The water in our exhibits comes directly out of the Port Angeles Harbor. That means we can keep plankton eaters, like sea cucumbers, easily in the habitats without having to grow or produce food especially for them.

Benefits of using harbor water

Many of the animals in Feiro’s habitats eat plankton; microscopic plants and animals that populate every drop of ocean water (there are also freshwater plankton). Sea cucumbers, scallops, barnacles and other creatures filter plankton out of the free-flowing sea water, which means Feiro staff don’t have to manufacture or supplement that food source for those animals.

Another benefit includes marine life that rides in through the pipes and settles in our habitats. Young creatures, including nudibranchs, snails, fish, sea stars and the like, ride in while they are small enough to fit into the 7/8” physical filter. Finding that our habitats have plenty of food, places to hide and not very many predators or natural events that would wash them away (think heavy waves and high/low tide events), they tend to stick around. Watching these young animals grow and develop is a unique perspective on our marine waters.

Lastly, the natural water flow keeps the habitats at exactly the right temperature for the season – no extra energy is needed to cool the exhibits.

Challenges of using harbor water

Combined Sewer Overflow

Combined Sewer Overflow, CSOs, are particularly frequent during the winter months when there is a lot of rainfall. It introduces mixed stormwater and raw sewage directly into Port Angeles harbor. This effluent contains a mix of bacteria, viruses, pathogens, toxins, and nutrients that impair water quality and can impact both human health and the health of marine life. While CSO effects on the harbor in general are of concern to Port Angeles, a particular concern is the effect that CSOs may have upon the Feiro Marine Life Center and its visitors. Feiro draws water from Port Angeles harbor to circulate through its many aquaria, including the public “touch tanks”. CSOs have the potential to harm the marine organisms housed in these aquaria and to harm visitors exposed to them. Until the City of Port Angeles finishes its combined sewer overflow project and these events cease, we may close the touch tanks or take other precautions to keep staff, volunteers and visitors safe after a heavy rainfall.

Stormwater

Not only sewer overflows, but normal pollutants can harm marine life and water quality in our creeks, rivers and the Strait. The City of Port Angeles Stormwater Management Plan is designed to help all of us reduce pollution at the source – us! By modifying our actions in small ways, we can improve the overall water quality of the stormwater that runs down towards the harbor.