SEATTLE -- The number of creatures in the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia needing to be conserved has nearly doubled in the last two years, according to a study being presented Wednesday.
Scientists with the non-profit SeaDoc Society this year counted 113 species that are listed as threatened or endangered, or are candidates for listing in either the U.S. or Canada—compared with 64 species in 2008.
The snowy owl, cackling goose, Pacific sardine and surf smelt are among 49 species that use the Salish Sea that have recently been flagged for special conservation attention, whether by the Canadian province, Washington state, or the U.S. or Canadian governments. The Salish Sea refers to the inland marine waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Georgia Strait.
“To have this huge increase, we’re just catching up to what’s been going on in the last 10 years,” said Joe Gaydos, the study’s co-author who is a veterinarian and regional director for the SeaDoc Society. The list usually climbs by a few species a year, he said.
The increase shows that government agencies in the region are paying attention to fish, birds and other animals in decline, said Gaydos and study co-author Nick Brown. But it also suggests the Salish Sea marine ecosystem is declining and may ultimately need its own protection, the authors said.
Their study is being presented at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The SeaDoc Society, part of the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has been tracking species of concern for nearly a decade.
The study found that 23 species of fish and birds were newly added to the list by one or more government entity, while 26 species were already receiving conservation attention but were only recently identified as using the waters between Washington and Canada.
“What it shows us is that there are some real issues that we should be addressing,” Gaydos said, adding the next step is to come up with recovery plans for individual species.