Clams and Cows

An unlikely pairing, right? Not here in the Salish Sea area, where our days and days of winter rains wash everything into the bays–sewage overflow from malfunctioning septic systems, oil from the roadways, pet and wildlife waste–and manure from big dairy farms.

cows

And in Whatcom County, north of Seattle, dairy farms are big business, so it accounts for a large amount of contaminated run-off. It starts small, though, with fecal coliform washing into the small streams and ditches around the farms, moving down into larger streams, then into the Nooksack River, and finally dumping into Portage Bay.

clamshells

Presently, some 800 acres of shellfish beds are now closed during six months each year due to pollution. The Lummi Nation has traditionally harvested those beds for thousands of years, and through treaty rights with the United States, are entitled to continue harvesting them. Tricky to do when they’re contaminated.

After the tribe decided to sue the seven largest dairy farmers, the two sides started to meet and talk and try to avoid a lengthy, costly court battle for both of them. Last month they signed an agreement whereby the farmers will pay the tribe for the losses they are incurring, and make efforts to clean up their operations–buffering their streams and areas where manure run-off occurs, and installing above-ground steel containers for holding manure. It can more safely be spread on fields during the dry summer months. Expensive? Yes, but not as expensive as litigation.

But the agreement also forges a bond between the two sides so they can address other sources of contamination as well, and they hope to encourage the public to become more aware of ways they can help.

I liked the quote from one of those seven farmers (reported in the Bellingham Herald. “We and the Lummis probably have not understood each other for years. We did our thing out here and they did their thing over there….we have to understand each other and talk and learn about each other.”

Our Congress could learn a thing or two from these people–and perhaps we can, too.

Photo credits:

Cow photo: photo credit: will_cyclist <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/88379351@N00/30538314015″>Moo</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo: photo credit: Frankenstein <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/37996582271@N01/29509260353″>Lunch</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc Clam /2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

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For the Curious

Have you ever wondered about invasive stowaways in Puget Sound?

Or maybe wanted some information on Red Tides and a good photo of one?

And why is Salish Sea slime vital for shorebirds? What IS Salish Sea slime?

What’s the effect of underwater noise on our marine animals?

Do killer whales really attack porpoises?

Toshiba Digital Camera

Moon snail shell and part of a moon snail egg case, Liberty Bay

Here’s your chance to find answers to all the above questions plus lots more information about Puget Sound (and, often, the whole Salish Sea) at one site–the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, http://www.eopugetsound.org

When I opened it a few days ago, the first thing that caught my eye was a tweet from someone reporting that the first invasive green crab I’d been hearing about lately in the news had been caught in Puget Sound, in the waters off San Juan Island. Since then, I’ve seen it reported in the news media. This is current information!

The site was launched in 2012 and is geared toward scientists and policy makers at the local, state, and federal level, but it’s also available to anyone interested in what lives in the waters of Puget Sound and the health status of those waters.

I found the recent articles on the first page most interesting–the home page opens to recently published ones. The magazine, Salish Sea Currents, found in the menu across the top also features a lot of current articles. I found the “Species” section difficult to use. And I mistakenly thought I could identify the shoreline habitat in front of my house by using the identification chart in the “Shoreline Habitats” section. It lists 95 different kinds of shoreline habitats in Puget Sound!

I’ve really missed seeing sea stars on our beaches, so I looked for an update on Sea Star Wasting Disease–I’ve been hearing that the sea stars were coming back. All I found was an article about the disease, no recent information. Perhaps with a little more practice, I would have more success with these research challenges.

The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound is yet one more site to put on your “Favorites” list for browsing now or later.

Canoe Journey, July, 2012

Native people along the Northwest Coast and Salish Sea used marine highways for thousands of years. In their hand-carved canoes they paddled both rivers and sea. They used trails through the thick cedar and fir forests (some of our local roads today are laid atop these very trails), but they had no horses. Canoes were faster than feet!

In 1989 Northwest tribes attempted to revive the old culture around this traditional travel during Paddle to Seattle. Nine canoes traveled from Suquamish to Seattle in 1989, but many of them began their journey at LaPush. I have friends who remember being at LaPush that first summer as the canoes began their voyage. After the canoes were launched and began to move out into the water heading north (to enter the Salish Sea and then travel south), people walked and then ran along the beach to keep them in sight as long as possible. None of my friends realized that day what this one canoe journey would become over the following years.

Canoe, Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center,...

Canoe, Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, Seattle, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The now annual Canoe Journey has done much more than revive canoe travel. It is reviving traditional languages, songs, dances, carving arts, and an increased concern with spiritual and physical fitness. I think it’s easy to romanticize these journeys, but they take a tremendous amount of work, preparation, and coordination. It has also become a meeting and sharing of cultures as non-Natives help hosting tribes with food preparation and other logistics.

Tribal Journey 2009

Tribal Journey 2009 (Photo credit: DogAteMyHomework)

Editor Richard Walker of the North Kitsap Herald recently described the event as “arguably the largest cultural event in the Pacific Northwest.” I remember reading a news story about it in The New York Times in a July, 2011 issue.

A different tribe hosts each year’s final destination. This year about 100 canoes from tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest are traveling right now to Squaxin, near Olympia, Washington, arriving there July 29. They will stop for visits at more than 70 communities along the way. Some will be traveling as far as 680 miles.

You can see a map as well as a terrific photo show at www.paddletosquaxin2012.org. Be sure to click on the map to enlarge it. You can also see estimated times of arrival at the various stops along the way.