WSG News Blog

4th Annual Report On Conditions of Puget Sound’s Marine Waters Released Today

September 20, 2015

The Puget Sound Marine Waters workgroup of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released the 4th annual report on marine water conditions in Puget Sound.

The report combines a wealth of data from comprehensive monitoring programs and provides a concise summary of what was happening in Puget Sound’s marine waters during 2014. It covers areas such as climate and weather, river inputs, seawater temperature, salinity, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, ocean acidification, phytoplankton, biotoxins, bacteria and pathogens, shellfish resources, and more.

The report represents a collaborative effort among various agencies and groups and provides a collective view of marine water conditions in Puget Sound for 2014, enhancing our understanding of this complex ecosystem that is an economic lifeline for Western Washington.

Highlights of the report’s findings include:

  • Annual total precipitation was above normal for the 2014 calendar year, which included the wettest March on record. Annual average air temperature was much warmer than normal, ranking as the 2nd warmest year since records began in 1895.
  • River flows generally exceeded historic mean flows in spring 2014, dropped to normal levels through the summer, then rose above mean flows again in fall and early winter.
  • Anomalously warm Pacific Ocean water nicknamed the “Blob” moved onto the shelf off La Push following the fall transition to downwelling-favorable winds, resulting in ocean temperatures greater than 6 degrees Celsius above normal at some depths.
  • An unusually large and longer than normal fall bloom occurred in the Central Basin from early September through October and was dominated by Chaetoceros
  • Lower than normal dissolved oxygen was observed in North, Central and South Sound. In contrast, Hood Canal had a very low dissolved oxygen deficit relative to previous years, implying that oxygen conditions had improved temporarily.
  • In 2014, no Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) or Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) illnesses were reported, but 31 commercial and 27 recreational harvest areas were closed due to DSP and PSP toxins. PSP toxins were detected in Hood Canal shellfish at levels that are harmful to human health for the first time.
  • There were 81 laboratory-confirmed and epidemiologically-linked illnesses in 2014 due to the consumption of oysters contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
  • In 2014, 88% of the 60 Puget Sound beaches had less than two swimming closures or advisories during the swimming season.
  • Aerial surveys indicated harbor porpoise have made a remarkable recovery and return to Puget Sound.
  • Pacific herring, critical to the Puget Sound ecosystem, have declined in abundance since monitoring began in the 1970s.

Read the entire 2014 report here.