Through the Locks

by Youth Ocean Advocate Abby S.

In a culture that forgets that North Face coats come from oil and Cheetos come from corn, it’s almost as easy to forget humans have an inexorable impact on our environment.

A water’s-edge city like Seattle has a stronger awareness of this truth. We’re a port city: we fish, we export grain in huge metal boats, we see the water and smell the sea from the market and avoid the gulls everywhere, every day.

The two-hour Argosy Locks Cruise in Elliot Bay and Lake Union shows us this world and more, and not always the beauty of it. Shoreline development and industry have polluted the Puget Sound since the 1800s, and divers have discovered everything from empty bottles to motorcycles at the bottom of Lake Union. At one point, Seattleites drained the lake enough that marshes miles away dried up.

Fortunately, there are also quite a few environmental triumphs in the area. The Ballard Locks, a passageway from Elliot Bay to Lake Union, successfully prevents fresh and saltwater from mixing through a system of gates and pumps which helps preserve the ecosystems of the two neighboring waters. The Locks also have a fish ladder to help salmon on their epic quest home. Holed plastic sheets underneath the waterfront docks provide shelter for fish, snails and crabs, and government legislation regulates the number of floating homes on Lake Union to limit pollution.

While our negative impacts on the Puget Sound are undeniable, Seattleites have also taken great strides to prevent further damage from occurring. We can’t stop yet, though. While we might not build another lock anytime soon, we can use as little plastic as possible and support businesses that use sustainable fisheries. Look for the “Seafood Watch” logo at restaurants, or download the app to find out what kind of seafood is most sustainable.

Categories Science

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