Tribal Canoe Journey for Troubled Sea: Part I

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The USGS and the Coast Salish Tribal Nation have partnered during the annual Tribal.Canoe Journey to study and help improve resources of the Salish Sea.

This first episode in the Corecast Tribal Journey series examines the new partnership between the USGS and Coast Salish people.


Episode Number: 57

Date Taken:

Length: 07:36:00

Location Taken: WA, US


Welcome, and thanks for tuning in to this
episode of CoreCast. I'm Jennifer LaVista.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Coast
Salish Tribal Nation have partnered during

the annual tribal journey to study and help
improve resources of the Salish Sea.

This first video in the CoreCast Tribal
Journey series examines a new partnership

between the Coast Salish and the USGS.
To put our location in perspective, we're

about two hours north of Seattle. The
Swinomish Canoe Family will be leaving

La Conner and making their way up to
Anacortes today. Canoes will land at

their final destination in Quw'utsun,
British Columbia on July 28th.

I met up with Swinomish Skipper Eric Day
to learn more about the tribal journey

The tribal journey is an
annual event that goes on every year

and one tribe agrees to host and
basically all of the other tribes get

in their canoe and travel there.
It's basically to commemorate how our

ancestors used to travel.
What I have been seeing for sure is

the fish declining - the fisheries
declining. I think, our fishermen, they're

lucky to get 2 or 3 days out of the
year for fishing Sakai and while I

was fishing in Sakai just out of high
school we're out there for like 2 weeks.

Sometimes we got there 3 weeks, that's
basically why I got out of the fisheries,

because I saw that happening, and you
know there's a lot of dead zones down at

south Puget Sound there you know, you
hear that on the news all the time.

They're talking about how the oxygen level
and especially in the Hood Canal has

declined way down. And you always hear on
the news about the water temperature

rising and you know the fish, they don't
like it when it's warm.

We have several projects within the
USGS that work on

issues related to habitats and water
quality. And one of them is the Coastal

Habitats and Puget Sound project. That
is a project that is integrating

scientists from biology, geology,
hydrology, chemistry, geography, to

answer certain problems related to land
use and its impact on near-shore habitat

and environments.
As part of that project, we work here

in the Skagit Delta and over the last
2 or 3 years, we've been working quite

closely with Swinomish Tribe and the
Skagit River System Cooperative who

supports the Swinomish Tribe.

We had several conversations about
other types of opportunities for

conducting this science and it was
mentioned there's an annual canoe

journey and it donned on me that a
great methodology would be fastening

this water-quality probes behind
multiple canoes during the summer

journey and having the canoes, mapping
out the water bodies across the

Salish Sea.

Eric Grossman was coming up
here to actually-- in Skagit bay

doing a lot of water test in Skagit bay.
I don't know when he came up with the

idea, but him and Deborah Lacana
they've pulled me aside and asked me

what I thought, you know, the other
canoe skippers would think, if we did

a water-quality test out on the water,
we brought it out well we don't know

if one or two guys want to do this
but you know, like 7 or 8 people will

come up and say "Yeah, we'll take a
probe. Yeah we'll take a probe" and

we only had 5 probes. When we first
started, we were only taking maybe 1

or 2. And then pretty soon, when we
had 20 people already, they say

"Hey, let's do it,you know, we
want to do it. "

So this is a multi-parameter
water-quality probe.

This particular one is from YSI
Environmental International. And it's

multi-parameter in terms of being
able to measure a number of water

quality properties.
We have a temperature sensor, a

conductivity sensor, a pH sensor,
depth, and these larger ones are

optical turbidity, and optical dissolved
oxygen. And this will be traveling

behind the canoe, being towed by
the canoe in the surface water,

meaning the upper half meter of the
water column, and measuring those

water parameters every few seconds,
but recording every 10 seconds.

And along with this is a fancy
handheld marine GPS that will be

tagging those measurements every
10 seconds so we have a fixed

position along the water.
And these data are integrated in

a small handheld computer here,
again every 10 seconds. And what

we will do is log the entire journey
from take off point in the morning

to ending point in the afternoon.
And simply download the data

in when it arrives the shore and
that data file then is then e-mailed

into our central server at
Washington Water Science Center. And

Ray Julich we'll be mapping them up,
almost near real time, every afternoon,

and displaying the results on
Google Maps interface for the world to see.

So these different parameters that
will be measured will be mapped out

this year behind canoe, along six
or so different pathways. And

essentially this year would be just
a baseline mapping of conditions

in late July 2008. But they might lead
to important anomalies and important

areas of water quality concern that
we can return to and study in a

little more detail.

The Coast Salish Tribal Nation's invitation
to us to join in this science project

really is an honor for us to have an
opportunity to be with them on this

annual journey that they take.
And it's really given us an opportunity for

them to share with us their traditions,

their values, their culture. So it's
a great opportunity for us.

The hope is to integrate
this traditional local knowledge of the

Coast Salish people. They've canoed
these waters, they fished these waters,

they've lived off these waters for the
last hundreds of years, thousands of

years and they have an understanding of
the different characteristics of the

environment, where fish were plentiful,
where eel grass was healthy, where

there was turbidity, where there's
wasn't, and we might be able to marry

some of this science with their long
standing knowledge to better

understand the recent trends.

I hope to see this
partnership continue to strengthen and

grow and to expand to a number of
the other tribes in the area. I think

again it's a great opportunity to
marry our science with the traditional

knowledge, and to help share with the
nation about changes that are

occurring here and the ecological system.
And provide some information to better

inform the policy makers and the
resource managers.

Stay tuned to
for upcoming videos, daily

water-quality data, photos
and much more. CoreCast is the product

of the U.S. Geological Survey,
Department of the Interior.

Until next time, I'm Jennifer LaVista.