Friday, October 23, 2009

Water Quality Monitoring expands to Friday Harbor

Russel Barsh has compiled and tabulated the data collected in 2009 from Fishing Bay in East Sound. As plans progress for Beach Watchers to continue this work next year, Russel is simultaneously expanding this monitoring program to the Port of Friday Harbor. Russel met with a number of Beach Watchers at the Friday Harbor labs on Tuesday, Oct. 20. After a preliminary discussion of plans for next year, the group moved to the FH Port and observed and collected plants and animals from the docks. Preparatory work on this project will continue, and active monitoring will begin in the spring.

Meanwhile Russel, on behalf of Kwiaht, is taking preliminary steps to establish a similar monitoring program on Lopez, hopefully in conjunction with the 2010 Beach Watchers class.

Micro-Plastics Monitoring on local beaches

On Monday, Oct. 19, Jen Kingfisher from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center met with Beach Watchers at San Juan Island's Jackson Beach. In conjunction with the Department of Ecology, the PT Marine Science Center is sampling beach debris in all seven Washington counties that border the U.S. portion of the Salish Sea for "micro-plastics." -- the small fragments that often are ingested by marine animals. Jen's paraphernalia included buckets, sieves, and garden trowels, which she used to demonstrate the sampling protocol. Three 1-meter square sections of the beach are chosen at 30 foot intervals from which sand and other beach debris are gathered. These bucketfuls of material are then shaken through different-sized sieves to collect the human-made debris that remains, after the organic material is removed. The debris is then analyzed and counted by category. The sampling is being done twice a year - with samples from all beaches collected the same week in October, and again in March. Samples and data sheets are forwarded to Jen for further analysis and recording.

After the group practiced the techniques by collecting samples from three quadrates on Jackson Beach on Monday, Jen left the sampling gear behind to use on other island beaches. Kim Secunda and Susan Muckle collected samples from Orcas and Lopez, and the San Juan Beach Watchers met in the rain at South Beach on Wednesday.

The data collected will provide a baseline for determining the quantity and types of plastics that are showing up on Salish Sea beaches, as a first step towards finding local solutions to this world-wide problem.

Everyone is encouraged to help with the 2nd sampling session in March; more information will be posted when the date gets closer.

Chemistry 101 - a workshop with Russel Barsh

Several Beach Watchers met on Orcas on Oct. 15 as a follow-up to the Fishing Bay monitoring the group has been doing this year in East Sound. At this first of two workshops designed to evaluate the monitoring already done and plan for next year, Russel devoted a good portion of the time to an in-depth look at the molecular structure of anionic and non-ionic surfactants, to help us understand why they work the way they do, and why they are so harmful to the marine environment. Russel feels that it is important that we as "citizen scientists" have a solid understanding of the work we're doing and its scientific foundation. The day ended with a look at the different kinds of research equipment that can be used to measure surfactant concentration in the water. The second workshop on October 29, also at the Orcas Fire Station, will continue this discussion and lead into planning for next year's research. All Beach Watchers are welcome at the second workshop, starting at 10 am.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


After the Hedrick Smith Evening at the Orcas Center in August I went away with more questions than answers. The event was very informative in many ways, but was lacking in answers to the questions of 'what can we do to help'. I think that was the general feeling from the rest of the audience as well. Everyone wanted more information on how to help, what products to buy, or not buy. Here is a link to the 'Friends' newsletter that has a good article on surfactants. There are lists of good resources and a list of the 'dirty dozen'--top product ingredients to avoid.

Please read the 'Toxins in our Water" article

If you have any information that may be helpful, please comment on this blog. If you use products that you have researched and know are safe, please share that information so we can all be better stewards of the earth.

Thanks, N. Alboucq

GREAT NEWS regarding California's sustainable seafood bill!

Success! Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed California's Sustainable Seafood Bill (AB 1217) into law!

"The bill was sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and we were pleased to work with Assemblyman Bill Monning in shaping this important legislation. At a time when the oceans are in crisis, commercial fishermen are struggling and fisheries are in decline, it's more important than ever to support those who fish responsibly. This bill will ensure that fishermen get the assistance they need to seek official certification of their fisheries and bring sustainable seafood to market." - quote from the Monterey Bay Aquarium newsletter.

Click on these links to read more about the new bill.