How Healthy is Hood Canal?

Meeting highlights by Angela Schauer
Common Sense Mason

March 26, 2003

[On Tuesday, March 25, an evening presentation on the health of Hood Canal explained in layman's terms the technical changes the canal has been experiencing the past year and took a peek into its future.]

Problem: Oxygen level in Hood Canal

Jan Newton, Senior Oceanographer for the Department of Ecology (DOE), takes samples daily on the Hood Canal. She presented 10 solid years of study, along with studies going back to 1940. She concluded, "Nitrogen entering the water from forest practices factor into reducing oxygen levels when decomposition uses the oxygen."

Jan confessed that it is hard to tell what caused low oxygen levels in 2002, but did say that "it was a sunny year ... more light yields more phytoplankton."

Greg Bargman, Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) Marine Fisheries manager concluded, "The 2002 closure of fishing for one month (Oct 21-Nov 30) probably will not be necessary in 2003. There were no long-term effects from the drop in oxygen levels. None on Salmon. None on Herring or smelt. In 2002 only the bottom fish showed stress."

Brad Sele of Pt. Whitney Shellfish Lab with the WDFW reported, "There were no short-term effects either. Harvests have already increased over last year by February 2003." "We are not sure, not sure if low oxygen caused the Brazoan Parasite that was highly present in Hood Canal on the spotted shrimp."

1977 Spotted shrimp yield: 55,000 pounds

2002 Spotted shrimp yield: 147,000 pounds

Yield has been as high as 224,000 pounds

The DOE stated, "We are uncertain about the effects of the Skokomish River as it comes into the Hood canal (meaning how much nitrogen is brought in ... and also fresh water).


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