oceans and coasts

Seattle’s (Unofficial) Oil Spill Preparedness Week

Written by Mike Chang, Makah Tribe/TNC Hershman Marine Policy Fellow
Photographs & Images provided by Mike Chang, Clean Pacific, Pacific States/BC Oil Spill Task Force

It’s not every week that you have a whole week dedicated to oil spill preparedness, response, and prevention. This past week, from June 20-25, Seattle was fortunate to host the 2016 Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force annual meeting and the 2016 Clean Pacific Conference

The Nature Conservancy’s Oceans Team and the Makah Tribe’s Office of Marine Affairs have been actively engaged in influencing state and regional transboundary methods of oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response. Together, we have been working on improving the vessel traffic system in the Salish Sea to prevent oil spills affecting the Northwest’s precious marine resources. Last Tuesday, the Pacific States/B.C. Oil Spill Task Force brought state and provincial leaders, federal partners, industry leaders, and indigenous representatives from Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia together to discuss regional updates and best achievable protection (BAP) against oil spills. Much of the day was focused on how to achieve BAP through existing policies, geographic response plans, and technological innovation. State and provincial leaders and industry leaders had frank discussions on how to invest in research and development to hopefully achieve innovative methods of improving oil transportation and preventing oil spills.

The Pacific States/B.C. Oil Spill Task Force segued into the Clean Pacific Conference, an annual meeting designed to bring stakeholders in spill prevention and response. This year’s conference brought governments, community leaders, and industries together to discuss lessons-learned from past spills, best practices in oil spill prevention and response, and a showcase of new products and solutions to keep the Pacific Ocean clean. Chad Bowechop, the director of the Makah Office of Marine Affairs and The Nature Conservancy’s key partner in oil spill prevention and response, participated in a panel discussion on local engagement for oil spill prevention and response. The key theme from the panel discussion was that communication and community engagement on oil spill prevention and response is crucial since each oil spill is unique and the response is tailored and influenced by the local community and their geographic response plan. 

Overall, it was a productive week of engaging in discussions and identifying how our region can continually improve our oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response strategies. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR MARINE WORK


World Oceans Day Instagram Meetup

World Oceans Day was the perfect opportunity to get outside, enjoy nature and make a difference.  We joined our local instagram community by celebrating our oceans and enjoying an amazing sunset along the Washington coast at Ruby Beach. Check out some scenes from the day in the video above!

Learn about our work along the coast and the science-based strategies that will help ensure healthy and productive oceans.

Mesmerized by a Golden Coast: June Photo of the Month

Written & Photographed by Tu Do, Freelance Cinematographer

I once made it a goal to experience the sunrise and the sunset every day for an entire year. There is a beautiful quote that says, "There's a sunrise and a sunset everyday. And you can choose to be there for it or you can put yourself in the way of beauty." And I took that to heart. I learned from that experience that no matter how routine my day was, the sunrise and sunset never looked the same. 

I am very grateful to be able to experience the beauty that the Northwest offers. Having spent a lot of my youth in the flat lands of Florida, I love driving around the winding roads of Oregon and Washington, always something new around the corner. It can be a snow capped mountain, giant sand dunes, pristine lakes, and towering waterfalls. 

This photo was taken right at the end of the day at Second Beach near La Push. Many folks had set up tents and bonfires, enjoying this beautiful afternoon. As the skies started to wash into a twilight blue and purple, many people began to walk back to their cars. I had a feeling the sun wasn't quite done with impressing us all. So my girlfriend and I sat and enjoyed the view for a little longer, and the sun peeked behind the clouds one last time and set the sky ablaze. It only lasted a good 5 minutes so I asked my lovely lady to pose between the two rocks and created my favorite shot from the evening. 

Nature truly never ceases to amaze. As we all go about our day, don't ever forget to look around your surroundings. It's the moments that you don't expect that you'll always remember.

Tu Do is a roaming cinematographer that has spent time all over the United States. Currently based in San Francisco traveling the world and shooting cool content for Twitch. You can find more of his film work at www.twodough.com and his photography on Instagram: @twodough


Hello, Fellow Fellows

Written by Melissa Watkinson (2015-16 TNC Hershman Fellow), Mike Chang (2015-16 Makah/TNC Hershman Fellow), and Kara Cardinal (Marine Projects Manager)

It’s no secret that The Nature Conservancy has many partners across Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. One partnership that has furthered The Conservancy’s efforts in marine and coastal work, and builds on the legacy of Washington’s leadership in the development of sound policies for the conservation and use of ocean and coastal resources is with Washington Sea Grant’s Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship program. The program matches outstanding, highly motivated marine science, law and policy graduate students with agency, NGO and tribal host offices, offering each fellow first-hand experience in crafting policies and enabling fellows to share their academic expertise with state decision-makers. The program is named after Marc Hershman, a leader in the study of ocean and coastal policy for 30 years, who passed away in February 2008. Dr. Hershman served in several marine leadership capacities and played a key role in efforts to develop more comprehensive and coherent policies for Washington’s coasts. The facilitation and support of the Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship program is an outstanding example of the commitment to education and outreach by Washington Sea Grant.

The opportunity to host a Hershman fellow has strengthened The Conservancy’s ability to achieve its goals to conserve marine habitats and support healthy and sustainable communities and, at the same time, educate and empower the next generation of environmental leaders. This year the fellowship program has brought in its fourth generation of Hershman fellows to The Conservancy. Each fellow has worked closely with the marine team to tackle projects addressing marine conservation and stewardship, and has continued to work with the Conservancy on a variety of different capacities even after their fellowship term.

Hershman Fellows at TNC have strengthened and developed an exciting breadth and depth of projects with the marine team. The Conservancy’s first Hershman fellow is our very own marine projects manager, Kara Cardinal, where she led TNC’s MSP outreach efforts throughout the Washington Coast and helped the state develop the MSP data viewer. Katie Wrubel was the second fellow at TNC and was instrumental in helping Washington Coast tribes begin their tribal marine planning efforts. Katie is now working with the Makah Tribe as their Natural Resource Policy Analyst. Molly Bogeberg, the third fellow at TNC, worked closely with coastal communities in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties to bring habitat conservation as a priority within their Shoreline Master Programs. Molly finished her fellowship last September and continued working with TNC as the temporary marine projects manager. Melissa Watkinson is the newest TNC Hershman Fellow and she is engaging with partners and stakeholders to improve project proposals and future socio-economic policy responses in relation to environmental restoration for the Washington Coast Restoration Initiative.

Starting in 2014, the partnership between the Conservancy and the Makah Tribe led to new Marine Policy Fellowship with the Makah Tribe in an effort to further joint efforts on vessel traffic safety and climate resilience. Laura Nelson, the first fellow with the Makah Tribe, worked out of Washington TNC’s Seattle office to collaborate between both entities and is currently working a marine policy contractor with the Makah Tribe. This year, Michael Chang is fulfilling this role with Makah and TNC. Laura and Michael led efforts with the Makah Tribe on issues of vessel traffic safety and oil spill preparedness, adaptation to climate change and ocean acidification and protecting treaty-rights at risk.

The Sea Grant College Program is celebrating its 50th year anniversary this year, and this month they are focused on highlighting all of their current and past sea grant fellows while also recruiting its next class of Hershman fellows. The partnership TNC has built with Washington Sea Grant and the Hershman Fellowship, and the relationships that four generations of fellows sustain, is a testament to the quality of people that TNC attracts, and is a wonderful example of the power of achieving success through strong partnerships. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR MARINE WORK

Cleaning Up Oceans of Debris

Written by Kara Cardinal, Marine Projects Manager
Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester

Marine debris - plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items that enter the marine environment – is becoming one of the most widespread pollution problems facing our world oceans.

Marine life, such as sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, are increasingly confusing it with food and ingesting plastics and other debris. It can damage important marine habitat. Derelict nets, ropes, line, and other fishing gear can lead to whale entanglements, vessel damage and navigational hazards.  Not to mention, who wants to walk down the beautiful Washington coast only to stumble across rafts of Styrofoam, plastic bottles and grocery bags?  No part of our world is left untouched by debris and its impacts.  

She may be small, but she is fierce.
— Anonymous

As overwhelming as this problem seems, incredible work is happening right here in Washington to clean up our local oceans.

I had the opportunity recently to join a group of dedicated individuals in Long Beach, Washington who are working to address marine debris issues in our state, as well as recognize the 10-year anniversary of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the five-year commemoration of the tsunami that struck Japan and resulted in vast amounts of debris from across the world washing up on our local beaches.

This event brought together local volunteers (Grassroots Garbage Gang), NGOs, tribes, state agencies and NOAA officials to share and recognize our work.  The event on April 8 kicked off with inspiring remarks from Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator , who was eager to learn about our work and explore our local beaches.

Congresswomen Jaime Herrera-Beutler, with family in tow, also addressed the crowd.  Referring to the community efforts on the Washington coast, she recited a quote from her daughter’s bedroom wall: “She may be small, but she is fierce.”  These words couldn’t be more true – folks on the Washington coast are doing local-scale work with a global-scale impact.

At The Nature Conservancy, we are doing our part by addressing the issue of derelict fishing gear along Washington’s rugged coast. With funding from NOAA and in partnership with the Quinault Indian Nation and Natural Resource Consultants, we have removed over 500 pots, lines, and buoys from the Washington Coast.  The main goals of this project can be summed up by 1) getting derelict gear out of the water, 2) keeping gear out of the water through a sustainable recovery program, and 3) doing outreach to tribal fishermen and the surrounding communities about the habitat, economic and safety issues of derelict fishing gear.

See our recent blog post on this project.

Before I started my long journey home, I decided to take one last walk along the beautiful beaches of the Long Beach Peninsula.  As I was walking out towards the water, who did I see coming off the beach lugging a big bag full of trash?  None other than Dr. Kathryn Sullivan herself!  I went up to shake her hand and thank her for visiting our special corner of the country.  She remarked “I couldn’t travel all this way and not do my part.”  I smiled to myself as I continued my walk along the waters edged and felt very confident that all of us together might just make a difference in this world.

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program

Grassroots Garbage Gang

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN OCEANS


Vessel Traffic in the Salish Sea: Preparing for the Future

Written by Michael Chang
Story Map by Michael Chang (2015-2016 Hershman Marine Policy Fellow, Makah Tribe/The Nature Conservancy), Erica Simek Sloniker (GIS & Visual Communications), and Laura Nelson (2014-2015 Hershman Marine Policy Fellow, Makah Tribe/The Nature Conservancy)

The Salish Sea, a body of water between British Columbia and Washington State that includes the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound, is a region that supports the livelihoods of millions of people. Communities, tribes, and First Nations are intimately dependent on these waters for food, culture, recreation, and industry.

Every year, about 10,000 cargo ships carry hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil through the Salish Sea, creating a constant risk of oil spills in the region that could harm community and tribal livelihoods. However, an intricate network of experts from the Coast Guard, U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations, state & federal agencies, regional non-profits, and local communities have prevented a major oil spill from occurring in over 20 years.

Recently, there have been several new proposals and developments for oil terminals that will increase the oil shipping volume by twofold. To ensure that the Salish Sea can adapt to the doubling of vessels and oil, the Makah Tribe and TNC have partnered together to organize a trans-boundary vessel safety summit in order to improve the U.S. and Canadian coordination for oil response, prevention, and preparedness.

The Nature Conservancy and Makah have created an interactive story map detailing the vessel safety system and what needs to be done to accommodate the expected increase in vessel traffic.

See the full, interactive story map on vessel traffic on oil spill preparedness and response in the Salish Sea region. 

A Quick Peek at Ellsworth Creek

Written by Jeff Compton, Conservancy staffer and sometime tree hugger

It’s been more than a decade since I first stepped foot in The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve. That first visit was an introduction to an ambitious new project full of promise, challenge and uncertainty. We were talking about owning an entire coastal watershed, not just to protect it, but to use it as a laboratory for forest restoration – a place where we could collaborate on long-term trials that we hoped would deliver far-reaching benefits for nature and people.

But what really captivated many of us then were the serene patches of forest that were home to the few true giants that remained. In select spots above or beside the creek we met massive, ancient Western red cedar and Sitka spruce. We were dwarfed by those awe-inspiring trees, the mightiest of which were older than the Magna Carta.

Over the years I had the privilege of visiting this preserve many times, and always thrilled to spend a few peaceful moments in the tranquil forest with those enduring titans.

After a several year absence, I recently headed to southwest Washington with a group of colleagues and stepped once again into the Ellsworth Creek watershed. I am thrilled to report that the preserve is still there. The restoration work continues. The vision and optimism about our future forests is alive. And those giants still stand – old-growth trees that now feel like old friends.

The Conservancy’s efforts at Ellsworth Creek are about the future and the big picture. But the place offers something personal for me today. I sometimes feel overwhelmed, even intimidated, by the pace of change in my life, my city, my world. I take great comfort in knowing that some things – and some places – remain steadily, beautifully the same.

On the Radio: Exploring the Science Behind King Tides

Audio provided by KOMO News Radio

It's an incredible season for king tides, these unusually high tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon along with El Nino and The Blob. Our Senior Marine Ecologist Jodie Toft explained the science and dangers of king tides and where you can check them out with KOMO News Radio. Listen in above!

KING TIDES: SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC & LEARN WHEN TO SEE THEM

CONTRIBUTE TO THE WASHINGTON KING TIDES PHOTO INITIATIVE! UPLOAD YOUR PHOTOS

LEARN ABOUT OUR MARINE WORK

2,500 forest acres purchased above Clearwater River

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2,500 Acres for a Sustainable Future!

The Conservancy has just bought 2,538 acres of forest above the Clearwater River on the Washington Coast!

This new acquisition adds momentum to our work with coastal communities and tribes to promote sustainable economies, restore the Olympic rainforest and support a healthy ocean.

It adds to the Conservancy Clearwater Forest Reserve and connects to the state’s Natural Resources Conservation Area to create a nearly complete 38-mile conservation corridor along the river.

The Clearwater River runs cool and clear out of the Olympic Mountains, flowing into the Queets River, which is one of the Washington Coast’s most important salmon rivers. Restoration in this forest is an important step to increasing the abundance of salmon in coastal rivers.

Together with the earlier acquisitions on the Queets and Clearwater, the Conservancy is now managing nearly 8,000 acres of forest lands in Jefferson County. Conservancy foresters and ecologists have developed long-term plans that include planting trees, restoring important salmon and wildlife habitat, and sustainable long-rotation timber harvest where it makes sense.

We hire local contractors for much of this work, providing sustainable jobs for the surrounding communities.

Farther south on the Washington Coast, the Conservancy owns and manages nearly 8,000 acres at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve adjoining Willapa National Wildlife Refuge on Willapa Bay.

All our land in the region continues to be open to public and tribal use for hunting, fishing, traditional gathering of plants and medicines, boating, birding, hiking, and other coastal outdoor activities.

Photo Credit © Keith Lazelle

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Washington Board Hits the Road

First-hand look leads to big vision for ocean and coastal forests

By:  Byron Bishop, The Nature Conservancy in Washington Board of Trustees Vice-Chair

Vision is rarely achieved sitting in a boardroom.

That’s why the Washington Board of Trustees took to the Washington Coast to experience the beauty and power of nature and learned first-hand of the threats to our natural environment, and our conservation work in the forests, rivers and oceans to counter those threats.

The Board is in the midst of setting goals and creating a vision for our conservation work in the coming decade.  In a July visit, we got a deep look into our marine and coastal forest work, and why it matters.

The marine and terrestrial worlds are deeply interconnected, and the ocean’s complex ecosystem affects the health of the shorelines and even the forest, we learned from marine ecologist Jodie Toft.

We explored the ocean environment and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary with our partners at NOAA.

We hiked up the Hoh River and learned about the importance of the area’s rivers and forests – to the tribes who have made the area their home for centuries, to the community and economy, and to the salmon, plants and animals unique to the area. 

Guests from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and local tribes shared their first hand experiences working in the area, giving the board greater insight into what is at stake in this unique region.

We have a vision of summit-to-sea conservation.  Healthy oceans are fed by healthy rivers. Salmon in healthy rivers ultimately feed the forests around them.  Forests shade rivers, assuring cool clean water reaches the ocean.

The path to conservation and restoration in this region requires integrated, science-based focus and hands-on work in each area.  The risks are huge, the potential is huge, the vision is huge.

These are not the lessons of PowerPoint presentations in board rooms. These lessons, and the vision that springs from them, are best learned on the land and water which depend on us, and on which we depend.

Enamored By The Coast    By Wendy Marsh, Director of Donor Communication & Stewardship   The thing I love the most about tide pools is that they offer a window into the ocean by revealing the fascinating beauty below the surface. 
 Last week I visited Second Beach, an incredible wilderness coastline in Olympic National Park. The Quileute Needles—jagged, dagger-shaped rock formations—are visible jutting out of the sea. Cliffs line the shoreline and, during low tide, reveal shallow tide pools. I was excited about this trip since I was traveling with members of our conservation and science staff. They are intimately knowledgeable and passionate about our work; seeing nature through their eyes is an incredibly rich experience. 
 However, my enthusiasm for exploring the tide pools had turned to trepidation after our meeting with NOAA earlier that morning in Port Angeles. I had asked her if she had any insight into the tragically massive die-off of starfish along the Pacific coasts. 
 Starfish have always seemed indestructible to me; if they lose a leg, it grows back. If you cut one in half, it can regenerate itself into two more individual stars. 
 But now there is an alarming wasting illness spreading through the starfish population. Similar to a flesh-eating disease, it’s a gruesome way to die. White lesions on the starfish’s limbs appear. Then the tissue surrounding the lesion starts to decay. The body fragments and “melts”, basically turning to goo. 
 Scientists don’t know what’s causing the disease or its spread, though it’s also possible that the disease is a result of a virus. But they’re not ruling out ocean acidification, lower oxygen levels or warming waters. 
 Why does this matter? Despite the fact that starfish are fascinating creatures that come in a variety of colors and shapes, they are a “keystone species” – meaning that, like in any stone building, if you remove the keystone, things start to crumble. Other species depend on them. Their extinction would have an extraordinarily significant effect on the biodiversity of their community. 
 The next day we surveyed the forests and land along the Hoh River. Our work here in the Olympics revolves around restoring salmon. Salmon are another keystone species and a symbol for building support for the conservation of the coastal ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. 
 For me, here was an example of how environmental changes on one area create a domino effect on other parts of related ecosystems – in this case, specifically between the Hoh River and the Pacific Ocean. 
 Salmon make the case since they are also an indicator species. Because their lifecycle takes them from mountain headwaters, to the ocean, and back again, they are a litmus test of sorts for the overall health of our region. When they are healthy, so are our soil, our water, and our food supply. So we need to behave like salmon and bring together forests, rivers, estuaries and the ocean. 
 Unfortunately, most of the pressing threats to our natural world are anthropogenic (caused by humans): over fishing, land clearing, runoff pollution, removal of old growth forest, urban runoff, water and sediment contamination with toxic substances. The cumulative impact of several stressors has reduced the resiliency of many ecosystems. But we can and are changing all that . 
 Just as the land and the sea meet at tide pools, TNC’s work is to help these natural assets adjust, adapt, and become resilient in the challenging changing of the tides every day. 
 I hope you’re a member – I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like the feeling that comes from creating change that is better for the environment and, therefore, ourselves.

Enamored By The Coast

By Wendy Marsh, Director of Donor Communication & Stewardship

The thing I love the most about tide pools is that they offer a window into the ocean by revealing the fascinating beauty below the surface.

Last week I visited Second Beach, an incredible wilderness coastline in Olympic National Park. The Quileute Needles—jagged, dagger-shaped rock formations—are visible jutting out of the sea. Cliffs line the shoreline and, during low tide, reveal shallow tide pools. I was excited about this trip since I was traveling with members of our conservation and science staff. They are intimately knowledgeable and passionate about our work; seeing nature through their eyes is an incredibly rich experience.

However, my enthusiasm for exploring the tide pools had turned to trepidation after our meeting with NOAA earlier that morning in Port Angeles. I had asked her if she had any insight into the tragically massive die-off of starfish along the Pacific coasts.

Starfish have always seemed indestructible to me; if they lose a leg, it grows back. If you cut one in half, it can regenerate itself into two more individual stars.

But now there is an alarming wasting illness spreading through the starfish population. Similar to a flesh-eating disease, it’s a gruesome way to die. White lesions on the starfish’s limbs appear. Then the tissue surrounding the lesion starts to decay. The body fragments and “melts”, basically turning to goo.

Scientists don’t know what’s causing the disease or its spread, though it’s also possible that the disease is a result of a virus. But they’re not ruling out ocean acidification, lower oxygen levels or warming waters.

Why does this matter? Despite the fact that starfish are fascinating creatures that come in a variety of colors and shapes, they are a “keystone species” – meaning that, like in any stone building, if you remove the keystone, things start to crumble. Other species depend on them. Their extinction would have an extraordinarily significant effect on the biodiversity of their community.

The next day we surveyed the forests and land along the Hoh River. Our work here in the Olympics revolves around restoring salmon. Salmon are another keystone species and a symbol for building support for the conservation of the coastal ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest.

For me, here was an example of how environmental changes on one area create a domino effect on other parts of related ecosystems – in this case, specifically between the Hoh River and the Pacific Ocean.

Salmon make the case since they are also an indicator species. Because their lifecycle takes them from mountain headwaters, to the ocean, and back again, they are a litmus test of sorts for the overall health of our region. When they are healthy, so are our soil, our water, and our food supply. So we need to behave like salmon and bring together forests, rivers, estuaries and the ocean.

Unfortunately, most of the pressing threats to our natural world are anthropogenic (caused by humans): over fishing, land clearing, runoff pollution, removal of old growth forest, urban runoff, water and sediment contamination with toxic substances. The cumulative impact of several stressors has reduced the resiliency of many ecosystems. But we can and are changing all that .

Just as the land and the sea meet at tide pools, TNC’s work is to help these natural assets adjust, adapt, and become resilient in the challenging changing of the tides every day.

I hope you’re a member – I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like the feeling that comes from creating change that is better for the environment and, therefore, ourselves.