Friday, September 22, 2006

Low oxygen kills fish in Washington

Who says dead fish tell no tales? These dead fish have a tale to tell indeed, a tale of a waterway in decline.

Hood canal in Western Washington was the site of a major fish kill this week. Divers observed dying fish swimming near the surface, gasping for oxygen. Failing, they expired in front of the shocked eyes of the divers.

Hood canal is not near a major population center; humans are fairly sparse on the shore. This fishhook shaped fjord was once home to fabulous ocean ecosystems, and my father used to drive hours to dive in it's rich underwater worlds. Now all that's left is a sad reminder. Go here for a Hood canal map.

How did we get in this mess, and what's to be done? There are no easy answers, since the major problem seems to be non-point runoff of nitrogen from dispersed human sources. Leaky septic tanks, lawn fertilizer, and modest waste like grass clippings and food thrown to seagulls are blamed, and it's a big effort to tidy up all of that.

One of the main things we must do is mourn the decline of a place once-great, so we don't forget what we've lost. Otherwise, we'll see things get worse and we'll accept a pathetic fishless place as just the way things are.

photo: Erika Schultz/Seattle Times

1 comment:

Glen Hemerick said...
"EDITORIAL: Identifying and Resolving Hood Canal's
Problems " if you give money to experts to study hood canal
and do nothing, then you don't have money to do something, right,* as is done elsewhere by others having similar problems; and you don't have enough
money left for elementary schools.. your problem is
not nitrogen, nor sewage, as such; your problem is the
plankton which oysters eat every day of the year. the
experts talk about blooms dying and removing oxygen;
the truth is that the permanent, resident , food-chain plankton are a source of oxygen, and they
are easily killed , especially by chlorine laundry bleach from septic tanks along streams and shoreline.and from homes which have no septic tank; and from
chlorinated drinking water in city sewage. a simple solution is sewage lagoons for city sewage, and something similar behind the homes up on the hill, to
trap some of the bleach.

If you add light, air, carbon dioxide, and about 15
chemical elements to sea water you may get growth of
plankton ; near zero, you may get the plankton eaten
by zooplankton and shellfish, which are not caught in
nets, i have recently bought hood
canal oysters, as i have been doing , to monitor
flavor. during the past three years i have been
adding native plankton, like ostreococcus and
micromonas , to hood canal to increase oxygen.
(Glen Hemerick - 10:39pm Feb 17, 2001 EDT (7.)
[Edited, Feb 18, 2001; pm " Growing Native Marine
Phytoplankton. "