News: Press Releases

New device may keep seals away from the Ballard Locks, giving migrating salmon a better chance at survival

For Immediate Release: 8/26/20 – Seattle, WA 

SUMMARY

A group of partners working to improve salmon stocks have deployed a newly developed device on the west side of the Ballard Locks that uses underwater sound to keep harbor seals away from this salmon migration bottleneck. If effective, the device may help salmon populations in jeopardy by reducing predation without harming marine mammals.

STORY

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oceans Initiative, with support from Long Live the Kings, University of St Andrews, Genuswave, Puget Sound Partnership, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and other partner organizations have deployed a Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology (TAST) on the west side of the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks. The TAST is intended to keep harbor seals away from the fish ladder allowing salmon to reach the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Puget Sound. Seals and sea lions are known to linger at this migration bottleneck and consume large numbers of salmon returning to the spawning grounds. If successful, the device may help recover dwindling salmon runs, without harming marine mammals.

“We are always looking for new innovations to help the environment,” said USACE spokesperson Dallas Edwards. “We are excited to see the results of this study.”

Every salmon and steelhead originating from the Sammamish or Cedar river must pass through the Ballard Locks twice during its life, once as a young smolt and again as an adult. With limited routes to get through the locks, salmon are funneled through a small area. This makes an easy meal for some marine mammals that use this human-made obstacle to their advantage.

Over the past 50 years, observers have also seen a spike in marine mammals near the locks, compounding the significant habitat declines over the past century across the watershed. This combination of factors has led to the lowest returns of salmon and steelhead in history, resulting in fishery closures and populations on the edge of extinction.

During the summer and fall salmon migration, the area is being monitored by scientists from Oceans Initiative, a Seattle-based marine conservation research nonprofit. The scientists are observing marine mammal behavior when the device is on and comparing that with their behavior when the device is off.

“Everyone at Oceans Initiative is excited to see whether this benign use of acoustic technology can protect endangered salmon, without harming seals,” said Laura Bogaard, who is leading data collection at the Locks. “During the first week of observing with the TAST on, it feels like  the seals have shifted away from the fish ladder compared to observation days when the TAST was off. We are keen to see if this observation is also reflected in our data when it comes time for analysis.”

If the device is effective at reducing the presence of marine mammals at the Locks, it may then be deployed at other locations in Puget Sound, giving resource managers a sorely needed tool to prevent marine mammals from consuming large numbers of salmon and steelhead at migration bottlenecks.

Designed at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, the TAST uses sound to startle animals and induce a flight response, causing the animal to leave the area, with the intention of training the animals to keep away altogether. It produces short sounds that are unexpected and startling, but does not lead to hearing damage, as is often the case for other acoustic methods. This helps to maintain its effectiveness much better over time. Recently, a Scotland-based company, Genuswave, brought the device to market after a number of peer-reviewed articles showed positive results.

Prof Vincent Janik, the Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute and one of the developers of the system remarked: “My colleague Thomas Goetz and I came across this very specific acoustic method after testing many commercially available devices and generally aversive sounds on seals. The reactions in our tests were in stark contrast to the habituation we saw in response to all other sounds. Seals avoided the area of exposure more and more over time, even when freely available food was presented next to the device.”

The TAST deployed at the locks is a marked improvement over similar devices used in the past. Some other devices using noise to deter marine mammals have seen very limited success and rely on high-volume sounds that risk damaging the hearing of marine mammals. The TAST being deployed at the Locks emits sound at volumes that do not harm seals or sea lions, and at frequencies outside the hearing range of salmon and other marine mammals, such as orca whales.

Marine mammals are notorious for eating fish at the Locks thanks to Herschel, an 800-pound sea lion that, with other sea lions, was a significant factor contributing to the decline of the nearly extinct steelhead population in the watershed. Almost every strategy available, including other acoustic devices, has been used to separate marine mammals from salmon at the Locks, but none have proven successful. While Herschel hasn’t returned to the locks since the 1980s, other sea lions appear annually, and smaller harbor seals are now seen camping in the fish ladder to intercept returning fish.

If the Locks are reopened this summer to the thousands of tourists who visit each year, they may be able to see the device in action or see scientists observing marine mammals in the area. Operation of the device should not affect visitors to the locks.

The effort to deploy and evaluate the TAST at the locks is made possible through a grant from the Puget Sound Partnership to build on the findings from the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, an international research effort led by the salmon recovery nonprofit, Long Live the Kings and their Canadian co-leaders, the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Other partners have invested time to make this effort possible including, NOAA Fisheries and the Suquamish Tribe.

 

PHOTOS BY LAURA BOGAARD, OCEANS INITIATIVE 

Laura Bogaard, Oceans Initiative, lowering the underwater speaker into the water near the ballard locks.

 

Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.

 

Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.

 

Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.

 

Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.

 

Genuswave Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology (TAST). 

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Laura Bogaard, Oceans Initiative, laura@oceansinitiative.org, (206) 334-4743

ALT: Rob Williams, Oceans Initiative, rob@oceansinitiative.org

 

Lucas Hall, Long Live the Kings, lhall@lltk.org, (206) 382-9555 Ext. 30

 

Prof Vincent Janik, University of St Andrews, vj@st-andrews.ac.uk, +44 1334 467214

 

Southern Resident Killer Whales to Benefit from More Than $700,000 in New Grants

SEATTLE (November 14, 2018) –The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $742,000 in grants to help stabilize and recover the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population through projects on the Skagit and Snohomish rivers, around the San Juan Islands, and throughout the Salish Sea. The grants will generate just over $1 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $1.78 million.

The grants were awarded through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program (KWRCP), a partnership between NFWF, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., Shell Oil Company, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries. These investments directly support recommendations in a September draft report from Southern Resident Orca Task Force appointed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

“While I have not yet received the official recommendations from the Southern Resident Orca Task Force, I have no doubt that the grants announced today are a positive development,” said Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. “One of the clear challenges facing orcas is smaller salmon runs leading to less available prey, and these projects seek to reverse this decline and provide a healthier future for Southern Residents.”

The 74 Southern Resident killer whales prey on salmon and other fish, but especially prefer Chinook salmon. The six grants announced today support projects to increase the production, survival, and size of Chinook salmon from runs that NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have identified as critical to the Southern Resident killer whales.

“Saving this apex species is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation, as the Governor’s task force has made clear,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “It is only through partnerships supporting a comprehensive approach to conservation that we will be able to reverse the decline of this iconic species of the Pacific Northwest.”

These projects include extensive monitoring to learn how fish hatcheries can best produce the largest salmon when and where the whales most need it, while also protecting wild populations from genetic risks. Projects also include habitat restoration to increase rearing habitat for juvenile fish and carrying capacity for the prioritized Chinook runs, some of which are also imperiled by habitat loss and other factors.

“We are extremely grateful for the support of NFWF and our other partners in funding these critical efforts to improve the health of Southern Resident killer whales over the short and long term,” said Scott Rumsey, Deputy Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “The status of the Southern Resident population is critical, and we all must double down on our efforts to recover these whales and repair the ecosystem they depend on. These grants will advance critical monitoring to better understand how we can improve prey availability in the near term, while also investing in habitat restoration and protection needed for the sustainable recovery of the Southern Residents and the greater Salish Sea ecosystem.”

The KWRCP also supports cutting-edge science, including genetic research, acoustic monitoring and vessel surveys. This research will provide managers with the information and tools they need to help killer whales overcome the threats of pollutants and contaminants in the water, noise, vessel traffic, and lack of prey.

“Focusing on both population and habitat protection is crucial in the recovery of these killer whales. Through these partnerships, and the programs they support through the KWRCP, we are able to address the most critical issues facing this population,” said Dr. Christopher Dold, chief zoological officer for SeaWorld. “Conserving oceans and protecting the animals that live there has been at the core of SeaWorld’s mission for more than 50 years, and we’re honored to continue to support these vital conservation efforts.”

Southern Resident killer whales were listed as endangered in 2005, and NOAA Fisheries has highlighted the population as one of eight national “Species in the Spotlight ,” at greatest risk of extinction. While the population of Northern Resident killer whales in British Columbia, which also prey on salmon, is healthy and growing, the 74 Southern Residents have fallen to their lowest number in more than 30 years. The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program works to understand why the population has failed to recover and takes steps identified in the recovery plan to bring this population back from the brink.

“We are proud to be part of this collaborative effort through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support regional research and conservation efforts aimed to support the recovery of a species that is iconic to the Salish Sea and the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest,” said Shirley Yap, Puget Sound Refinery General Manager, Shell Oil Company.

A complete list of the 2018 grants made through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program is available here.

For more information about the Governor’s Task Force, please see this link.

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and generated a conservation impact of more than $4.8 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

About NOAA Fisheries
NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat. We provide vital services for the nation: productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems—all backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management. Find out more at www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov.

About SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., supports two initiatives at the Foundation that focus on coastal and marine resources, the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program and the Ocean Health Initiative. The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program funds efforts to advance the knowledge and conservation of killer whales with a primary focus on activities that aid in the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and the Northern Pacific Resident population. The Ocean Health Initiative works through other Foundation programs to support a portfolio of projects that bolster the health of threatened marine and coastal species and habitats while engaging communities in these conservation efforts. For more information, visit SeaWorldCares.com.

About Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Company is an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell plc, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies with operations in more than 70 countries. In the U.S., Shell operates in 50 states and employs more than 20,000 people working to help tackle the challenges of the new energy future.

Environmental stewardship is one way Shell has continued to share benefits with communities over the past 100 years. Since 1999, Shell has focused our partnerships with many organizations in the U.S. to protect more than 13 million acres of wetlands, clean and remove 600,000 pounds of debris from shoreline, and conserve more than 1.8 million acres of critical habitat.

Originally published on nfwf.org.

Governor Inslee Announces Orca Recovery Task Force

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2018

GOVERNOR INSLEE ANNOUNCES ORCA RECOVERY TASK FORCE

***Statement from Jacques White, Executive Director, Long Live the Kings***

Long Live the Kings is leading a research project to determine why Chinook salmon, a critical component of Orcas’ diet, are dying in Puget Sound.

Contacts:
Jacques White, 206-718-5061, Executive Director, Long Live the Kings
Michael Schmidt, 206-669-7276, Deputy Director, Long Live the Kings

“Governor Inslee’s announcement today recognizes the urgency of our Orcas’ plight – it’s getting harder and harder for Orcas in Puget Sound to find enough salmon to eat, escape noise and traffic, and resist the toxic pollution building up in their bodies.”

“The bad news is that Orcas are in serious trouble and we have a long road ahead to make Puget Sound a safer, healthier place for Orcas. The good news is that the actions needed to help Orcas will improve the overall health of Puget Sound for all of us. Cleaner water, stronger salmon runs, smarter hatchery management and restored natural areas will make Puget Sound a better, more productive place for people as well as Orcas.”

Chinook salmon are a critical component of our resident Orcas’ diet. Driven to help restore Chinook populations that are essential to Orca survival, Long Live the Kings has convened The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project uniting U.S. and Canadian researchers to determine why juvenile Chinook, coho, and steelhead are dying in our combined waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, collectively known as the Salish Sea.

About Long Live the Kings
Long Live the Kings (LLTK) works to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since its founding in 1986, LLTK has combined innovative field work, pioneering science, broad partnerships, and sophisticated new management tools to help decision-makers advance salmon recovery while balancing the needs of fish and people.

Links
https://lltk.org/project/salish-sea-marine-survival-project/
https://davidsuzuki.org/story/orca-survival-depends-protecting-chinook-salmon/

Long Live the Kings Awarded AI for Earth Grant from Microsoft

Long Live the Kings has been awarded a grant from Microsoft as part of its ‘AI for Earth’ program. The grant will be used to power an intensive ecosystem model of Puget Sound.

AI for Earth is a Microsoft program aimed at empowering people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges by increasing access to AI tools and educational opportunities, while accelerating innovation, via the Azure for Research AI for Earth award program, Microsoft provides selected researchers and organizations access to its cloud and AI computing resources to accelerate, improve and expand work on climate change, agriculture, biodiversity and/or water challenges.

Long Live the Kings, a nonprofit with over 30 years of experience recovering wild salmon and steelhead and supporting sustainable fisheries, is among the first grant recipients of AI for Earth, which was first launched in July 2017. The grant process was a competitive and selective process and was awarded in recognition of the potential of the work and power of AI to accelerate progress.

“Microsoft’s Azure platform gives us the capacity, power and speed to rapidly assess impacts to our Puget Sound food web that may ultimately be affecting the salmon we care so much about,” said Long Live the Kings Deputy Director, Michael Schmidt.

The ecological model Azure supports is part of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, a 60 entity, $20 million effort to determine why juvenile salmon are dying in our combine marine waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia. Bolstering marine ecosystem modeling with Azure cloud computing will provide natural resource mangers the opportunity to understand how changes to our ecosystem (pollution, warming waters, etc.) will affect salmon and other key Puget Sound species, such as killer whales and shellfish.

To date, Microsoft has distributed more than 35 grants to qualifying researchers and organizations around the world. Microsoft recently announced their intent to put $50 million over 5 years into the program, enabling grant-making and educational trainings possible at a much larger scale.

More information can be found on these websites:
AI for Earth: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/aiforearth
Long Live the Kings: https://lltk.org/
The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project: https://marinesurvivalproject.com/

Long Live the Kings and Partners Awarded $750K to Address Steelhead Deaths Around Floating Bridge

Approximately 65% of juvenile, out-migrating steelhead that make it to the Hood Canal floating bridge do not make it to Admiralty Inlet, a location just North of the bridge on their migratory route. This high level of mortality may be limiting the species’ recovery, as steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Long Live the Kings (LLTK), a Seattle-based environmental 501(c)(3) nonprofit with 30 years of experience in salmon recovery, is leading a team to pin-point exactly how steelhead are dying in the area and discover if the floating bridge impacts water quality. A $750,000 appropriation in Washington State’s 2017-2018 biennial budget was recently received in support of the current, $2.5 million, phase of the Hood Canal  Bridge Ecosystem Impact Assessment.

LLTK’s Executive Director, Jacques White commented, “Long Live the Kings has been working with our partners from around Hood Canal to address a significant survival bottleneck for our state fish. This project is an example of cooperative work to sustain both the environment and people by leveraging regional expertise and resources to improve wild fish survival without undermining the importance of critical transportation
infrastructure.”

Scott Brewer, Executive Director of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council and a key partner in the project added, “The Hood Canal Coordinating Council works with the community to protect and recover Hood Canal’s environmental, economic, and cultural well being. Recovering wild steelhead populations is an important component of that goal and the recent appropriation to the bridge assessment will help ensure our success.”

Work on phase 1 of the Assessment officially began in late 2016 and will continue into early 2019, taking advantage of two field research seasons. The 2017 research period was successfully completed this summer and scientists are processing data that will provide additional insight. During phase 1, scientists will assess the impact of local predators, light and noise from the bridge, water circulation, and track juvenile steelhead using specially designed devices. The data will help determine cost effective solutions that do not affect the bridge’s transportation functions.

The $750k state appropriation was championed by Senator Christine Rolfes (D-23) and Representative Drew MacEwen (R-35). Through the efforts of LLTK, Hood Canal Coordinating Council, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, state legislators, and others, the appropriation received bipartisan support and was included in the operating budget during a legislative session with a historic number of demands on the State’s funds. Other legislators were also critical to the appropriation’s success, including: Senator Tim Sheldon (D-35), Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-24), Senator Dino Rossi (R-45), Senator Kevin Ranker (D-40), Representative Sherry Appleton (D-23), Representative Drew Hansen (D-23), Representative Steve Tharinger (D-24), Representative Mike Chapman (D-24), and Representative Dan Griffey (R-35). The appropriation added to a pool of federal, private, local, and state funds, which has reached $2.25 million. The remaining need is $250,000.

“We need to know why these fish are disappearing in the vicinity of the bridge and we need to work together to address the changes that may be necessary. The lessons learned from this project may be applicable to bridge infrastructure in other parts of the state and nation, contributing to a healthier marine environment. The legislative delegation from the peninsula region was united in our support of this work,” said Senate Rolfes.

Steelhead are essentially rainbow trout with a life cycle similar to salmon where they return to their stream of origin to spawn after maturing in the ocean. Salmon and steelhead are important cultural resources for local Native American Tribes, they are a fixture in the Pacific Northwest economy and day-to-day life, and are critical to the health of the local environment. The steelhead is also Washington’s state fish.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has fishing areas in Hood Canal which are an important part of their cultural heritage. “Since Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe helped initiate the project in 2012, we’ve made great progress,” said Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s Natural Resource Director, Paul McCollum. “Steelhead are an important tribal resource and we are pleased to see the state’s recent investment to protect tribal rights by working towards improving steelhead populations.”

The Hood Canal Bridge is the third largest floating bridge in the world and provides a valuable connection for thousands of people each day traveling from the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas in Western Washington. The bridge’s pontoons span 83% of the width of the canal and extend 15 feet underwater. The Hood Canal is a fjord, and the bridge’s pontoons pose a potential limit on the exchange of fresh and salt water that is necessary to preserve water quality and prevent harmful conditions for aquatic species.

Other partners include: Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Navy.

To learn more here and follow LLTK on Facebook.

New Interactive Game Aims to Educate Public About the Plight of Wild Steelhead, Washington’s State Fish

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Lucas Hall | lhall@lltk.org | 206.382.9555 x30

Survive the Sound participants sponsor a steelhead, track it as it migrates through Puget Sound, and receive updates about the challenges their fish encounters along its way to the Pacific Ocean.

Seattle— Salmon recovery nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has partnered with Vulcan Inc. to develop Survive the Sound, an innovative new way for people of all ages to learn about steelhead—Washington’s State Fish—and contribute to their recovery.

Survive the Sound is the first ever endurance race for wild steelhead. It uses real data, obtained from sophisticated transmitters implanted in the fish, to track steelhead’s migration from release points in south Puget Sound and Hood Canal to the Pacific Ocean.

From now until May 7, Survive the Sound participants can sponsor the fish of their choice with a minimum $25 donation. Beginning on May 8, sponsors will watch as their fish embark on a harrowing 12-day journey—avoiding predators, fighting disease, and navigating obstacles—on their way to the Pacific.

Email and text alerts will signal to sponsors when their steelhead have made it beyond important milestones, and even when the fish have perished due to any of the myriad struggles they encounter on their migration route. Prizes will be awarded to sponsors who build the biggest “school,” who have the most survivors, whose fish have the fastest average speed and travel the greatest average distance.

Throughout the Survive the Sound experience, sponsors will learn about steelhead, the challenges they face in the Salish Sea, and what is being done to recover imperiled populations.

All fish sponsorships support LLTK, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been working to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.

How Survive the Sound Works

Each year, wild steelhead are caught as they make their way downriver from their natal streams. LLTK and partners implant the fish with tracking devices, each of which emits a unique acoustic ping. The steelhead are then tracked by researchers who triangulate their position with receivers that have been placed in the water in various locations around Puget Sound. The steelhead available for sponsorship through Survive the Sound represent real fish, using data that depicts real survival outcomes for the entire population.

This work is part of the larger Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, an international US/Canada effort to determine why certain species of salmon and steelhead are dying in the combined marine waters of Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia.

Why it Matters

Currently, only 20% of wild steelhead survive their trek through the saltwater environment of Puget Sound. They’re now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 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.

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

To learn more, visit www.survivethesound.org.

Media Opportunities

Opportunities are available to experience the science behind Survive the Sound in action. To schedule, contact Lucas Hall: 206.382.9555, x30 or lhall@lltk.org.

High resolution images are available upon request.

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