John Crowe Passes Away. We thank him for his truth and contributions to orca freedom

Orca Conservancy wants to express our sincere condolences to the family of John Crowe on his passing on Monday. As many of you know, John was a former diver who worked with SeaWorld during the deadly orca roundup at Penn Cove, WA in August 1970, which included the capture of Lolita. John’s courageous testimony was critical in the State of Washington reaching a settlement with SeaWorld in 1976 that stopped orca captures in the United States.

Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 7.11.29 PMAfter over 20 years of seclusion, John finally agreed to break his silence on the matter, granting his first-ever interview in 1999 for the nationally syndicated youth special, “Baby Wild Films Presents: The Killer Whale People,” produced, written and edited by Michael Harris and hosted and narrated by Hall of Fame rocker Nancy Wilson of Heart. Besides this exclusive and heart-wrenching interview with John, the special also included the first-ever broadcast of the powerful 16mm film of the Penn Cove capture, the rights of which were won by Michael as part of a settlement of a pending lawsuit with KING Television (he now owns the copyright to the material in the U.S. Library of Congress) and was painstakingly restored by him for the show. “The Killer Whale People” reached millions of people worldwide and won an Emmy Award that year. Press the ‘play button for the link:

Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 7.12.05 PMIt should also be noted that the filmmakers of “Blackfish” pirated this restored and copyrighted material for their own segment on the Penn Cove capture, not even bothering to ask Michael for permission. And despite director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s assertion, her film wasn’t the first to interview John on his role in the Penn Cove roundup. “The Killer Whale People” preceded “Blackfish” by about a decade-and-a-half.

In fact, Michael’s interview was actually conducted at a Free Lolita event held by Howard Garrett, who appears prominently and basically narrates the “Blackfish” segment as a “researcher.” It’s inconceivable that Cowperthwaite wouldn’t be aware of this previous work. And for those of you familiar with “Blackfish,” take a good look at the two segments back-to-back — they are shockingly similar. Even some of the edits are the same, down to the exact frame. As it is, Michael was completely blown off by the producers of “Blackfish” when he raised the serious issue of copyright infringement and plagiarism, and has been challenged by their team of attorneys to take the matter to court, an expensive proposition for anyone.

Orca Conservancy has a long history of opposing the capture and captivity of all cetacea, and of course we founded the campaign to bring Lolita home. We support some of the messages of “Blackfish” and are kindred spirits in raising concerns about the cruelty and perils of keeping magnificent creatures like orcas in concrete tanks. Few organizations have done as much as we have for the cause. But we’re also champions of the truth, and sadly “Blackfish” falls short here on many counts. Mainly in dealing truthfully and respectfully with fellow orca advocates and colleague filmmakers and journalists.

The truth always wins out, as John proved in his heroic testimony that winter of 1975/76. Anything less diminishes his memory and contributions to orca freedom.

Shari Tarantino, President, Orca Conservancy, 206 379-0331
An all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

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VICTORY! Aevitas dumps plan to build waste recycling plant in Chilliwack

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Aevitas Inc. has pulled the plug on plans to build a hazardous waste recycling plant by the Fraser River.

Aevitas president Byron Day quietly made the announcement about the Chilliwack plant “with great disappointment” late Wednesday afternoon.

“I regret to inform all interested parties that Aevitas Inc. is no longer pursuing the development and building of a state of the art special waste management facility in Chilliwack.”

The “multiple hurdles” thrown up by critics have amounted to “a neverending uphill battle,” admitted Day.

A coalition of First Nations, environmental groups, river stewards and sport fishing advocates formed to fight the location of the plant, which is less than 200 metres from the Fraser River.

Opponents first stood before Chilliwack city council to oppose the rezoning, they formed a coalition, and signed a petition that yielded thousands of signatures against the riverside location.

It has always been the proximity to the river, that was the sticking point for the Aevitas plan, said Ernie Crey, fisheries advisor to Sto:lo Tribal Council and band council member for Cheam First Nations.

“I am happy to hear this news,” said Crey. “I expected that they would have given up sooner, but I think that Mr. Day has made the right decision under the circumstances.”

The opposition that arose against the project was never a criticism of the Aevitas owner or the recycling processes that they are known for, but rather the location, Crey underlined.

Most recently local First Nations reps met with provincial leadership to share their opposition to the plan.

The waste recycling experts at Aevitas share “the concern of opposition groups to protect the Fraser River,” said Day, but it is “unfortunate that efforts and funding could not be collaborated to develop world class facilities and processes as opposed to stopping them.”

They were promising 10 levels of disaster and flood protection in the design, but critics were never convinced.

“Aevitas has been a leader throughout Canada in these specialized waste recycling niches for more than 20 years,” Day wrote in his statement.

“Our intent was to build a recycling facility that could handle and manage drummed hazardous waste, transformer oil and fluorescent lamps from B.C.”

The Aevitas owner thanked the City of Chilliwack for support and understanding as well as CHP Architects for delivering a top-notch design.

“In this day and age, we do have the means to manage these wastes in as safe and environmentally friendly manner,” Day wrote. “These wastes are present in everyone’s daily lives and without facilities such as the one were proposing, improper disposal disburses them into in the air, land and water.” –

Letter from Aevitas:

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Got Change? $$ Dockside Cannabis raising donations for Orca Conservancy



Dockside Cannabis is a Washington State Licensed (I-502) retail store that provides cannabis products and associated accessories to residents and visitors of Washington State who are 21 years of age or older.

Do you have coins and spare change currently gathering dust in a piggy bank, car console, bottom of your purse, old cookie tins? We all do!

During the month of April, stop in and say hello to the great folks at Dockside Cannabis — and unload that spare change — to make change!

DOCKSIDE CANNABISScreen shot 2015-04-04 at 12.37.38 PM
SHORELINE | Recreational 21+
Mon to Sat 9am-10pm • Sun 11am-7pm
206 402-4839
15029 Aurora Ave N.
Shoreline, WA 98133

Orca Conservancy is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) Washington State non-profit organization working on behalf of Orcinus orca, the killer whale, and protecting the wild places on which it depends. Orca Conservancy collaborates with some of the world’s top research institutions and environmental groups to address the most critical issues now facing wild orcas. The organization’s urgent attention is on the endangered Southern Resident orcas of Puget Sound. These three pods, J-Pod, K-Pod and L-Pod, were decimated by the depletion of prey resources, the accumulation of marine toxins, and the destruction of salmon spawning and nearshore habitats, the nurseries of the Salish Sea.
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Puget Sound takes a big step forward towards salmon recovery

APPROVED: Smith Island Restoration Project / Snohomish County

Orca Conservancy sent the letter below in support of the Smith Island Restoration Project / Snohomish County. This project will directly help revive threatened Chinook salmon in the Puget Sound basin.

Great news! Snohomish County Council voted 4-0 in favor of Ordinance 14-120, authorizing construction of the new setback levee and two large breaches on Union Slough.




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TAKEPART – The Toxic Threat to One of the World’s Rarest Killer Whales

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Will a project intended to remove toxic waste from the environment end up harming a critically endangered killer whale?

This is what environmentalists fear after the city of Chilliwack, British Columbia, approved a hazardous-waste recycling plant just 150 yards from the Fraser River. The waterway is the world’s No. 1 producer of salmon that feed critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Only about 77 of the orcas survive in the wild.

A coalition of more than 30 Canadian and American groups opposed to the facility has launched a petition urging the British Columbia environmental ministry to conduct a thorough assessment of the project.

“We are not opposed to this facility,” states the petition on the website of The WaterWealth Project. “We are opposed to the location. Risks from this facility, if built, include emissions from normal operations, accidents on the site, accidents transporting materials to and from the site, sand flooding from the river.”

Each month the facility would process 92,460 gallons of transformer oil, 1,321 gallons of oil containing PCBs, 150 tons of transformer and electrical equipment, and 50 tons of such equipment containing PCBs, according to a report from the city.

The proposed site, located in a flood zone, is also adjacent to the Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area, which is home to sloughs, wetlands, and gravel bars that provide spawning habitat for salmon species.

The risk to salmon reproduction has alarmed residents, fishers, and conservationists, who note that the lower section of the river has already suffered from overfishing, dams, urbanization, runoff from deforestation, and pollution from pulp mills, mines, and farms.

Activists working to save the Southern Resident killer whale population contend that a chemical spill could wipe out stocks of chinook salmon, the preferred prey of orcas.

“When a spill occurs, it will…create an environmental disaster that will directly affect the endangered Southern Resident killer whales,” Shari Tarantino, president of the Washington state–based Orca Conservancy, wrote in an email.

She said that 80 percent to 90 percent of the chinook consumed by the whales come from the Fraser River. “For this population to have a chance at recovery they need salmon—and lots of it,” she said.

Both the city of Chilliwack and Aevitas Inc., the company seeking to build the plant, insist that every precaution will be taken to avoid an environmental catastrophe.

Jamie Leggatt, Chilliwack’s communications manager, declined an interview request but provided a fact sheet prepared by city officials defending the plan.

“Liquid discharge will not flow into the Fraser River,” the document states. “A multibarrier approach is provided for protection of the environment. All storage areas have secondary containment so that in the event of a spill or puncture of a barrel the spilled material will be contained in the facility.”

Aevitas president Byron Day did not respond to a request for comment. But in a radio interview last month, he said, “We actually protect the river. We’re the ones that are trying to stop mercury and PCBs, which are the primary contaminants in the river.”

Opponents remain unmoved.

“We are in a seismically active region, and there is a pair of dams on the Bridge River, which flows into the Fraser upstream,” Ian Stephen of The WaterWealth Project said in an email. “If one of the dams were to fail, it would create a 10,000-year flood event for the Fraser.”

“Citizens have to be forever vigilant and call on all who share in their values to come together to pressure those in power to make responsible decisions,” said Lina Azeez of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “International pressure proves to our government that the world is watching.”

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Eleven Local and National Environmental Organizations Oppose Hazardous Waste Facility on Fraser River in Chilliwack, BC





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Meet Orca Conservancy

IMG_5816Photo Credit: Will Harris

(L to R) Tamara Shea Kelley, Michael Harris, Jackie Woods, Dr. David Bain, Shari Tarantino (not pictured, Brian Calvert).

Orca Conservancy is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) Washington State non-profit organization working on behalf of Orcinus orca, the killer whale, and protecting the wild places on which it depends.

Orca Conservancy collaborates with some of the world’s top research institutions and environmental groups to address the most critical issues now facing wild orcas.

The organization’s urgent attention is on the endangered Southern Resident orcas of Puget Sound. These three pods, J-Pod, K-Pod and L-Pod, were decimated by the depletion of prey resources, the accumulation of marine toxins, and the destruction of salmon spawning and nearshore habitats, the nurseries of the Salish Sea.

They continue to reel from the effects of the brutal orca capture era of the 1960s and ’70s, where some 57 whales were removed from the Southern and Northern Resident populations and sent to marine parks. They risk being wiped out by a catastrophic oil spill in the Salish Sea, or getting caught in the crossfire of military exercises. And they’re potentially threatened by vessels, particularly private boats not following guidelines established by the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

The organization’s people are leaders in safeguarding critical habitats, advocating creative oil-spill prevention and response measures, establishing better protocols for the Navy to protect sensitive marine life, and in working with whale watchers and scientists to create effective new guidelines for wildlife encounters.

Orca Conservancy is committed to the welfare of all whales and dolphins, and is an authoritative source for information on captive cetaceans and on-going studies on the feasibility of returning these remarkable animals to the wild.

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Baby girl gives hope to orca pods’ future

Screen shot 2015-01-10 at 8.51.18 PMScreen shot 2015-01-10 at 9.21.45 PMKatherine Dedyna / Times Colonist
January 8, 2015 09:33 PM
Updated: January 9, 2015 03:28 PM

A baby killer whale born in late December is a female and “looking good,” says a relieved Shari Tarantino of the Washington-based Orca Conservancy.

The baby orca reappeared Wednesday with her mother and grandmother in the northern Strait of Georgia after not being seen since the first sighting on Dec. 30.

The baby will be called J-50 but “everybody wants to call it Hope,” Tarantino said, because the calf represents hope for the recovery of the declining J, K and L pods in the Salish Sea, the coastal waters between the southwestern tip of B.C. and the north-western tip of Washington state.

J-50 brings the total in the three southern resident orca pods to 78, but that won’t be official until the baby survives until next winter, said Tarantino, board president of the volunteer group working to protect orcas and their habitat.

Only 16 of the 78 are females of reproductive age, so the birth of a female is especially welcome, Tarantino added. All three pods are classed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Reproductive age begins around 14 — a long time to wait for desperately needed new members for the pod.

“This baby is one of the last little hopes we have for this population to survive,” said Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research in Washington state.

Researchers believe that J-50’s mother is J-36. J-36 is swimming with her mother, J-16, who is 43 years of age — normally considered beyond reproductive age.

Because the newborn has bite marks on it — a sign of whale midwifery — researchers believe that J-16 assisted her daughter at what may be her first birth.

“We suspect what happens sometimes in these troubled deliveries, is that another whale sort of gently bites the little baby and pulls it out, and leaves teeth marks,” Balcomb said. “We can definitely see the teeth marks and we surmise that it’s an assisted delivery.”

J-16 has given birth at least five times and would be unlikely to require assistance, but babysitting is not unusual for grandmother orcas, he added. Three of J-16’s offspring continue to swim by her side.

“There just aren’t many reproductive females left in the population and that’s a tragedy that we’ve allowed to happen,” Balcomb said.

The conservancy has carefully catalogued presumed maternities for 40 years using photo-identification verified by genetic studies.

The birth of J-50 is especially good news in light of the recent deaths of two other orcas, Tarantino said. L-120, barely two months old, and the first orca born locally since 2012, died in October. J-32, found floating near Courtenay on Dec. 4, was about age 20 and in a late-term pregnancy. The female fetus died and likely rotted in her womb, causing an infection and the mother was unable to expel the fetus, Tarantino said, adding the official report won’t be out until February.

Researchers are trying to persuade both the Canadian and U.S. governments that the whale diet of salmon needs to be protected.

“We have to have abundant food supplies in order for them to meet the nutritional needs of reproduction and they just haven’t done it,” Balcomb said. “You’ve got to have fish, got to have salmon, got to have chinook salmon, and you’ve got to have lots of it.”

With a file from The Canadian Press.

This is a corrected version of an earlier story.

© Copyright Times Colonist

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Fred Meyer is donating $2.5 million per year to non-profits in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, based on where their customers tell them to give.

Here’s how the program works:

  • Sign up for the Community Rewards program by linking your Fred Meyer Rewards Card to Orca Conservancy at Go to: ‘Link Your Rewards Card Now. You can search for us by our name or by our non-profit number 89715.
  • Then, every time you shop and use your Rewards Card, you are helping Orca Conservancy earn a donation!
  • You still earn your Rewards Points, Fuel Points, and Rebates, just as you do today.
  • If you do not have a Rewards Card, they are available at the Customer Service desk of any Fred Meyer store.
  • For more information, please visit

Orca Conservancy is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) Washington State non-profit organization working on behalf of Orcinus orca, the killer whale, and protecting the wild places on which it depends. All donations received will go directly to researchers in the field and to projects immediately addressing Southern Resident orca recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Everything you donate goes to helping the whales. Orca Conservancy doesn’t keep a penny. 

Please help us help them.

Thank you,

Shari Tarantino

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A Shallow Water Dead Zone In Puget Sound

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 10.19.50 PM10 Nov, 2014

By Ron Shimek with illustrations by Jan Kocian


Over the past many years when I have spoken to many aquarists, students, and other audiences about modern and ancient biology, one of the implicit themes for my discussions has been the ubiquity of death as a biological factor.  This may seem odd, for after all, the word “Biology” is defined as the study of life.  Nevertheless, it has many times been noted that “death” is the price we pay for being alive.  Death is the reason for evolution, the less-fit die… leaving those animals that are more fit.

The ways in which organisms perish may run the gamut from the singular, everyday, ultra-mundane and almost meaningless death – meaningless except, of course, to the creature involved, which leaves the world much as it was before; to being a minor part of a huge array of dying, referred to as “a mass extinction event” that may radically change the world’s remaining array of living creatures.

In our explorations of the natural world, we often see – and often are the cause – of the timely or untimely end of some creatures.  Sometimes these events are welcome, such as the delightful revenge swat terminating the existence of a female mosquito while she is trying to procure a blood meal for the development of her eggs.  More often, the events are essentially inconsequential; such as the perishing of innumerable members of the aerial insect plankton as they impact with the teeth of innumerable smiling, speeding motorcyclists.   And some deaths are apparently meaningless, and perhaps all the more tragic for that, as the many organisms that perish over a large area for no apparent reason other than bad luck, when nature serves up a plate of natural disaster, such as the unimaginably humongous volcanic eruptions of the Siberian traps of about 251 mllion years ago; eruptions that nearly brought multicellular life to an end, or the somewhat lesser, but much faster, and probably much more visually exciting, cosmic Croquet crash of 65 million years ago that left only the birds as living dinosaurs.

At the other end of the scale are the more local extinctions that impact every ecosystem now and then, or periodically.  Such local extinctions range from the drying up of a mud puddle, which may have thriving populations of many microbes, to the death and destruction wrought upon many suburban monocultural grassy meadows when they are mowed weekly in the summer, to the massive death and destruction in the clear cutting of a forest, finally to those much more serious events in marine ecosystems referred to as “Dead Zones”.

Dead zones are just what the name implies, areas where life is lacking, either permanently or on some sort of transitory scale.   The largest dead zones are in enclosed oceanic basins where the bottom is permanently anoxic and the waters are full of sulfides.  Given the name of “Euxenic zones” because the largest such is found in the bottom of the basin containing the Euxenic ( = Black) Sea, these areas are totally devoid of aerobic life, although they generally have thriving communities of anoxic bacteria and archaea.  Euxenic zones are generally permanent.  However, there are many types of transient dead zones.

Short-Term Marine Dead Zones

Some of the more “classic” of marine dead zones were characteristically of short duration and caused by the superimposition of several physical events coupled with some unfortunate biological events.

Commonly referred to as “red tides”, these events occur regularly along many shorelines, and although the resulting mortality events tend to look the same from above the water’s surface, the causes are often different from place-to-place and are quite often difficult to determine.  In the dim, dark, ancient days of legend and mythos when I was but a mere studentling, I took a class from an esteemed, exalted and venerated professor of classical rank whose words, like those of the acclaimed Aristotle in the not too distant past, were absolutely unquestioned.   Although his reputation has faded somewhat as times have passed, many of his studies remain classics from the founding days of population ecology.  About the time of my birth, he was one of the first researchers to hypothesize a cause for red tides that appeared to be reasonable and met the test of experimental validation.

However, almost 20 years later, while taking a course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, I listened to him characterize his search for the cause of red tides in Florida, as a search looking for some event or factor that wasn’t there, which he realized should be easy to find as it wasn’t there in large quantities.  So all one had to do to find the cause of these red tides was to evaluate the ecosystem in question and then find was what was missing in the largest quantities from that ecosystem.  That, in turn, would lead you to the yellow brick road, and eventually to the answer you were seeking (Slobodkin, 1953).  As an aside, this fellow’s lectures were all suffused with similar logic.  It made taking notes and subsequently rereading those notes to try to understand what had been said in the lecture a real joy, and we students were universally glad that this class was graded on a simple credit/no credit system.   Basically, if you showed up for the class, you got credit.  Ah… Sigh….

Red tides may or may not have a primary human cause or may simply, and misleadingly, appear to have such a cause.   When a dead zone appears in close proximity to a metropolitan area, or a source of agricultural runoff, probably the first cause of the event is considered to be some sort of pollution; and this is justifiably so.  However, in all such cases, the actual cause of the event needs to be examined much as a forensic examination needs to be done in the case of a criminal investigation.   And just as the forensic examinations portrayed in television “dramas” are only tangent to reality, the biological forensic examinations of a marine “event” are very different than what is thought to occur by even the well-educated public.  Probably the biggest difference is the speed by which things don’t occur.  Many of the necessary examinations require a great deal of time and painstakingly detailed work to reach a result.  For even a small and simple event, it may take from weeks to months to analyze samples and get definitive results.  Nevertheless, the process is an interesting and quite amazing one.

Right NOW!!!

Presently, several different investigations of biological problems are being investigated in virtually every major estuary in the United States, including the Puget Sound of the Pacific Northwest.   These include, in no particular order, studies of changes occurring due to global climate change; studies investigating the effects of introduced species, particularly with regard to their effects on native species that are important in commercial and sports fisheries; studies examining the natural history of ecologically important species, such as, in Puget Sound, all the species of salmon, as well as other fishes and various crustaceans such as Dungeness crabs, and important mollusks such as geoducs, and of course, marine mammals such as killer whales, and sea lions.  Also, there is an emergency study or series of studies trying to get some sort of handle on the immense mortality that is presently being seen in many sea star species along the entire West coast of the U. S. and Canada.

Jan Kocian, diving photographer extraordinare, and my co-author for this blog, has been actively surveying several marine subtidal areas in northern Puget Sound for some time, with the objective of obtaining photographic evidence of, particularly, the sea-star wasting disease epidemic.  As is often the case in a study such as this, serendipity will rear its head, and wholly unexpected observations will be made.

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On 18 September, 2014, Jan had just finished his weekly survey dive at the wharf at Coupeville on Whidbey Island, Washington.  He reported that “The many mottled sea stars (Evasterias trochellii) which until recently escaped the wasting disease now were now gone, having died off, and those few survivors didn’t look all that healthy, either”.  Leaving his normal survey area near the pier, looking for better water clarity, he started seeing things he had never previously observed.  At depths from about 7.5 m  to 9 m ( about 25 feet to about 30 feet), there were many animals lying exposed on the sandy sea floor, looking limp, sick or dead.  Red sea cucumbers (Cucumaria minata) were flaccid and dead, while several Aleutian Moon snails (Cryptonatica aleutica) were in odd postures.  Proceeding a bit further, brittle stars, which had always been buried deep in the sediments showing only their arms waving in the light current, had crawled out of the sediments and were lying wholly exposed all over the surface of the muck, showing their entire bodies.  A few were even uplifted as if they were starting to spawn.  In the midst of the stars were some pink/yellow worms, another rare or unusual sight.  These worms were Polycirrids, a group recently split off from the Terebellids.  Also dozens and dozens of Nuttall’s cockles (Clinocardium nuttallii) were on the sediment surface with their siphons out, instead of being buried as they normally are.

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Returning to the site two days later, on the 20th of September, to survey the site and to do some wide angle photography he found the impacted area was now covered with a layer of cloudy or milky water.  Water clarity was reduced to only a few feet which rendered wide angle photography difficult.  After examining the site, with regard to the extent of the dead zone, it appeared that depth didn’t seem to be a critical factor, at least on the shallow side of the site and topography didn’t seem to have enough differences to cause the changes, either.

On a return to the site on 22nd September, the area containing dying animals was not only still present it was spreading; whatever seemed to be the cause was still doing its dirty work.  Documenting the milky water was difficult, as the layer was not particularly well defined, nevertheless, there was a lot of flocculent material floating in it.  The sites he had previously photographed were now wholly within “the Milky Way” which made photography difficult.  However, outside the cloudy water, the many tube dwelling worms in the area’s sediments were apparently unaffected.   The milky water appeared to be created from within the sediments.  The water was not cloudy like this when he first found all the infaunal creatures on the surface.

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Three days after this, on 25th September, upon returning to the site, conditions had changed considerably.  The milky water layer was gone, although there still was flocculent material in the water.  Strong winds in the previous couple of days appear to have blown the milky, possibly stagnant, water mass away or mixed it with cleaner offshore water.  The brittle stars on the surface were gone, possibly blown away in currents,  although there were some arms waving above the sediments, indicative of a few stars still living below the surface.  Whether these were the same stars that had been on the surface or others that had remained below the surface is unknown.  The clams were not visible on the surface, but the horse clam siphons were visible in their normal postures.  Most other animals, such as the worms, were no longer visible on the surface.  The exceptions were the red sea cucumbers, Cucumeria miniata, where many specimens were lying fully exposed, and apparently dead, on the surface.  As their tissues contain a lot of toxic saponins, scavengers tend to leave these deadCucumaria miniata alone.  It may take several weeks for their bodies to slowly decompose.

Jan continued his regular dives on the 29th of September.  While visibility in shallow water was still good, upon entering the area of the dead zone, the visibility was much worse than in the surrounding area, but the water was not milky.  A few livingCucumaria were acting oddly, not quite dead, but just slightly responsive to touch.  The horse clams buried in the sediment were extending their siphons and apparently feeding.  These could have been clams that had not extended their siphons through the event and finally tried feeding again, or they could have been clams that had been on the surface and subsequently reburied.  Some more brittle stars were found on the surface, many with autotomized arms.  Numerous green sea urchins were found with their spines in abnormal postures, definitely not looking healthy.

At this time, Jan was not looking too healthy either, having caught a cold.  He was unable to return to diving until the 12th of October.  When he could return to the site, in shallow water, it appeared that all was back to normal, the Cucumaria miniata was feeding as usual and the brittle stars were extending their arms from the sediments apparently feeding normally.  However, the water clarity was poor; only about 1.1m to 1.5m (four to five feet).

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Dropping down to 40 feet (12 m) the seabed was black instead of its usual grey-brown, and it was covered with a white bacterial mat.  This white mat is often referred to as Beggioatoa, which is a bacterial genus that is found in hydrogen sulfide rich environments.  It is a typical pollution marker for areas that have been rendered anoxic, killing much of the infauna.  Typically in areas such as these, the environment will be aerobic during the day, due to algal photosynthesis, but because of the amount of organic matter in sediments, once the sun goes down, so does the oxygen concentration and the sediments become anaerobic or anoxic.

Over the next week, on dives until the 19th of October, the dead zone appeared to be evident.  The full extent of the dead area, and the reason for the mortality, remain indeterminate.  Typically in Puget Sound, the benthos is very rich, so that a mortality event such as this may take several months for even partial recovery.  Although the substrate will appear to recover in a few months, quantitative sampling will show the benthos make take two or more years before it has returned to normal.


de Matos Nogueira, J. M., Fitzhugh, K., & Hutchings, P. 2013. The continuing challenge of phylogenetic relationships in Terebelliformia (Annelida: Polychaeta). Invertebrate Systematics, 27(2), 186-238.

Long, E. R., Dutch, M., Aasen, S., Welch, K., & Hameedi, M. J. (2005). Spatial extent of degraded sediment quality in Puget Sound (Washington State, USA) based upon measures of the sediment quality triad. Environmental monitoring and assessment111(1-3), 173-222.

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