In recent years, fish kills caused by assumed hypoxia events have occurred along the Quinault Reservation coast, and historically robust razor clam populations on beaches are showing poor recruitment and survival. This project created a low-cost model nearshore and a shore-based monitoring network that engages tribal fishers and youth in gathering coastal water-quality information related to ocean acidification. Participants quantify the impacts of seasonal hypoxia on Pacific razor clams, develop adaptive management plans for this and other species, and contribute to ongoing efforts to understand marine environmental changes on the West Coast.
The Quinault Indian Nation has treaty rights to 3,000+ nautical square miles of ocean off Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. This area has recently suffered low dissolved oxygen events, or hypoxia, resulting in dead fish and crabs washing ashore and potentially affecting razor clam populations. This research will increase understanding of potential impacts of seasonal hypoxia along the Quinault Reservation coast.
Washington Sea Grant-supported researchers developed a shore-based water quality monitoring program for Taholah High School. High school students conducted water quality sampling at estuarine and marine locations and researchers provided instruction to students and teachers. High school sampling data complement those collected by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary mooring buoy and data that will be collected by crab-pot sampling platforms designed by the research team.
Eleven high school students and three teachers participated in water quality sampling. Sampling yielded useful data on temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen, while providing students with hands-on learning about monitoring methods, instrument calibration and operation, data recording, analysis and visualization. This provided students with a foundation for understanding physical and biological changes to their ecosystems and how those changes connect to a larger ecosystem. The monitoring curriculum is being incorporated into the school’s ongoing natural sciences program.
To complement the shoreline data, the project deployed a Seabird SMP 37-ODO instrument in the ocean near the Quinault Reservation beach in summer 2018. In previous years, efforts to deploy nearshore instruments via local fishing vessels were not successful. Project partner Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary placed three moorings near the Quinault River mouth each summer. Razor clam assessments were conducted annually to investigate whether hypoxia events affected survival. The assessments, conducted at Pt. Grenville Beach, produced a clam survival index, providing the best information on clam abundance, population structure and survival available to date. The data will provide a resource for further research on impacts of seasonal hypoxia on clam survival.