The grisly video above shows a coho salmon struggling to survive in polluted stormwater runoff on the Duwamish River in Washington. This contaminated water—filled with oil from cars, pesticides, dirt and debris—can kill this particular species of Pacific salmon in hours, according to Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, which posted the clip on Oct. 21.
Sadly, it appears that this fish is one of many coho salmon in the Puget Sound Basin that have died, and will continue to die, from this man-made tragedy.
A new study, published in the Ecological Society of America's journal Ecological Applications, has found "that contaminants in stormwater runoff from the regional transportation grid likely caused these mortality events."
"Further, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse historical coho declines without addressing the toxic pollution dimension of freshwater habitats," the authors note.
Stormwater runoff comes from rain that falls on streets, parking areas and other developed land and flows directly into waterways. As it flows, the water can collect a potentially toxic cocktail of oil, grease, animal waste, litter, pesticides, fertilizers and other potential pollutants.
The new analysis was compiled by researchers at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle along with collaborators at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local tribes and the Wild Fish Conservancy.
For the study, researchers surveyed coho mortality rates at 51 spawning sites in Puget Sound and were able to positively link die-offs to increased road density and traffic intensity, among other variables.
Citing the study, the Herald Net wrote, "The results show that in an estimated 40 percent of their range in the Puget Sound Basin, 10 to 40 percent of coho salmon die before they can even spawn because of pollution."
Earlier experiments have also found that coho salmon swimming in untreated stormwater experienced 100 percent mortality, while coho swimming in stormwater filtered by soil, bark chips and gravel survived.
The team was able to generate a predictive mortality risk map for the entire Puget Sound Basin.
"It can be extremely useful for urban planning to know that if you develop this area and in an old-school way you are going to take out a lot of coho," Blake Feist, lead author on the paper, told The Seattle Times.
"We have to act now," said Jay Davis, an environmental toxicologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who coordinated field research for the study. Davis told the Washington Post that the coho population could crash in as little as six years.
Incidentally, coho is the only one out of the five salmon species—chinook, sockeye, pink and chum—that is experiencing this rate of mortality, a "great mystery that we are working on," Nat Scholz, NOAA research zoologist, told the Washington Post.
The solution could lie in "green infrastructure and similar clean water strategies could prove most useful for promoting species conservation and recovery," the authors note.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance also suggested that "smarter development of land and on-site filtering of stormwater, which helps control both pollution and flooding."
As it happens, four species of coho salmon are protected under the Endangered Species Act throughout the West Coast, including the Lower Columbia River (threatened), Oregon Coast (threatened), Southern Oregon and Northern California Coasts (threatened), and Central California Coast (endangered).
Elsewhere, the Central California Coast coho salmon—once plentiful in local rivers and streams—is now "living on the edge" as it faces challenges such as multiyear droughts and the increased presence of fine sediment, rocks and fallen trees from damming and logging activities, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
And as Mongabay reports, northwest salmon fisheries have been struggling due to warming oceans and overdeveloped, dammed and silted spawning rivers and streams. While federally funded local, state and tribal programs administered by NOAA have helped declining salmon fisheries, President Trump's 2018 budget would cut all those programs. For now, Congress has restored them.
You can learn more about the threat of toxic runoff and how you can help here.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>