climate change poses to humanity. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., think they have a start to a solution. Thursday they are introducing a framework defining what they call a “Green New Deal” — what they foresee as a massive policy package that would remake the U.S. economy and, they hope, eliminate all U.S. carbon emissions. That’s a really big — potentially impossibly big — undertaking. Danielle Kurtzleben reports. (NPR)

Expect every year to be 'awful': Experts weigh how to protect B.C. public from wildfire smoke
If the last few years are any indication, wildfire smoke is becoming a fact of life in B.C. — and with that comes the inevitable questions about how it's affecting our health. As it turns out, the experts still have nearly as many questions as average British Columbians. On Wednesday, scientists from across North America gathered in Vancouver at a workshop organized by the B.C. Lung Association to share what they've learned so far and what they still need to figure out. One message came out loud and clear — the changing climate means we can expect longer and more severe fire seasons in the future, and we need to do what we can to protect public health. Bethany Lindsay reports. (CBC)

Federal judge refuses to dismiss Puget Sound lawsuit against US Corps of Engineers
A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an attempt by the US Army Corps of Engineers to dismiss a lawsuit challenging their refusal to protect vulnerable shoreline along the Puget Sound. The lawsuit deals with tidal jurisdiction boundaries. A key aspect in this dispute is the measurement of high tide along the coast of the Puget Sound in Washington state. The Seattle District of the Corps uses the “mean higher high water” as a high tide line marker, but this level marker is alleged to be out of date according to more recent data. In fact, 25 percent of high tides exceed the current measure of high tide. Additionally, the use of this measurement is inconsistent with other West Coast Corps districts. The measure of high tide is relevant for the region because of ongoing shoreline armoring. According to the Clean Water Act, shoreline armoring projects require a permit if they are located below the high tide line. Due to the inaccurate tide measurement, armoring projects are being undertaken without proper review. Stephanie Sundier reports. (Jurist)

Environmental groups try to block pesticide use for oysters
Environmental and public health groups are again trying to block the spraying of a controversial pesticide on oyster and clam beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The state Ecology Department has blocked the use of the neurotoxic pesticide imidacloprid on the beds, but shellfish growers have appealed that decision to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board. Meanwhile, three bills in the Legislature would allow the spraying. State and federal officials say that mounting evidence shows the pesticide poses too great a risk to the environment because it kills invertebrates, including Dungeness crab. The oyster growers say they need it to kill native burrowing shrimp that destroy the shellfish beds. The Center for Food Safety, Western Environmental Law Center, Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Center for Biological Diversity this week filed papers seeking to intervene in the appeal before the Pollution Control Hearings Board. (Associated Press)

EPA ices Washington state’s effort to regulate hot water in Columbia, Snake rivers
A move to initiate state regulation of salmon-killing hot water in the Columbia and Snake rivers has been iced by the Trump Administration — for now. The state Department of Ecology has initiated a public comment process on draft permits that would enable it to enforce state water-quality standards at federal dams, including temperature. But on Friday night the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to the department to announce it is yanking the draft permits that were underview. That has the effect of stopping, at least for now, Ecology’s effort to for the first time initiate enforcement of its water quality standards at federal dams. Ecology was surprised by the move and is seeking more information — and not backing down. Lynda Makes reports. (Seattle Times)

Views clash as Legislature considers de facto ban on orca whale watching
A bill to shield endangered Puget Sound orca whales from noise and other disruptions caused by vessel traffic got a first hearing in Olympia on Tuesday. The most controversial piece of the proposed legislation would implement a temporary, de facto ban on Southern Resident whale watching.  Upon passage, House Bill 2580 would immediately double the distance all vessels must maintain from the southern residents, from 200 to 400 yards. It also would require a lower speed limit of 7 knots within half a nautical mile of the whales. It would establish a four-year restriction on commercial whale watch vessels, requiring that they stay at least 650 yards away — effectively banning whale watching of the Southern Residents until Jan. 1, 2023. Members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association are opposed to the bill. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX) See also: Whale watchers need to stay farther away from endangered orcas, legislators propose  John Ryan reports. (KUOW)

When should medical experts intervene to save a killer whale?
The death of a young female orca in September has sparked a discussion of how and whether scientists should step in with medical care for distressed animals in the wild. Medical intervention has become routine for some endangered mammals, but scientists say Puget Sound’s resident orcas present a series of unique challenges and ethical questions. In part one of our two-part series The Orca Docs we look at how scientists are preparing to treat endangered southern resident orcas that face starvation and risks of disease. Chris Dunagan reports. (Salish Sea Currents)

So Far, Northwest Forest Plan Falling Short Of Biodiversity Goals
The Northwest Forest Plan was a groundbreaking policy to ensure wildlife habitat would not be lost to intensive logging in the western parts of Oregon, Washington and California. Now 25 years in, a new study shows it’s still a good ways off from achieving those goals. The research out of Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service examined long-term data on bird species that use different forest types, like old growth and less mature, open-canopy areas referred to as “early seral” forests. Bird populations are closely tied to these specific habitats and can be used by scientists to gauge biodiversity. Unhealthy bird populations often mean overall biodiversity is suffering as well. With the Northwest Forest Plan’s (NWFP) focus on preserving and increasing the acreage of mature forests, researchers expected the birds that use these habitats to increase accordingly. But the data showed bird populations are still declining. Jes Burns reports. (OPB)

Locals weigh in on permits for Atlantic salmon farms
As the state works to finish new water quality permits for the remaining Atlantic salmon farms in area waters, a few locals took the opportunity this week to weigh in. About 15 community members attended a public hearing Tuesday in Anacortes, and state Department of Ecology water quality spokeswoman Colleen Keltz said three commented on the draft permits for fish farms near Hope Island and Bainbridge Island.... The state Department of Natural Resources revoked leases for the Cypress Island facility and another farm near Port Angeles, and the Legislature approved phasing out Atlantic salmon farms by 2022. Until the remaining farms close in 2022, Ecology is responsible for regulating water quality through the permits. The permits are open to public comment through Feb. 25. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Dutch mystery of '20,000 seabird deaths' on coast
Scientists are trying to find out why some 20,000 guillemots have died in recent weeks along the Dutch coast. The birds were all emaciated and there are fears they may have been victims of a spill from the MSC Zoe container ship, from which some 345 containers fell in the sea during a storm. "There's no smoking gun, but we're looking into it," says Mardik Leopold, who is investigating the deaths. (BBC)

19,400 gallons of wastewater spill into Puget Sound
Officials say about 19,400 of gallons of wastewater spilled into Puget Sound after the Richmond Beach Pump Station in Shoreline lost power. King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks says a winter storm-related power outage Monday morning at the pump station led to wastewater flowing into Puget Sound for about 20 minutes. A King County wastewater operator was able to reset pump operations. (Associated Press)

Now, your tug weather--

West Entrance U.S. Waters Strait Of Juan De Fuca-  311 AM PST Thu Feb 7 2019   
 E wind 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 2 ft. W swell 5 ft at  14 seconds. 
 E wind to 10 kt. Wind waves 1 ft or less. W swell 6 ft  at 14 seconds. A slight chance of rain after midnight.

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