Friday, April 22, 2011

2011 Beach Watcher Class Activities!

The fifteen new Beach-Watchers-in-training are nearing the half-way mark of their 2011 course and have already gotten to know many unique areas of the Salish Sea. In addition to lectures by some of the environmental stewards we all know and love - Joe Gaydos, Kari Koski, Suzanne Strom, Russel and Madrona, and several others, this year's curriculum has included a field trip to Vendovi Island, (newly acquired by the San Juan Preservation Trust.)

Earlier this week, a dozen members of the class took an overnight trip to Sidney, BC, where they had the opportunity to visit the Shaw Discovery Center's fabulous aquarium for a class on invertebrates. (Photos above show various class members descending in the museum's "watery" elevator to the basement display level.) After a delicious dinner at Sidney's best Thai restaurant, the group gathered at their hotel for a memorable evening with Suzanne Chisolm and Michael Parfit and a viewing of their documentary "Saving Luna." This new feature-length film, which they hope to distribute in the US this summer, is the outcome of more than three years they spent in Nootka Bay, BC, filming the amazing story of Luna, the young orphaned L-pod orca whose longing for affection and companionship led to increasingly risky encounters with boats and humans. It also led to a tug-of-war between BC residents and governmental agencies, all of whom wanted what was best for Luna, but ultimately could not agree on how much human interaction that should include. The tale ends sadly, but the many heart-warming encounters with Luna along the way make us realize how much we all have to learn about the residents of the Salish Sea. The discussion with Suzanne and Michael after the viewing was just as fascinating as the film itself.

Classes still to come include trips to Canoe Island for a talk on Geology, and a Lighthouse tour and trail clean-up day on Patos.
Wednesday, May 18 is graduation day in Friday Harbor.

The members of this year's Beach Watcher's Class are about equally divided between San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands, and in addition to the newcomers, several members of previous classes are taking the course as a "refresher."

Thank you, Shann for all you do for us!

Coming up on April 27: A Meeting to Plan a Conservation Agenda for Our State

An invitation from WA Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar - to conservation-minded citizens of Washington: Plan now to attend a meeting at 1:00 on Wed. Apr 27 in Anacortes. A great opportunity to have input into long-term conservation planning. Details below.

"Over the last several weeks, Department of the Interior leaders have begun a series of conversations with Governors and key stakeholders in all states about President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative. Our goal is to explore how Interior can work with states to develop and plan for a shared conservation agenda.

"As part of this, we are also seeking ideas and recommendations from key stakeholders and groups such as yours on specific projects that would advance the goals of AGO. These goals include 1) establishing and enhancing great urban parks and community green spaces, 2) restoring and increasing access to rivers and other water bodies, 3) conserving large rural landscapes, 4) increasing protection of and improving access to federal lands, and 5) expanding youth employment opportunities related to AGO.

"We would like to invite you to join Secretary Ken Salazar in a meeting on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, from

"1:00pm-2:00 pm at the Majestic Inn on 419 Commercial Ave. Anacortes, WA. If you are interested in attending please RSVP to: for our planning purposes. If you have questions about the event, please contact Jody Weil, or (503) 927-6259. For more information about the AGO initiative, please visit:

Fisherman Bay Celebration on Lopez

It was a cool and slightly damp day, but that did not deter Lopez residents and visitors from spending the morning learning more about the birds, botany, and geological features of Fisherman Bay. Sponsored by Kwiaht and WSU Beach Watchers from Lopez, "A Day for the Bay" began and Woodman Hall , where visitors received maps showing different stations they could visit around the Bay during the morning. Kelley Palmer McCarty, Charlie Behnke and Amanda Wedow were stationed at Otis Perkins Park and the Fisherman Bay Preserve with spotting scopes and bird-watching guides, while Madrona Murphy gave tours of Week's wetland and the Fisherman Bay spit. Beach Watcher Lorri Swanson and Kitty Harmon helped kids learn about invertebrates by getting to know a bucketful of interesting critters from the Islander dock. And Russel explained the geology of the Bay's tombolo as well as some of the challenges facing the bay. Lopez photographer Peter Cavanagh also talked with visitors on the tombolo about observing and photographing birds. Peter's amazing bird photos were displayed around the walls of Woodman Hall; he also had two beautiful posters for sale (see for some of Peter's photos.) Lopez artist Layne Nichols also had block prints of Fisherman Bay marine life for sale.

Everyone gathered back at Woodman Hall at noon for a catered lunch and homemade desserts, followed by a discussion of the morning's activities and information about the state of the Bay.

This was the first event held to publicize the Fisherman Bay Marine Health Observatory project, which like its counterparts - Indian Island and the Port of Friday Harbor -- is working to establish baseline data on the health of the ports. The long term goal of these MHOs is to raise public awareness of the status of our three most important harbors and increase community involvement in protecting their vital resources.

The youngsters (and not-so-youngsters,) in the photo above are happily getting to know some of the anemones and other creatures from the Islander dock.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New NOAA Boat Restrictions for Orcas

NOAA announced new regulations to protect killer whales in inland waters of Washington State from the effects of various vessel activities. The new regulations have two parts:

1. Vessels must not approach any killer whale within 200 yards

2. Vessels must stay out of the path of oncoming whales out to 400 yards.

However, NOAA did not include fishing, research or shipping vessels in these guideliness. In addition, the west side of San Juan Island was not made a "no go zone." The new regulations go into effect 30 days after the Federal Register notice publishes. NOAA is working with partners to educate boaters about the new regulations on and off the water.

For additional information see the NOAA Website at for more information on the vessel regulations.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Puget Sound Partnership Ecosystem Recovery Workshops

As part of their efforts to guide future policies aimed at improving the health of the Puget Sound, the Puget Sound Partnership will offer workshops in April and May to discuss draft “ecosystem recovery targets” which will be adopted later this year.

These workshops will be held on April 14, 18, and 19, and May 12 and 13. The targets, such as those already adopted by the PSP Leadership Council for shellfish and ellgrass, are policy statements based on science and are meant to measure progress for recovering Puget Sound by 2020. The recovery targets will address a very broad scope of environmental issues pertaining to water quality, land use, pollution prevention and water resources among other issues. Contact Kathleen Igros at by Wednesday, April 6 to register or for more information.

Naturalist Gear-Up Workshop

The Whale Museum will hold it annual "refresher" workshop for naturalists already working in the field, graduates of the Marine Naturalist Training Program or WSU Beach Watchers, and members of the Salish Sea Association of Marine Naturalists (SSAMN).

This one-day workshop will be held on Friday, April 22, 2011, at the Grange Hall in Friday Harbor from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact Cindy Hansen at or 360-378-4710 ext. 23.