Puget Sound Expedition 1998

Following the model of the San Francisco Bay Expeditions of 1993-1997, it was decided to try a Puget Sound Expedition in the late summer of 1998 to look for non-indigenous marine species in float-fouling communities of Puget Sound, using the core researchers and methods pioneered in San Francisco Bay. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources Nearshore Habitat Program was the primary sponsor of the expedition. A second Puget Sound / Willapa Bay Expedition took place in May 2000. The first Olympic Coast Expedition took place in the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary of Washington State in August 2001.

The concept of the 1998 expedition arose rather naturally from an inspiring and enlightening plenary talk at the Puget Sound Research 1998 Conference in Seattle by Andy Cohen entitled "The Exotic Species Threat on the Pacific Coast." In a discussion after the talk, Andy, Helen Berry of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Nearshore Habitat Program, and I realized that there had not been any systematic field search for exotic species living in Puget Sound, and we decided that Puget Sound shouldn't be that much more difficult to cover (superficially) in a week than was San Francisco Bay. Thus began the concept for a series of field trips in Puget Sound that would mirror the San Francisco Bay Expeditions, although the frequency of the Puget Sound Expeditions is likely to be considerably less often than annual, and the coverage may ultimately include the lower Strait of Georgia in Canada, as well as the Washington outer coast.

Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay have been tightly connected by shipping since the earliest days of European and Asian settlement of the Puget Sound region in the mid-1800s. One of the chief exports of the Puget Sound region has always been lumber and nearly as soon as new settlers arrived, ships were transporting logs (and moving solid ballast at the same time) between Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. (Members of my own family emigrated from Scotland to San Francisco and within a few weeks moved up to the logging and mill scene in the Puget Sound region in the 1860s.) Some of the earliest North American--Pacific Rim shipping contacts were made by the Hudson Bay Company when it was based in Puget Sound and sent agricultural and other natural resource products (including dried salmon) to Hawaii and China as early as the 1830s . Today, both the Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay estuary systems receive enormous amounts of shipping traffic (and associated ballast water) from all over the world, but principally from other west coast American ports and other Pacific Rim countries. Comparison of the state of invasion of San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound is therefore an interesting prospect.

Dates for the First Puget Sound Expedition were September 8 - 16, 1998. The format of this Expedition was similar to that used in San Francisco Bay in the 1990s, but involved a team of 15-20 marine biologists of varied expertise (rather than the 5-10 participating in any of the S. F. Bay Expeditions). Using a rapid-assessment approach, we sampled about 25 sites, primarily marinas with floating docks, as well as a small number of intertidal sites between Olympia and Blaine over about 6 days and worked up the samples immediately afterward at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories. I did reconnaissance during the spring and summer, looking for sites that were well-distributed throughout the Sound, and that were otherwise of particular interest as possible centers for introductions of marine plants and animals because they are near busy modern or historic shipping ports or aquaculture facilities.

Field and lab work contributed about equally to the Puget Sound Expedition.
Photos above by Kevin Li, King County DNR, Puget Sound Expeditioneer


Why do we care about non-indigenous species?

Puget Sound is the second largest estuary system in the United States. There are plenty of indicators that the marine environment in Puget Sound has been declining substantially in recent decades, including decreases in the number of salmon, herring, bottomfish and many other fish populations, declining water quality causing increasing numbers of shellfish beds to be offbounds for harvest due to pollution, and increasing amounts of contaminated sediments. Replacement of the already-impacted native fauna (animals) and flora (plants) with non-native species that arrive and become established by accident is yet another blow to the ecosystem.

Several species of Atlantic saltmarsh grasses in the genus Spartina have become established on both the outer coast of Washington in bays and harbors, and in patches throughout Puget Sound. During the last decade, there has been an intensive program whose goal is removal of Spartina from Washington waters, because it fills in native mudflats, turning them into saltmarshes, which is not a habitat in which Washington iinvertebrates and fishes have evolved and which is detrimental to many local species. There is no question that the highly invasive Spartina species are problematic and unwanted aliens in Washington waters.

After Spartina, the best-advertised recent marine immigrant to Washington State is the European green crab, Carcinus maenas, which was first collected along the Washington outer coast in June 1998. It was first collected along the outer coast of Vancouver Island in southern British Columbia in June 1999. This crab has not yet been collected in the Puget Sound / Strait of Georgia waters of Washington State and British Columbia, but is considered to be a major potential threat to the shellfish industry in these protected waters. The green crab first arrived in San Francisco Bay about a decade ago and has still had negligible economic impact there, but it is feared that it will eventually prey heavily on commercial clams, oysters, and crabs all along the west coast. The Green Crab Update page maintained by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is the best place to check for recent reports in the Pacific Northwest. Green crabs that arrived on the shores of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia during the El Nino year of 1997-98 seem now to be dying off in those communities and it may require another El Nino to move larvae from established west coast southern populations north again.

Another new local example, receiving little State publicity, is the purple varnish clam, Nuttallia obscurata, which is becoming increasingly abundant in the northern Puget Sound / Strait of Georgia region. It occupies nearly the same habitat as the native littleneck clam and the now-resident nonindigenous Manila clam in the mid- to upper intertidal zone. Nuttallia is likely to become a popular recreational clam as it becomes better known; it will also probably be highly vulnerable to the European green crab because its shell is thin and easily opened, so may provide a ready food source for that invader, where their ranges overlap. It is also readily eaten by native Cancer crabs.

The Puget Sound Expedition found a variety of other species, representing numerous phyla, quietly occupying space on Puget Sound docks. Other nuisance invading species that have made it to North America, but not yet to Puget Sound, include the catadramous Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, in San Francisco Bay and the large, veined Rapa whelk, Rapana venosa, a bivalve predator from the Sea of Japan that was recently discovered in the Chesapeake Bay.



Our 37 page technical report ("Puget Sound Expedition: A Rapid Assessment Survey of Non-Indigenous Species in the Shallow Waters of Puget Sound") was released by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in early November, 1998. It can be downloaded off the web here or here; see another brief summary on the Nearshore Habitat Program website here. Paper copies of this report are available from Washington State DNR . Contact the Nearshore Habitat Program, Aquatic Resources Division, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, 1111 Washington Street SE, PO Box 47027, Olympia, Washington, 98504-7027; telephone 360-902-1100.

The Puget Sound Expedition found 40 non-indigenous species in Puget Sound, as well as an additional 30 species of uncertain (cryptogenic) origin that are also likely to be introduced species in our marine waters. Click here to see the full list of these non-indigenous marine species along with their geographic origins, first records of collection on both the Pacific coast and in Puget Sound, and the possible mechanism of introduction. (This web report and table contain corrections not in the paper copy of the technical report above.) There are still many habitats in Puget Sound that we did not explore, so this list is far from complete.

I have also linked here my own annotated list of Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa, and Anthozoa sometimes listed as non-indigenous in Puget Sound, exerpted and slightly revised from the Puget Sound Report (Appendix 7, pp. 35-37). This list derives from several sources and includes some of my personal observations as well as cnidarian species seen during the Puget Sound Expedition.

How invaded is Puget Sound?

I would probably call Puget Sound "moderately invaded." We found about 60 species (combined nonindigenous and cryptogenic species) that probably shouldn't be in Puget Sound if people's marine activities had not carried them along. This is a pretty large number in terms of biodiversity, and each of these species is having some sort of ecological effect in its new home, even if, as in many cases, we are presently unable to understand what that effect might be. Some of these species were intentionally introduced, for instance some species of clams and oysters for mariculture, and are considered by most of us to be welcome additions to our fauna. Other species arrived accidently. So far, with the exception of Spartina, which is causing serious localized problems, Puget Sound seems to have been spared any truly devastating new marine species, but that is pure chance. Our relatively healthy fauna and flora is not that way because we have been vigilant, or because we are wonderful, but probably mostly because we are lucky. The arrival of a really obnoxious marine species may be just around the corner, and it is very difficult if not impossible to predict which species might do the most harm in Puget Sound until they are well established here and already wreaking havoc. It will be extremely difficult to eliminate most noxious marine species once they have become established in Puget Sound.

It is hoped that this Expedition will stimulate further projects looking at new or pre-existing non-indigenous populations or monitoring for newcomers around Puget Sound. Such projects could be accomplished at a variety of levels, from grade-school children to university students.

Dr. Mills presented the results of this Expedition at the first National Conference on Marine Bioinvasions, sponsored by the MIT Sea Grant College Program, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA from January 24 - 27, 1999. That presentation (with updated table of species ) has now been published in Marine Bioinvasions: Proceedings of the First National Conference (2000).

Drs Carlton, Chapman and Cohen presented related research on non-indigenous species in other marine ecosystems at the same meeting.

Discussion of Related Literature

The most complete study on marine introductions in this region is the 1979 PhD dissertation of James T. Carlton,"History, Biogeography, and Ecology of the Introduced Marine and Estuarine Invertebrates of the Pacific Coast of North America" (904 pp and available at the UW Fisheries-Oceanography Library and Friday Harbor Laboratories Library, among other places; it can also be purchased from University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan. A useful, newly-compiled species index for J.T. Carlton's 1979 PhD dissertation is now available on the web (the original dissertion does not have an index). By combining fieldwork up and down the Pacific coast, including visits to the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, with a thorough search of the literature, Carlton listed 29 nonindigenous marine species in the Puget Sound / Strait of Georgia region. We found 14 of these species in Puget Sound, and collected another 26 nonindigenous marine species that are not on Carlton's list. Puget Sound has undergone substantial change in the past two decades.

Since Carlton's dissertation work, several other scientists have recently generated lists of marine nonindigenous species thought to be in the Puget Sound / Strait of Georgia region; these lists are generally highly derivative of Carlton's 1979 work. They include R. Elston (1997) "Pathways and management of marine non-indigenous species in the shared waters of British Columbia and Washington," Puget Sound / Georgia Basin Environmental Report Series No. 5. Puger Sound Water Quality Action Team, Olympia, WA. I believe that this study derived solely from a search of the literature with no associated fieldwork. Elston lists 31 nonindigenous species in the shared inland waters of British Columbia and Washington, 14 of which apparently represent valid established species in Puget Sound. The Expedition collected 30 nonindigenous marine species that are not on Elston's list.

G.M. Ruiz and A.H. Hines (1997) wrote a report entitled "The risk of non-indigenous species invasion in Prince William Sound associated with oil tanker traffic and ballast water management: Pilot study," prepared for the Regional Citizens Advisory Committee of Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. This study is derived from a search of the literature and included no associated fieldwork. These authors list 67 nonindigenous species in the shared marine and estuarine inland waters of British Columbia and Washington, 28 of which were collected by the Puget Sound Expedition 1998. The Expedition collected 14 additional nonindigenous marine species that are not on this list.

The State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has posted a list of 78 species of nonindignous marine species found in Washington State and adjacent waters , which is based largely on the above paper by Ruiz and Hines (1997). We believe that the list of nonindigenous marine species for inland marine waters of Washington State should contain about 54 confirmed species. The state list has not yet been revised based on comments from taxonomic specialists in the region who participated in the Puget Sound Expeditions (although some comments were submitted nearly four years ago).

A new literature search of known marine introductions in Washington and British Columbia from the Columbia River to the Queen Charlotte Islands is nearing completion by Marjorie Wonham, graduate student in the Zoology Department of the University of Washington, and James Carlton. Both Dr. Carlton and Ms. Wonham participated in the Expedition. You may be interested in reading a 1998 speech on the marine alien species issue by James Carlton .


Schedule for the Puget Sound Expedition - Sept 8-16, 1998.
See map
, which includes a few sites that we didn't have time to visit. The site descriptions are linked here to photographs in the Washington State Department of Ecology Shoreline Photo database on the web.

Day 1. Sept. 8 (Tuesday) East-central Puget Sound
Low tide +0.9 ' at 1151 (Seattle prediction).

1. Port of Everett Marina
2. Port of Edmonds Marina
3. City of Des Moines Marina
4. Harbor Island Marina, near mouth of Duwamish River
5. Elliott Bay Marina, Seattle
6. Fishermen's Terminal, Seattle

Evening lab work at the King County Environmental Laboratory.
Photos below by Kevin Li, King County DNR, Puget Sound Expeditioneer
Helen Berry, Leslie Harris, Andy Cohen, Jim Carlton, Betty Bookheim, John Chapman


Day 2. Sept. 9 (Wednesday) South Puget Sound
Low tide +1.9 ' at 1237 (Seattle prediction).

7. Ole & Charlie's Marina, Tacoma
8. Steilacoom Marina
9. Boston Harbor Marina, north of Olympia
10. Port of Shelton Marina
11. Fairharbor Marina, Grapeview

Day 3. Sept. 10 (Thursday) Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Peninsula
Low tide +3.1 ' at 1326 (Seattle prediction).

12. Kitsap Marina, Port Orchard
13. Brownsville Marina
14. Seabeck Marina, Hood Canal
15. Port Ludlow Marina
16. Port Hadlock Bay Marina
17. Boat Haven Marina, Port Townsend

Day 4. Sept. 11 (Friday) North Puget Sound
Low tide +4.0 ' at 1328 (Pt. Townsend prediction).

18. Deception Pass Marina, Cornet Bay, Whidbey Island
19. Blaine Marina
20. Squalicum Harbor, Port of Bellingham
21. Samish Bay - small float in Samish River near Edison
22. Padilla Bay -
Vaucheria flats east of the Swinomish Channel
23. Cap Sante Boat Haven, Anacortes

Day 5. Sept. 12 (Saturday) At the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island
Low tides +0.2 ' at 0216 and +5.0 ' at 1440 (Pt. Townsend prediction).

In the laboratory working up samples needing further identification.
Lab photos below by Kevin Li, King County DNR, Puget Sound Expeditioneer

Eugene Kozloff, Andy Cohen, Jim Carlton, Alan Kohn, Helen Berry, Marjorie Wonham, Brian Bingham and Gretchen Lambert


Day 6. Sept. 13 (Sunday) At the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island
Low tides +0.2 ' at 0322 and +5.5 ' at 1610 (Pt. Townsend).

Continued to work up samples in the laboratory.
24. UW Friday Harbor Laboratories dock, San Juan Island
G. and C. Lambert sampled 7 additional marinas on San Juan Island for tunicates.

Day 7. Sept. 14 (Monday) At the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island
Low tides +0.2 ' at 0430 and +5.6 ' at 1740 (Pt. Townsend prediction).

Continue to work up samples in the laboratory.
25. Argyle Lagoon and North Bay, San Juan Island
G. and C. Lambert sampled 6 marinas on Orcas Island for tunicates.

Day 8. Sept. 15 (Tuesday) At the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island

26. Mud Bay at base of Eld Inlet, near Olympia (sampled by John Chapman)
Finish lab work, analyze results and start summary report.
G. and C. Lambert sampled 2 additional marinas on San Juan Island for tunicates.

Day 9. Sept. 16 (Wednesday) At the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island

Work on summary report.
G. and C. Lambert sampled 1 marina on Lopez Island and 3 additional marinas in Anacortes for tunicates.

Days 10-14. Sept. 17-20 (Thursday-Sunday) At the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island

Complete work on summary report.



Many of the scientists volunteered their time to this project, which was essential to its success. We also received some funding for expenses from several interested agencies around Puget Sound including the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team. The University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, King County Environmental Laboratory and Western Washington University Shannon Point Marine Laboratory allowed us to use their facilities, personnel, and/or equipment. Without the cooperation of the various marinas where we sampled, this project would not have been possible, and we are grateful to all of them, as well as to those who volunteered to be part of the project, but who were skipped for lack of time.



Helen Berry - DNR Nearshore Habitat Group
Brian Bingham - WWU (general invertebrates; teaches university students in north Puget Sound and Straits region)
Betty Bookheim - DNR Nearshore Habitat Group
Jim Carlton - Williams College, Mystic, CT (general invertebrates and exotics; S.F. Bay team)
John Chapman - OSU (small bug things, exotics; S.F. Bay team)
Andy Cohen - San Francisco Estuary Institute (general invertebrates and exotics; S.F. Bay team)
Jeff Cordell - UW Fisheries (especially copepods and other small crustaceans)
Leslie Harris - LA County Museum (polychaetes; S.F. Bay team)
Terrie Klinger - UW/FHL (algae; teaches university students in San Juan Islands)
Eugene Kozloff - UW/FHL (general invertebrates)
Alan Kohn - UW (general invertebrates; molluscs)
Gretchen and Charles Lambert - Seattle (tunicates; San Francisco Bay and San Diego Bay)
Kevin Li - King County DNR (amphipods and other small crustaceans)
Claudia Mills - UW/FHL (cnidaria and ctenophores; San Francisco Bay team)
Bruno Pernet - UW/FHL (worms and other invertebrates)
David Secord - UW Tacoma (anemones; teaches university students in south Puget Sound)
Jason Toft - UW grad student (took plankton tows; non-indigenous spp.)
Marjorie Wonham - UW grad student (general invertebrates; Mytilus)


North Puget Sound / Strait of Georgia Expedition

A Canadian team sampled numerous marina sites on south Vancouver Island and the southern British Columbia mainland during the last week of February and the first week of March, 1999. We await their results with great interest.

There is some interest in staging an additional North "Puget Sound" Expedition to take place sometime in the near future, picking up a few north Puget Sound sites that we didn't have time to include in September 1998, and extending our field work up into the Canadian Strait of Georgia (at about the same time of year - late summer- as we sampled Puget Sound, to contrast with the late winter 1999 Canadian samples). Such an expedition is also likely to be basically unfunded and based purely on personal interest. Possible new sites for a Salish Sea / Strait of Georgia / Strait of Juan de Fuca Expedition might include some of the following:

Mainland, North "Puget Sound"/Strait of Georgia

Padilla Bay National Estuary at Bayview State Park
Gooseberry Point
Sandy Point Marina (near Cherry Point)
several "Vancouver" sites

North Olympic Peninsula

Port Angeles
Sequim Bay
Discovery Bay

South Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Victoria, Downtown Harbor *
Esquimalt Harbor *
Sidney, customs dock at foot of Beacon Street *
Ladysmith *

San Juan Archipelago

Westcott Bay, San Juan Island
Snug Harbor Marina, San Juan Island *
Eastsound, Orcas Island
Deer Harbor, Orcas Island
Fisherman's Bay, Lopez Island
Mackaye Harbor, Lopez Island
Mud Bay, Lopez Island
Spencer Spit, Lopez Island
County pier and floating dock, east side of Lopez Island
Waldron Island
Public pier, Sucia Island
Reid Harbor, Stuart Island

* Site was sampled by Jim Carlton in 1976/1977

This site is maintained by C. E. Mills; photographs should not be used without permission.
** This page was established March 1998; last updated 19 April 2004 **

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