Thursday, June 28, 2018

PTMSC Volunteer Trades Oars For Bike Pedals To Motivate Environmental Action

At age 10, Eliza Dawson volunteered at PTMSC on the Orca Project, preparing the bones of Hope the orca for display.

This summer, Eliza now 22, participated in the Great Pacific Race with Team Ripple Effect, an international team of young women to row across the Pacific from California to Hawaii to motivate environmental political action. Team Ripple Effect's guiding principle was that "while crossing the Pacific will be a monumental challenge, the challenges facing our planet are even greater. Each of us is working in our local communities to tackle issues threatening our planet and future. Together, we hope to have a global impact."

While the team had to end the row due to a medical emergency, Eliza has chosen to continue the mission on terra firma.

From Eliza's blog:

"This is my new plan: For the first two weeks of July, I will cycle 400 miles through the remote Alaskan and Canadian wilderness, getting an up-close view of rapidly receding glaciers, as well as bountiful wildlife and scenery. I remain determined to bring awareness to the impacts of climate change and I am looking forward to documenting my cycling journey."

Prior to her rowing journey, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center awarded the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship. “We continue to be inspired by Eliza,” said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. "We cheer her efforts to raise the consciousness of people everywhere about the threats to our marine environment."

Follow Eliza's blog to read more of Eliza's own words and for updates on her cycling journey.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Crabbing Season is here!

Summer is here, and that means crab season! Crab season in our local waters around the Port Townsend Marine Science Center will open this year on June 30. Other opening days in the Salish Sea region can be found here on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Opening of crab season at the PTMSC means a lot of hustle and bustle. The sea becomes a minefield of bobbing red and white crab pot buoys, people hauling out crab pots from over the pier, and people checking their crabs to make sure they are the right sex and size (more info here). The picnic tables are full of children and parents getting their haul ready to take home. The waters are speckled with boaters doing the same things.

Every year it is estimated that sport fishermen will catch over a million pounds of Dungeness crab!

When returning crabs that don't meet WDFW catch standards, remember to use the 
PTMSC crab elevator to safely lower your crabs back to the Salish Sea. 

So, how do these lucky people catch all those crabs? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when crabbing.

First things first. Get your license from the WDFW. Anyone over the age of 15 is required to carry a current fishing license with a crab endorsement on it. 

Once you have your license, or are in the process of getting it, it's time to choose your catch method. The most common way to catch crab in the Salish Sea is by using a crab pot. Crab pots can be purchased or created according to WDFW standards found on their website.

When creating and setting your crab pot, make sure to follow these tips to make sure that your pot and catch are not lost. 
  • Avoid marine transit and ferry lanes.
  • Check tides and currents: Avoid crabbing during strong tidal changes and currents.
  • Use high visibility buoys to clearly mark your gear.
  • Use a weighted line to sink below the surface and avoid being cut by passing boats.
  • Weight your pot so they do not move in high currents or tidal changes.
  • Use longer line. Use 1/3 more line than water depth to allow for changes in tides and currents.
  • Secure lid and escape panels with biodegradable cotton escape cord. This allows crabs to escape from lost pots after the cord degrades.

Here are a few helpful videos:

How to weight your pots

How to rig your line

When to set your pot

How to set your pot

How to modify your crab pot

You are now ready to catch some crab! These helpful hints will help you keep your catch and prevent your pot from becoming one of the 12,000 crab pots that are lost every year. Once lost at sea, crab pots become derelict or abandoned fishing gear. 

Derelict gear is considered to be a long-lasting marine debris and can include abandoned or lost nets, lines and pots. Most synthetic fishing gear can take decades (or more) to degrade and will continue to "ghost fish" or catch animals until removed from the ocean, as well as damage important habitat for animals. This gear is also a fiscal loss to the owner and becomes a hazard for divers, plus it can entangle boat motors and cause significant damage.

AmeriCorps member James with recovered derelict crab pots 
from under the PTMSC pier. Photo by Wendy Feltham

Thanks to the Northwest Straights Commission and WDFW, thousands of derelict fishing gear has been removed from the Salish Sea. With the help of fishermen all around the Puget Sound, WDFW has been able track and remove lost gear. If you are unable to recover your crab pot during crab season remember to contact WDFW or the Northwest Straits Commission.

There are no penalties when reporting lost or abandoned gear! Report your lost crab pot or fishing gear here.

Written by AmeriCorps Natural History and Volunteer Educator Emilee Carpenter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Coastal Explorers -- July 9-13

Attention parents and grandparents!

We’ve got the perfect summer activity for 8 and 9 year olds: PTMSC Coastal Explorer day camp, July 9-13.

During the 5-day session, campers will discover how the beach, pond, glacier, and forest ecosystems support life on the Salish Sea. 

Our skilled camp counselors will guide your child in exploring the vast and wondrous underwater world that our marine environment has to offer.

Camp is $285 ($10 off for PTMSC members).

Only a few spaces remain, so sign up today!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Best Tidepooling

When I started my service term at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, I found that I had been left a letter of advice from Brooke Askey, the AmeriCorps member in my position before me. It contained all sorts of wisdom and included one sentence in particular that intrigued me: “Salt Creek Recreation Area has the best tidepooling I’ve ever seen.”

My first view of the recreation area

So I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have been looking forward to our Salt Creek Education Program with the Blue Heron Middle School 8th graders since my first day here.

PTMSC Education Coordinator Carolyn Woods showing off some seagrass

The Blue Heron students have been going to Salt Creek for many years now accompanied by PTMSC staff, AmeriCorps and volunteers to do a monitoring project that looks at how water quality relates to efforts to protect salmon habitat. They collect data at Salt Creek with their teachers and look at plants, animals and substrates in the intertidal zone with us.

Students surveying their plot

It was so fun to watch the students test out their scientific field surveying skills and discover their monitoring plots. Often when students first arrived at their plots they would proclaim with disappointment that there was nothing there. However, once they were encouraged to look more closely and move the top layer of seaweed, they were amazed at the beautiful world of bizarre life forms they uncovered.

We found tidepools full of juvenile sculpins darting between shadows, mating spotted leopard nudibranchs, vast swaths of mussels and barnacles, little shore crabs at every turn and the biggest gumboot chiton I’ve ever seen!

Volunteer Sue Long examining a large gumboot chiton

I can now say with confidence that Brooke was right and I will pass on this tidbit to the next AmeriCorps in my position: Salt Creek Recreation Area has the best tidepooling I’ve ever seen.

AmeriCorps James Swanson and I, clearly excited about the inter-tidal zone! 
Photo by Jo Ferrero 

Written by PTMSC AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston