Notes by an oceanographer from an upper trophic (orca) perspective during the outer-coast/less-local/more-regional portion of the annual meeting of the Marine Waters Monitoring Workgroup of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Group (PSEMP) at APL/UW on 3/28/14. This meeting is a rare effort and opportunity to synthesize ocean observations from the previous year and across the Salish Sea and outer coast of the Pacific Northwest region (with an over-emphasis on Puget Sound). I was not able to stay for the rapid-fire talks related to plankton & pathogens (e.g. harmful algal blooms) or water quality.
Freshwater inputs — Ken Dzinbal
In long-term medians from rivers across region, the overall long-term seasonal pattern is a dry period in Sep-Oct (extending into late fall for some rivers), then a wet spring with big storm pulses Feb-June. In 2013, Fraser mean daily discharge at Hope (above tidal influence) peaked in late May, ~1 month earlier than historic median.
Fred Felleman mentioned that 2013 was a terrible year for Fraser river Chinook and a bumber year for Columbia Chinook, and that the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) responded one would expect for the “best salmon samplers on the planet” — they were rarely sighted in inland waters and tracked often on the outer coast near the Columbia river mouth. PSC Fraser panel is a good source of historic data on Fraser flows.
Boundary conditions & water masses — Skip Albertson
Less upwelling in Aug/Sep; SW winds! Usually we have N winds and upwelling in September, but we almost had down-welling due to unusual winds out of the southwest.
We looked at Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and index that changes slowly. Initially there was colder water up against the coast, but then offshore waters got warmer and warmer. Overall in 2013, the PDO index was slightly lower than long-term means.
Cha’ba mooring (offshore Washington) — John Mickett
Temperature-Salinity plot for all of Puget Sound shows median values near 11 oC and 30 psu with low (6.5 mg/l) dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. This suggests a stronger-than-usual influence of oceanic water. Christopher Krembs pointed out that the goal is to start looking at Puget Sound water properties in terms of water masses that may traverse the different basins, rather than
The big story on the outer coast in 2013 was the hypoxia. John showed pictures of many dead Dungeness crabs washed up on Ruby Beach. Looking at data from 3 and 84 meters, you see phytoplankton blooms (chlorophyll concentrations up ~20 micrograms/l). In mid-August we saw DO levels drop to ~1 ml/l a level which stresses or kills organisms. At about the same time we saw very unusual warm surface water temperatures (up to 16-18 oC, well above the long-term means of ~12 oC) which were due to the wind reversals that led to stratification and subsequent solar-heating.
Upwelling comes from 30-40m (ref Ryan McCabe) and has much higher DO than what we saw. That’s why we think these low DO events in the shallow water were advected horizontally, having formed somewhere else.
End of May (5/31) and beginning of July (7/1) sees Columbia River plumes in surface waters. Are these related to court-ordered dam releases?
San Juan channel — Jan Newton (slides from 2013 research apprentices)
North station off NE San Juan Island; South station just south of Cattle Pass (tends to picks up Pacific Ocean influence)
Normally, Fraser plume is advected south in the summer and north in the winter, with associated up-/down-welling changes. It creates a strong pycnocline near 30-40m.
Redfield AC (1950) Note on the circulation of a deep estuary: the Juan de Fuca-Georgia Straits
In 2013, TS plots from Centennial calibrated CTD show that 2012 was an anomalously cold year. The 2013 T-S ranges were +1 oC higher, and slightly fresher. In mid-October the cold 2012 water was ~0.5oC lower than long-term medians.
PDO shift from + to – values near 2007 correlates with warmer to cooler transition in inland water temperatures. There are initial hints that during the inland cooler periods we see higher seabird (and other upper trophic level animal?) populations.
Harbor porpoise acoustic studies — Aileen Jeffries
CPODs and land-based visual observations. CPODS for 3 years in Burrows Pass, also at Biz Point and now at PTMSC
Harbor porpoise population plummeted in 50s, were nearly gone in 70s and now seem to be on a rebound.
Acoustic detections from Burrows typically show nighttime peaks of ~50 minutes/hour and 1/10th those levels during the day.
Click rates of 400-600 clicks/s during foraging; about 20 clicks/s otherwise (histogram).
Seasonally they are less present during the summer (low in May/June) than winter at Burrows Pass (based on visual sightings).
Primary prey is herring, smelt, and sand lance. Florian Granger (did PhD in Europe on harbor porpoises) says that they often travel in groups of 3.
What about anchovies and the possible decadal dynamics on the outer coast?
John Mickett asked why the diurnal pattern is so strong in Burrows Pass. Aileen thought that they were targeting animals that follow the vertical migration of zooplankton to surface waters at night, but also suggested day-time boat interference might be a factor (but implied they had not quantified boat traffic). Dzinbal suggested that squid might be following the zooplankton…
Ships dominate Lime Kiln noise budget
The whole Beam Reach crew was represented today in two killer whale sessions at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference. The sessions were convened by Scott and involved a great line-up of experts(see list of presenters below) talking about recent results from from non/invasive studies of southern resident killer whales (SRKWs).
Val gave a talk on underwater noise in the SRKW critical habitat and estimated that ships dominate the noise budget 83% of time (see plot at right). This works out to a long-term average of nearly a ship per hour!
Charla Basran with her poster
Jason gave a talk on compensation in ship noise. Andrea Buckman — one of our visiting experts this fall and last spring — spoke about the variable condition of chinook salmon. Robin, Laura, Sharon, Charla, and Hayley attended the sessions, and then continued to share and display their posters — now available on-line as PDFs
— listed below.
108 – Sharon Bannick – Movement and Surface Active Behavior of SRKWs in Response to Current Velocity and Salinity
109 – Charla Basran: Correlating SRKW Sightings with Pacific Salmon Densities
110 – Hayley Dorrance: Can clicks tell us anything about the foraging behavior of SRKWs?
112 – Laura Moe: Variations in S6, S10, and S19 calls in SRKWs
Session descriptions and speaker lists:
The killer whales of the Salish Sea are listed as threatened or endangered in both the U.S. and Canada. As the scientific and stewardship communities continue to weigh the costs and benefits of invasive methods like satellite tagging, there is a pressing need to exchange all available information from non-invasive research techniques. There are also renewed efforts on both sides of the border to integrate the management of killer whales and the listed species, like Chinook salmon, upon which they prey. 2011 has also brought Federal regulation of orca-boat interactions in the U.S. This session will survey recent scientific results, with an emphasis on less-invasive techniques and new implications for transboundary killer whale management.
4B: Science and management of killer whales I
Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Contrasting long-term trends in occurrence and abundance of killer whale ecotypes in the Salish Sea
John Ford, Graeme M. Ellis, John W. Durban, Kenneth C. Balcomb
University of Victoria
Acoustic monitoring to delineate killer whale critical habitats off southwestern Vancouver Island
Amalis Riera, John K. Ford, John A. Hildebrand, Sean M. Wiggins, N. Ross Chapman
Center for Conservation Biology
Non-invasive physiological monitoring of Southern Resident Killer Whales
Samuel Wasser, Katherine Ayres, Jessica Lundin
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Ranking contaminant threats to the killer whales of the Salish Sea
Peter Ross, John K.B. Ford, Andrea Buckman, Marie Noel, Frank A.P.C. Gobas, Steve Jeffries
Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc.
Health implications of exposure to a mixture of pollutants in Southern Resident Killer Whales
Teresa Mongillo, Gina M. Ylitalo, Sandra M. O’Neill, Linda D. Rhodes, Dawn P. Noren, M. Bradley Hanson
Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School
Underwater noise in the critical habitat of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales
Val Veirs, Scott Veirs, Jason Wood
5B: Science and management of killer whales II
Inextricably linked: boats, noise, Chinook salmon and killer whale recovery in the northeast Pacific
Rob Williams, Erin Ashe, Christopher W. Clark, Philip S. Hammond, David Lusseau
Shipping noise and vocal compensation by Southern Resident Killer Whales: Do some ships have a larger impact?
Jason Wood, Peggy Foreman, Val Veirs, Scott Veirs
Quantification of average summer season marine vessel traffic in the San Juan Islands June 12 – September 7, 2010
Jeffrey Dismukes, Jonathan Riley, Greg Crenshaw
University of California, Davis. Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries, Conservation Biology
Using non-invasive remote sensing equipment and GIS to assess potential effects of vessels on Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea
D.A. Giles, Kari Koski, Rose Cendak, Nicholas Roseberg
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Variability in Chinook salmon condition and implications for resident killer whales
Andrea H. Buckman, Nik Veldhoen, Caren C. Helbing, Kristi Miller, John K.B. Ford, Peter S. Ross
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
Saving salmon for endangered killer whales: A new paradigm in wildlife management?
NOAA Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries ServiceA scientific workshop process to evaluate the effects of salmon fisheries on killer whales
107 – Characterizing boater interactions with SRKWs in their critical habitat
111 – Soundwatch recommendations for special management areas for KWs
113 – Responding to the threat of oils spills to SRKWs
Thanks to the PRR Facilitator, Kirsten Hauge, for her help facilitating the sessions by keeping time for the speakers. And thanks to Larry Rutter of NOAA/NMFS for calmly reading his talk from his hard-copy notes because Scott had misplaced his presentation!
Stand by for notes from other sessions, recordings, more blog posts, etc. from the conference…