News: Blog

Protecting Juvenile Chinook Salmon from PBDEs

Chinook salmon in the Snohomish Estuary are being exposed to a harmful contaminant called PBDE and it’s impacting their health. PBDEs are mostly banned, and the Everett Water Pollution Control Facility has worked to remove it from our wastewater, but more can be done.

Research has shown that young Chinook from the Snohomish Estuary have harmful levels of PBDEs in their systems. This contributes to the reduction of salmon population numbers which are a vital food supply for Southern Resident Killer Whales, can reduce the opportunities for fishing, and impacts cultural practices related to salmon.

Long Live the Kings, along with others, is asking the Washington State Department of Ecology to strengthen environmental protections against PBDEs and protect our Chinook populations. We have submitted a letter to the Department of Ecology as they review a permit that could be updated to include solutions that better protect salmon and other marine life.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • PBDEs are a class of flame retardant that are largely banned, but still exist on older products and certain industries have exemptions for continued use.
  • PBDEs are not being adequately removed from wastewater by industrial users or from the Everett Water Pollution Control Facility despite substantial efforts from the city wastewater managers.
  • PBDEs are ending up in our waterways and into aquatic species.
  • Research is finding harmful levels of PBDEs in young Chinook from the Snohomish Estuary.
  • Chinook are not accumulating as many PBDEs when they are higher upstream.
  • Chinook are listed under the Endangered Species Act and are an important food source for critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
  • A draft permit that could help strengthen environmental protections against PBDEs and other pollutants is up for review with the Washington State Department of Ecology.

DIG DEEPER INTO THE ISSUE

Recent research conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in association with the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project has found a contaminant called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in young Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. These contaminants in the Snohomish estuary have been linked to wastewater from the City of Everett Wastewater Treatment Facility. As the PBDEs accumulate in the juvenile Chinook salmon, it increases their susceptibility to disease, alters their hormone production, and decreases their chance for survival.

PBDEs are a long-lasting class of flame retardant used since the 1970s in consumer and industrial products including textiles, polyurethane foam, wire insulation, and plastics. By the end of 2013, the use of PBDEs in new products was largely phased out, but many older products and some new products continue to release PBDEs into the environment which make their way through our city pipes, through our wastewater treatment plants and eventually into our waterways and Puget Sound.

The City of Everett has been responsive and has demonstrated their dedication to protecting salmon through transparency and voluntary action. The Department of Ecology has also responded quickly and investigated the issue in more depth. Research from both parties has confirmed a PBDE “hotspot” near the City of Everett’s “015 outfall” in the Snohomish estuary and that PBDEs are originating from the City of Everett’s wastewater users and subsequently discharged into public waters by the City of Everett’s Water Pollution Control Facility.

Learn more about PBDEs and our research on their impact on salmon in the Salish Sea here.

We have submitted a public comment and are urging the permit to be strengthened by:

  • Ensuring a transparent and robust pretreatment program through specific requirements.
  • Using the City of Everett’s Water Pollution Control Facility to minimize PDBE discharge, especially during the Chinook outmigration period (February-July with the peak in April and May).
  • Assessing progress using ongoing Chinook sampling and analysis from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Investigating the potential for more advanced treatment to better control the discharge of PBDEs and other pollutants.
  • Minimizing costs associated with PBDE pollution being shouldered by the least willing to pay.

Read the letter we submitted for public comment.

Feature

Student Research Spotlight: State of Possession Sound

By Sophia DiCarlo, Digital Content Writer/Editor, foundry10 

On June 8, first- and second-year Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) students gathered with their classmates and families at Everett Community College’s Waterfront Center to present their research as a part of the eleventh annual Possession Sound Student Showcase and Talks (PSSST)

ORCA is an innovative early college academy where students can earn up to two years of college credit while completing their high school graduation requirements. Most ORCA students graduate with an associate degree in addition to a high school diploma from their sponsoring high school. foundry10 is proud to partner with ORCA and support student-led research projects. 

The well-attended event included two poster presentation sessions and three oral presentation panels focused on research questions related to the greater Possession Sound area. ORCA founder and educator Ardi Kveven shared that the goal of this event is to give students the opportunity to explore this region and what interests them about it while also gaining comfort working with data and presenting their research to a larger audience.

ORCA students also have the opportunity to present this research at other scientific conferences, including the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, and Puget Sound Environmental Monitoring Program

The poster presentation sessions included first-year students sharing research questions guided by their curriculum and data they used from ORCA’s State of Possession Sound (SOPS) project. Their presentation topics ranged from water temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll values to plankton presence and abundance over time and in different locations in Possession Sound.

Elise Foot Puchalski

First-year students gave two- to three-minute summaries of their projects to attendees. They eagerly answered any follow-up questions and shared real-world applications sourced from their data, such as tracing the impacts of increased algae blooms on the food chain. 

The oral presentations were given by second-year ORCA students who ask and investigate their own original research questions. Each student gave a five-minute presentation sharing the inspiration for their project, how they collected their research, and what they learned from the process. Students’ Possession Sound projects covered topics including water chemistry, currents, underwater noise, biology, and more. 

Abby Searle

Abby Searle 

Second-year student Abby Searle presented about seasonal diet shifts in river otters at the mouth of the Snohomish River. This project required Abby to routinely collect and analyze otter scat to better understand what their diets were composed of. She was surprised to find a larger percentage of crustaceans in the diet samples, as opposed to a dominant source fish as she originally expected. There were even a couple weeks where Styrofoam made an appearance in the samples she collected. 

After her sample collection and analysis were completed, Abby shared that preparing for this presentation allowed her to gain confidence in her public speaking skills. “It’s definitely something that I can carry along with me—realizing that I can do it, even if it’s hard and takes a lot of practice. But at the end of the day, I can do it.” 

Abby credits the supportive staff at ORCA for helping her put together her project and developing her presentation skills. “I genuinely don’t know if there is a place I could feel more supported just because I could walk into any of their offices, ask a question, and come out satisfied with the answer. Or if they don’t know, they’ll help me figure it out, and they’re just so willing to be a part of my research, but also step back and let me do it and figure things out by myself.” 

foundry10 was excited to partner with ORCA and support student data collection for their research projects. To learn more about ORCA, visit their website. To learn more about foundry10 research, programs, and events visit foundry10.org.

Herring illustrations show ancient techniques meeting modern science

This winter marks our third field season working with the Nisqually Indian Tribe on innovative research into herring populations. The study combines Indigenous knowledge with contemporary scientific methodology. We use a traditional practice of collecting herring roe on evergreen boughs alongside genetic analysis and habitat surveys. As with a lot of marine science, the most interesting parts of this study happen underwater. We were thrilled to be able to work with artist Rosemary Connelli to illustrate the process! These two infographic posters show the relationship between herring and salmon survival, and how this project uses Indigenous techniques to support research and recovery. Click the download links below to access PDF versions.

Infographic titled "Pacific Herring and Salmon Recovery"
Download Herring and Salmon Recovery Poster PDF
Studying Herring: Indigenous Knowledge at Work infographic
Download Studying Herring: Indigenous Knowledge At Work PDF

LLTK joins research network modeling Puget Sound ecosystems

Long Live the Kings is part of a new collaborative project led by the Puget Sound Institute to create the Puget Sound Integrated Modeling Framework (PSIMF). PSIMF will bring together five separate models of Puget Sound, helping scientists and planners understand the complex puzzle pieces of our region’s ecosystems from ocean to mountaintops.

Press Release: New Project Forecasts Future of Puget Sound

Funded in part by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, PSIMF will enable better regional planning and decision-making by providing a cohesive picture of the entire Puget Sound ecosystem. Components of the integrated framework will model land cover, freshwater, marine, food web and human activity. Hem Nalini Morzaria Luna, a researcher with Long Live the Kings, works with the Atlantis Ecosystem Model to study the Puget Sound food web. This research is key to ongoing work from the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project to understand how factors at the base of the food web – including the influence of climate change – ripple up to affect salmon and other predators like orcas. By combining Atlantis with the four other models, PSIMF provides a powerful tool for shaping the path to salmon recovery as part of a sustainable future for Puget Sound.

Read more on PSIMF and the power of data-driven modeling from Puget Sound Institute.

Aerial photo looking down onto a stormwater filtration system, a square black box on a wooden platform with long green pipes running from the highway guardrail and extending into a grassy field. Shrubs in brown and orange fall foliage surround the pipe from the roadway.

Piloting a New Way to Manage Stormwater in Ohop Valley

In the late 1800s, settlers converted the Ohop Valley to pastures and farm fields, turning a once meandering Ohop Creek into a straight-flowing ditch to drain the valley for dairy farming. The process drastically transformed the landscape, reducing its ability to provide spawning and rearing habitat for historical salmon populations, including chum, pink, coho, and Chinook salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout.  As a major tributary to the Nisqually, the loss of this habitat was detrimental to these salmon and has contributed to decreased populations and the listing of Chinook and steelhead as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Substantial work has been done to address the historic habitat degradation, however new science points to another more modern threat to salmon recovery.

Over the past 15 years, watershed partners have worked together to implement the Lower Ohop Creek Restoration Project, transforming the lower section of Ohop Creek and the surrounding valley, converting it back to what it looked like prior to settlement. Completed over two phases of construction, over 2 miles of Ohop Creek have been remeandered, derelict structures and invasive plant species removed, and large woody debris placed throughout the valley floor.  As part of the restoration, nearly 200,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted across 180 acres of floodplain. 

The restoration of Ohop Creek is a major step in recovering Nisqually salmon, but stormwater pollution that comes of off roadways has been recently identified as a major threat to recovery. Some of the harmful components of stormwater include heavy metals and microscopic tire particles. Traffic volume along Highway 7, which crosses Ohop Creek near the Town of Eatonville, has been on the rise due to population growth of the Puget Sound region resulting in more of these chemicals entering Ohop Creek. According to Washington State’s Department of Transportation’s 2019 annual average daily traffic data, assuming four tires per vehicle, roughly 12 pounds of microscopic tire particles are released at this site throughout the year. Scientists have recently discovered that these tire dust particles contain a chemical known as 6PPD-Quinone, which causes mortality in salmon, especially coho, in low quantities.  The Nisqually Indian Tribe and Long Live the Kings have partnered with Cedar Grove, an environmental solutions company, to pilot a mobile biofiltration system designed specifically to capture and filter stormwater run-off from Highway 7.  

Photo from ground level showing white plastic gutter running alongside a low guardrail by the side of a rural highway with grass and trees around it.
A gutter system collected stormwater runoff from Highway 7, feeding into the filtration unit.

In January 2022, the unit was installed between the two bridge crossings along Highway 7, in close proximity to Ohop Creek.  The size of the unit allows for the collection of 91% of the roadway run-off. With each significant rain event, the system automatically collects water quality samples at three locations:  where the run-off enters the filtration system, the middle of the system, and at the outlet where the water is discharged onto the Ohop Creek floodplain. The water samples allow researchers to test the effectiveness of Cedar Grove’s system at removing harmful contaminants. These samples are tested for their chemical and toxicological composition, including heavy metals, ammonia, dissolved organic carbon, total suspended solids, nitrates, nitrites, total phosphorus, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s). Additionally, the composite samples are shared with Washington State University to assess biological impacts and University of Washington’s Tacoma Campus to test for 6PPD and 6PPD-Quinone. 

A group of people stand around the edge of grassy clearing surrounded by young trees. Large green pipes bent at right angles extend from a large container in front of them. A man in a black shirt and baseball hat stands between the pipes talking to the group.

The biofiltration system is mobile, relatively inexpensive, and scalable for different stormwater filtration needs.  If the system can safely remove harmful chemicals and prevent them from polluting salmon streams, don’t be surprised if you see the use of this system become widespread.  In the very near future, stormwater filtration systems will go hand in hand with habitat restoration as a principal salmon recovery tool.  

Fall 2022 Update:

By the end of April, the Ohop biofiltration system had encountered two significant rain events. As of November, preliminary data analysis shows positive signs that this system is effective at reducing heavy metals, water toxicity, and 6PPD-quinone to levels that are not detrimental to salmon. We hope to continue this study and look forward to sharing more results as they are available!

Learn more from the Northwest Treaty Tribes here.

Come along on a tour of the project site (via LLTK’s Instagram)!

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Authors: Ashley Von Essen is the Lead Entity Coordinator at the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Ashley Bagley is a Project Manager at Long Live the Kings. This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Yil-Me-Hu, the Nisqually Watershed Salmon Recovery newsletter. Read the full issue here.

Project partners include: Nisqually Indian Tribe, Long Live the Kings, Cedar Grove, Fremont Analytical, Herrera Environmental Consultants, Nisqually Land Trust, University of Washington at Tacoma, Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State University at Puyallup.

Financial support for this project was provided by: Nisqually Indian Tribe, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund, Royal Bank of Canada, Sustainable Path Foundation, and Washington Sea Grant. 

Collage of four photos overlaid with blue and green filters. The first shows an aerial view of a green stormwater filtration unit in a forested wetland next to a highway. Second shows a pier extending over the water with a yellow boom and pilings underneath. Third image shows green outflow pipes on grass. Fourth image shows a group of people in vests and hard hats overlooking a waterfront construction site.

What is blue-green infrastructure?

Every day we benefit from the natural environment around us. These benefits, called ecosystem services, have not always been acknowledged in urban planning. However, in recent years there have been efforts to strategically draw on nature to deliver benefits that fall under the umbrella of “blue-green infrastructure” (BGI). This term can have many definitions, but in its broadest form these are natural and semi-natural areas with land (“green”) and water (“blue”) features designed to manage and deliver ecosystem services. Sometimes these are just referred to as “green infrastructure,” but the recent addition of “blue” makes the central role of water in ecosystem services more explicit. So, what does BGI look like on the ground? You may already have some BGI features in your own backyard! 

At the residential home scale, this can look like catching rain in rain barrels for irrigation in the dry season, controlling driveway run-off with natural mini wetlands (rain gardens), or planting more trees to shade the home, lower temperatures and reduce run-off. At a much larger scale, Hamburg, Germany launched a Green Roof Strategy with an ambitious goal to “green” at least 247 acres of rooftops in the city within one decade, to regulate temperatures and mitigate water runoff. Across the globe in the Yangtze River Delta of China, they are planning a 250-acre eco-corridor to transform an industrial area of Ningbo into a “living filter” with canals that mimic a floodplain, habitat for native plants and animals, and recreational, educational and cultural facilities. In cities and neighborhoods, these examples of blue-green infrastructure are addressing the impacts of climate change, such as floods and droughts, through water conservation, groundwater recharge, and reduced surface runoff.  

Find out how to create your own rain garden with help from 12,000 Rain Gardens in Puget Sound.

A containerized compost biofiltration unit capturing roadway runoff before it reaches Ohop Creek in the winter of 2022.

Salmon here in the Pacific Northwest can also benefit from BGI practices. For example, BGI approaches to stormwater management can be used to keep rainwater from overwhelming sewer systems, which can contaminate the water and harm salmon in nearby waterways. In particular, runoff from highways has recently been linked to sudden death of coho salmon that were exposed to 6PPD-quinone, a toxic compound resulting from car tire wear. Studies are now underway to see how blue-green infrastructure can be used to address this issue. LLTK is working with the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Herrera, and Cedar Grove in Ohop Creek to test the use of a compost-based media, in a process called biofiltration, to filter out contaminants from roadway runoff. During the pilot project in early 2022, we collected stormwater samples to evaluate the performance of the biofiltration system at a site along a salmon-bearing stream. Biofiltration is usually used in bioswales or other systems permanently built into an environment. The system we used in this pilot project is mobile and containerized so the project team can easily remove the contaminated biofiltration media when necessary, making it a more flexible tool.   

See more of the Ohop Stormwater Pilot in the Nisqually Salmon Recovery newsletter Yil-Me-Hu.

In the lower Duwamish River, the ship building company Vigor has partnered with LLTK and the University of Washington to assess a blue-green infrastructure project designed to create natural, estuarine habitat for salmon at Vigor’s shipyard on Harbor Island. This is an atypical “restoration” project, since Vigor is actually creating natural habitat on an artificial island that was built in the early 1900s to support industrial activities. The project goal is to create functional habitat that benefits salmon as they migrate out to the ocean through the Duwamish estuary. These pockets of habitat in an otherwise industrial landscape could provide rest stops for salmon during migration. The project is currently in the habitat construction phase, and the University of Washington and LLTK will assess the outcomes for salmon in 2024 and 2025. If the results show that salmon are using the habitat for resting and feeding, it will be a good indication that more “salmon rest stops” could help salmon in the Duwamish estuary.

Read more about the Vigor Urban Estuary Restoration.

Photo of a group of people in green safety vests and white hardhats, gathered in front of a large yellow Caterpillar excavator at a construction site on a sunny day. The water and cranes of Seattle's working waterfront are in the background.
Construction of new salmon habitat underway at Vigor in 2021.

LLTK seeks to better understand how we can use BGI in the Puget Sound to improve the health of our salmon populations. We’ll keep you posted on the outcomes of these BGI projects! 

Shaara Ainsley is a senior project manager at Long Live the Kings.

Survive the Sound 2022: take part in a death-defying migration

Post-Race Info Session: Join LLTK scientists to go behind the scenes after the 2022 Survive the Sound race!

Survive the Sound returns with new ways to experience salmon & steelhead migration

For immediate release: 4/27/22

Seattle – Thousands of salmon lovers in Puget Sound and beyond are signing up for the 6th annual Survive the Sound, a virtual race to the ocean that invites players to experience life – and maybe death – from the perspective of a young steelhead. 

Graphic with a blue background reading "Pick from 48 fishy competitors", with the 48 colorful cartoon fish in 2022's Survive the Sound.

From May 2nd through 6th, participants watch on an interactive map as their fish embarks on a harrowing journey – avoiding predators, fighting disease, and navigating obstacles – on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Survive the Sound participants have until May 1st to pick their fish, build a team, and invite friends, family, coworkers, and classmates to race, competing to win a Grand Prize for the teams with the most surviving fish.

This free, interactive science game, based on migration data from real fish, is offered each spring by salmon recovery nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) to engage and educate the public about salmon and steelhead. Each of the race’s 48 creative fish avatars, most designed by artist Jocelyn Li Langrand, represents a real juvenile steelhead, implanted with an acoustic tag by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study the alarmingly high death rates for these iconic, threatened Puget Sound fish. 

“The threats to species like salmon and steelhead are serious issues, but Survive the Sound is a fun way to get involved in the science and learn that the challenges are solvable,” said Jacques White, Executive Director of Long Live the Kings.  “We created the race to make salmon and salmon recovery accessible and engaging for everybody.”      

Survive the Sound participants have until May 1st to pick their fish, build a team, and invite friends, family, coworkers, and classmates to race. From May 2nd through 6th, participants watch on an interactive map as their fish embarks on a harrowing journey – avoiding predators, fighting disease, and navigating obstacles – on their way to the Pacific Ocean. 

Among the new fish joining the 2022 race are Hank and Cedar, designed by Native artists Jeanette Quintasket (Swinomish) and Paige Pettibon (Confederated Salish and Kootenai). Tribal governments, citizens, and staff are invaluable partners in salmon management and conservation in the Pacific Northwest and have provided integral support to Survive the Sound since the game began.  This year, LLTK has partnered with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and nonprofit Salmon Defense, with funding support from the Snoqualmie Tribe, to share resources on Tribes and salmon, highlighting treaty rights, cultural connections, and the leadership of Tribal communities in stewarding and recovering salmon today.

Cedar and Hank, two fish designed by Native artists, introduce classroom materials on Tribal roles in salmon management and recovery.

“What makes Survive the Sound so exciting is the large number of participants, integrating real data and spatial information about your own little steelhead, and the ability to track how many groups, schools and people participate in the program,” said Alex Gouley, habitat manager and Tribal member with the Skokomish Indian Tribe, who collaborated with LLTK on educational videos about the Tribe’s hatchery and habitat programs. “It’s important to the tribes because if we can enhance the participant’s knowledge of the salmon and habitat conditions then watershed resources will increase in value.”

“Our hope is that these educational materials will help Survive the Sound participants understand the role tribal natural resources managers play in salmon recovery, as well as the tribes’ connection to their ancestral lands,” said Peggen Frank, Salmon Defense Executive Director.

These resources will reach thousands of teachers and students, a core audience of Survive the Sound. This year, the entire Survive the Sound website, including classroom resources, is available in both English and Spanish, thanks to a grant from Boeing. Boeing’s support also funded educator tools exploring a variety of STEM careers, including interviews and live panels with local salmon scientists. Education research organization foundry10 has also contributed new marine science resources, as well as sponsoring this year’s educational Grand Prize of $1,500 for the school or classroom team with the most surviving fish at the end of the 5-day migration. The new lessons join LLTK’s suite of salmon education resources that support learning across multiple subjects, encouraging students of all backgrounds to see themselves as capable scientists, stewards, and advocates for salmon and the environment.

A juvenile steelhead carrying an acoustic tracker as it starts its migration journey.

“We love how approachable this activity is for learners who adopt a salmon,” said Lindsay Holladay Van Damme, Marine Science Program Developer at foundry10. “Just by participating, the questions start to flow out: Why did another salmon make it further than mine? Why did more salmon survive in the next river over? And since it’s all grounded in local data, there is an abundance of resources for educators to facilitate deeper exploration of these real-world questions beyond the game.”

It’s free to sign up for the game, thanks to support from sponsors who see Survive the Sound as a fun and engaging tool to raise awareness about the challenges facing Puget Sound species. Support for Survive the Sound 2022 comes from Boeing, the Snoqualmie Tribe, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Tacoma Public Utilities, Puget Sound Steel, MiiR, Anthony’s Restaurants, foundry10, Puget Sound Express, FOX 13, Pike Place Fish Market, Pike Place Chowder, Montana Banana, Herrera, Environmental Science Associates, Manulife Investment Management, the Stalcup Family, University of Washington, Floyd Snider, BECU, TOTE Maritime, and PCC Community Markets. Participants can also donate to Survive the Sound to support LLTK’s mission to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

About Survive the Sound 2022:

Sign up for free at www.survivethesound.org by May 1.

Migration dates: May 2 – 6

General Public Grand Prize: Free chowder from Pike Place Chowder and a Hood Canal Bridge boat cruise with Puget Sound Express

Classroom Grand Prize: $1,500 educational grant from foundry10 

How Survive the Sound Works

Each year, wild steelhead are caught as they make their way downriver from their birth streams. LLTK and partners implant the fish with tracking devices as part of their larger research efforts to understand juvenile salmonid survival in the Salish Sea. Each tag emits a unique acoustic ping heard by receivers placed underwater throughout Puget Sound. This tracking data can supply locations and sometimes depth and temperature. The steelhead in Survive the Sound represent real fish that were tracked in the past and scientists at LLTK pick a representative sample of 48 fish to include each year. 

Why it Matters

Only about 15% of young steelhead survive their first trek through the waters of Puget Sound. The total number of Puget Sound steelhead at less than one tenth of the historic population and threatened under the Endangered Species Act. With these critically low numbers, the high mortality rate during the juvenile migration period is a key concern. “Unless we can better understand the reasons for steelhead’s decline in Puget Sound and mitigate the threats they face, there is serious concern that steelhead may slip into extinction,” said Jacques White, LLTK’s Executive Director.

Survive the Sound provides scientists with important new data about the steelhead lifecycle, gives the public an opportunity to engage with wild steelhead in a fun and interactive way, and raises essential funds for Long Live the Kings’ salmon and steelhead recovery projects.

To learn more, visit www.survivethesound.org.

About Long Live the Kings: Long Live the Kings is a non-profit salmon recovery organization based in Seattle. Since 1986, LLTK has been working to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo of a large vertical sign reading "RAYS", unlit, silhouetted against the Ballard waterfront with the sun setting behind the Olympic mountains.

Wild About Sustainability at Ray’s Boathouse

With Earth Day around the corner, it’s a great time to renew our commitment to sustainable choices that benefit the planet – and all of us who live here. In this guest post from our partners at Ray’s Boathouse, learn about their work to support sustainable salmon and seafood from the ground up. And if you’d like to pitch in this Earth Day, RSVP to join us on Friday, April 22 to restore Snoqualmie River riparian habitat!

Sustainability and the health of our local waterways has long been an area of focus for the ownership and staff at Ray’s Boathouse. We’ve always worked hard to educate our team about what they are serving, where it came from and how it was caught or harvested. We visit our fisherpeople and other purveyors to see where our product comes from and how they run their businesses.

Since Ray’s current inception in 1973 we have put sustainability at the forefront making sure we purchase fish and seafood from those harvesting humanly and protecting the waters they fish from. Ray’s was one of the first restaurants in Seattle to obtain a wholesale fish buying license that allowed us to buy directly from fisherpeople, and our founding partner Russ Wohlers had direct relationships, often traveling to see operations firsthand. All of this offered transparency—a value we hold dear. We often meet the people who were catching our seafood and see how they were doing it. It is important to know them and understand how we were supporting their businesses and families. 

From the start we knew the importance of sourcing locally and guarding quality. We championed Salmon-Safe certified wine and beer from Washington and Oregon and were early adopters to the farm-to-table and sea-to-plate movements. These not only provide an incredible guest experience but makes our team proud to be part of a company that acts. One example is an incredible Salish Sea Chef’s Dinner we hosted at Ray’s with a group of beloved local chefs dedicated to sustainable seafood.

Nearly five years ago we took our efforts a step further and began partnering with Long Live the Kings to take an even larger role in the welfare of our local salmon runs. Through their deep knowledge and insights, we shifted our focus from one of sustainability to one of growth to ensure our salmon populations increase as our city and infrastructure continues to grow and change.

One shocking fact that stood out to us early in our partnership is that in the early 1980s there were nearly 1,000,000 Chinook salmon harvested here compared to about 200,000 in 2010. This made us want to dive in and ensure our salmon have healthy habitats and estuaries, a vital part of the ecosystem. We want to get back to the point where fisherpeople can sustainably harvest salmon from the Salish Sea as they did decades before.

Bottom line is that we do our best to ensure that our seafood comes from good people, good communities and will be sustainable. To achieve that we continue to evolve and listen to experts like Jacques White and the LLTK team about how we can help amplify their message and support their efforts. 

On this Earth Day we encourage you to do the same. What can you do to help local salmon and steelhead thrive? Donate money (no amount is too small), volunteer for field work (here’s the Ray’s team cutting blackberry bushes and planting new shrubs along riverbanks), attend an LLTK event, share a social media post, raise your voice—it all matters and it all helps keep the momentum moving in the right direction.

Douglas Zellers is the general manager and co-owner of Ray’s Boathouse on the Ballard waterfront in Seattle.

Three people stand in a concrete hatchery pond holding the top of a net. On the far edge, a group of schoolchildren watch.

LLTK receives Madrona Club grant from the Robin DiGeorgio Endowment

The Madrona Club of Orcas Island has awarded Long Live the Kings a $5,000 grant through the Robin DiGeorgio Endowment Fund, to support our Glenwood Springs Hatchery programs. The Endowment funds charitable and educational endeavors on Orcas Island in memory of Robin DiGeorgio, a long-time Orcas Island resident, artist, and Madrona Club president, whose legacy continues to positively impact her community. Long Live the Kings is honored to be among this year’s grantees. 

Glenwood Springs rears Chinook salmon to provide more fish for Southern Resident killer whales and for commercial and recreational fishing. We’re also able to test experimental practices to improve diversity and survival for hatchery-reared salmon. In a current study, we’re collecting data on whether different release timings for juvenile salmon leads to more, larger, and older fish returning to spawn. This research is critically important as our changing climate puts more pressure on the food web and salmon populations throughout the region. Our facility has also helped with efforts to recover Lake Sammamish kokanee from the brink of extinction, providing a protected environment to rear fish from this unique population and returning fertilized eggs back to their home waters.

In addition to our scientific work at Glenwood Springs, the hatchery is also an important part of the Orcas Island community. We’re proud to be a place where volunteers, students, and guests can come together to learn about salmon, practice hands-on stewardship of our natural resources, and build a sustainable future. We’re deeply grateful to the Madrona Club for sharing these values and supporting our hatchery and our fish.

Learn more about Glenwood Springs here.  

For more about LLTK’s hatcheries and the urgent need for science-driven hatchery management, read our 2021 blog post.

Photo of a beach at low tide, with exposed eelgrass lying flat on the sand.

Ecosystem Solutions Made Local: Guidance Document for the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

The 7-year active research phase of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project may have concluded with last year’s publication of the Synthesis Report, but that doesn’t mean the work is finished. Learning what causes Salish Sea salmon to die at alarmingly high rates as they enter the marine environment is just the first step for the SSMSP partners. Our ultimate goal is also to equip managers and decision-makers with science-backed strategies to increase their survival.

In February 2022, we released Local Level Salmon Recovery Recommendations Based on the Findings of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, a guidance document for local salmon recovery organizations in the United States to put these findings into action. LLTK worked with salmon recovery experts at ESA to create this document, in consultation with local salmon recovery organizations and Tribes, as a toolkit to incorporate the SSMSP’s findings into watershed-level planning and projects. The actions target the issues that the SSMSP identified as key limiting factors for marine survival: local marine food supply and predation hotspots, along with strategies to address contaminants, restore estuaries, manage water quantity, and continue essential monitoring and data collection. In combination with regional-scale tools, including regional recovery plans and co-management processes, this resource provides local entities with a roadmap to support ecosystem-wide recovery in ways that best align with local conditions and goals.

Read on for more background about the Local Guidance Document and a link to the full story on ESA’s website:

Developing Local Solutions

ESA’s natural resource specialists have worked with salmon recovery lead entities and the Puget Sound Partnership to integrate adaptive management and updates into salmon recovery plans. With this understanding of fish recovery needs, the collaboration with Long Live the Kings was a natural fit.

The Local Guidance document builds on SSMSP recommendations and presents strategies and actions for local entities to apply at the local scale. It details how groups can address local impacts on marine survival rates by improving fish habitat conditions while limiting predation, enhancing food supplies, and partnering with fellow conservation efforts to accelerate estuary habitat restoration.

“The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project gave us clear evidence that environmental changes, from estuary and nearshore habitat loss to climate shifts, have impacted the entire Puget Sound food web in ways that are limiting the productivity, survival, and fitness of our juvenile salmon,” says Jacques White, Executive Director of Long Live the Kings. “This guidance document translates those findings into management and restoration actions. ESA had both the science and policy expertise that were essential to connect the research to concrete steps. We hope this toolkit provides a timely ecosystem perspective to equip local and regional salmon recovery efforts.”

“The breadth and depth of issues that salmon recovery groups are being asked to tackle continue to grow as we learn more about what it is going to take to recover these species,” notes Senior Conservation Planner Susan O’Neil, who guided the creation of the guidance document.

O’Neil explains that local recovery strategies will need to apply a holistic approach to address the complex interconnectedness of environmental factors that are contributing to the low Chinook, coho, and steelhead numbers in order to increase survival rates and meet recovery goals.

Read the full article on ESA’s website here.

Download the Local Guidance Document for U.S. Entities.