2013 State Of The Sound

Shellfish beds, swimming beaches and estuary indicators show some improvement. 2013 State of the Sound describes status of Puget Sound health, recovery effort. The Puget Sound Partnership’s 2013 State of the Sound, released Friday, November 1, 2013, to the Governor’s Office, reports on the status of Puget Sound recovery by measuring the progress of the Puget Sound Vital Signs as well as how regional partners are doing in implementing the 2012 Puget Sound Action Agenda.

The State of the Sound is a required report that provides data and information relevant to decisions about changes needed to programs, policies, and funding efforts that can accelerate the progress to restore Puget Sound. This report reflects work by citizens, governments, tribes, nonprofits, communities, scientists, and businesses throughout the region.

“Puget Sound is a delicate ecosystem that gives us food to eat, supports a healthy economy, provides places to swim and play, and is home to many species of wildlife,” said Martha Kongsgaard, chair of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council. “But it also has many areas that are suffering due to pressures from population growth and increasing development. We need to be proactive and preserve what is there, clean up what is polluted and restore where we can.”


  • There are 21 Vital Signs that track the status of ecosystem restoration in Puget Sound. Three of these Vital Signs are making progress toward 2020 targets; each is an example of “management response indicators” that show results quickly when the work is done.
    • 2,888 acres of shellfish beds were reopened to harvest between 2007 and 2013.
    • Approximately 2,260 acres of estuary restoration was completed between 2006 and 2012 in Puget Sound’s 16 major river delta estuaries.
    • The percent of swimming beaches meeting water quality standards in 2012 was higher than the 2004 baseline reference.
  • Data on Action Agenda implementation shows that 68 percent of 199 Near Term Actions are on plan. By also identifying which actions are in serious trouble or not started, the region can focus on getting resources to the partners who need help with funding or capacity in order to get these efforts moving.

The funding gap between what is needed to restore Puget Sound is shrinking. The region’s coordinated focus on funding the highest-priority actions for Puget Sound health has yielded results. The 2013 State of the Sound report shows that the funding gap for Strategic Initiative Near-Term Actions – related to preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and recovering shellfish beds – reduced by 27 percent. The gap for other Near Term Actions reduced by 9 percent.


Many of the Vital Signs continue to struggle, and three show a worsening trend. However, most of these struggling Vital Signs are indicators of the biophysical condition of Puget Sound and it will take longer to produce progress. Also, these indicators may be responding to multiple pressures and natural causes that are out of human control.

  • There were fewer orca whales in June 2013 than in the 2010 baseline year (down from 86 to 82 individuals).
  • The spawning biomass for most individual herring stocks either stayed the same or declined in 2012 relative to 2011. Each of the three target stock groupings remains below their individual 25-year mean baseline references and their 2020 target values. Cherry Point herring remain severely depressed.
  • Marine water quality, as measured by the Marine Water Condition Index, was slightly lower in Puget Sound in 2012 relative to the 10-year, 1999-2008 baseline. Data are not available yet for the dissolved oxygen target.
  • Salmon populations are still far from meeting federal recovery goals and they are holding the line relative to the Puget Sound Action Agenda’s 2020 target.

“In a perfect world we’d have all the needed resources to do the most important work” said Marc Daily, the Puget Sound Partnership’s interim executive director. “In reality, there are several barriers that prevent us from accomplishing as much as we want, as quickly as we need. This is why we are working with our partners across the region to prioritize actions based on what will have the greatest impact on Puget Sound conservation."

“Being able to collaborate, prioritize, and adapt are essential to optimizing and sustaining Puget Sound recovery efforts,” said Daily.

For more information on the 2013 State of the Sound report, visit www.psp.wa.gov/sos.php.

November 1, 2012/ Puget Sound Partnership News Release