An interesting pair of articles in my morning scan of the papers. This:

…scientists concluded Wednesday that the baiji [the Yangtze dolphin], a freshwater dolphin that was one of the world’s oldest species, is almost certainly extinct.

And this:

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday promised the strongest winds of change in two decades on the long-stalled drive to rescue environmentally ailing Puget Sound—work that could cost nearly $9 billion by 2020.

Now obviously, there are pretty big differences between the Yangtze Basin, home to 400 million people, and Puget Sound, which is home to fewer than 4 million. And, of course, there are huge differences in wealth too. Northwesterns have a lot more of it.

But the similarity between the two waters is striking:

The baiji, a beloved creature known as “the goddess of the Yangtze”… was once a common sight as it cavorted in the river.

Sounds a bit like our local charismatic megafauna, doesn’t it? Everyone loves our local black and white endangered “whales” that, scientifically speaking, are actually dolphins.

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  • More from China:

    The researchers said they believed that it was the first time that a large-mammal species had been wiped out primarily by human-led destruction of its habitat. …the dolphins were killed by a combination of overfishing, habitat loss and collisions with ships.

    Gregoire’s leadership and the state’s commitment to restoring Puget Sound is admirable. But there is a very real chance that residents will continue to lack the resolve necessary to stave off the steady destruction of our local marine ecology. Perserving the Sound’s species—the orcas, salmon, shellfish, and sea birds—will require us to make changes and also to spend money. But we do have a choice and we do have a chance.

    In other news, researchers now believe that the Yangtze finless porpoise is about to follow its dolphin cousin into the abyss. The porpoise’s numbers have dwindled to 400, down from about 5,000 in the 1980s.

    Any guesses how many orcas are left in Puget Sound? Once numbering several hundred, there are now 86.