Tribal canoes land at Lummi, measuring water quality along the way

swin lands at lummi (38)The Swinomish tribal canoe “Salmon Dancer,” helmed by tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby, arrived at Lummi Nation Sunday, along with several other canoes traveling from British Columbia. The annual Tribal Canoe Journey will culminate Aug. 3 at Suquamish.

The canoes are towing water quality probes in a partnership with the USGS to study the health of Puget Sound. The Bellingham Herald has the story:

The probes take water samples every 10 seconds and test the water for temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, pH and turbidity.

Eric Grossman, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, was travelling with the group this year to help study the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia – known to the Coast Salish people as the Salish Sea.

During his journey, Grossman said he saw a number of dead fish and crabs washed up along the beaches.

Grossman said the water was red from harmful algal blooms outside of Howe Sound all the way to the Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver, B.C.

“I’ve never seen it so red,” he said. “It was probably 10 miles of constant red.”

Algal blooms are harmful because as they decay, they suck up the oxygen in the water – making it difficult for marine life to survive. The problem may not be particular to Vancouver’s waters.

Recently, the bottom of Bellingham Bay has had lower oxygen levels, Grossman said.