Three Chinook Spotted Above Glines Canyon; First Salmon Return to the Upper Elwha in 102 Years

A member of the Olympic National Park fisheries team snorkels just above the remnants of Glines Canyon Dam.  Three Chinook salmon were sighted during a snorkel survey this week.NPS photo
A member of the Olympic National Park fisheries team snorkels just above the remnants of Glines Canyon Dam. Three Chinook salmon were sighted during a snorkel survey this week.
NPS photo


National Park Service News Release


Following an observation by a fisheries biologist and member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe of a possible Chinook salmon in the former Lake Mills, two Olympic National Park fisheries staff conducted a snorkel survey of the Elwha River above the old Glines Canyon dam site.

They found three adult Chinook salmon, all between 30 and 36 inches long, in the former Lake Mills, between Windy Arm and Glines Canyon.  Two fish were seen resting near submerged stumps of ancient trees;the third was found in a deep pool in the former Lake Mills.

“When dam removal began three years ago, Chinook salmon were blocked far downstream by the Elwha Dam,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “Today, we celebrate the return of Chinook to the upper Elwha River for the first time in over a century.”

“Thanks to the persistence and hard work of many National Park Service employees, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and many other partners, salmon can once again reach the pristine Elwha watershed within Olympic National Park,” said Creachbaum.

In addition to the three Chinook, biologists counted 27 bull trout, nearly 400 rainbow trout and two small sculpin during their survey above Glines Canyon.

The biologists began their snorkel survey in Rica Canyon three miles above the old Glines Canyon dam site. They then snorkeled downstream through the Canyon, through the former Lake Mills and downstream to a point just above Glines Canyon.

Last week, park biologists confirmed that two radiotagged bull trout had migrated through Glines Canyon and were in Rica Canyon. The three Chinook observed this week were not radiotagged, but were seen by observers on the riverbank and in the water.

The following day, biologists counted 432 live Chinook in a 1.75 mile section of river just downstream of Glines Canyon, but still above the old Elwha dam site.

Elwha River Restoration is a National Park Service project that includes the largest dam removal in history, restoration of the Elwha River watershed, its native anadromous fisheries and the natural downstream transport of sediment and woody debris.  For more information about this multi-faceted project, people can visit the Olympic National Park website at

Celebrating the return of the King Salmon: Blessing of the fishermen and sharing with our ancestors

Tulalip Salmon Ceremony c.1980sPhoto: Smithsonian, Natalie Fobes
Tulalip Salmon Ceremony c.1980s
Photo: Smithsonian, Natalie Fobes

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

The people enter the longhouse led by an important visitor carried on a bed of ferns, cedars boughs, and salmonberries. As the people enter they announce that our visitor is hikw siyab yubech, Big Chief King Salmon, gathering around him in the center of the longhouse, rejoicing in his return and the promise he represents. The annual Salmon Ceremony celebrates the return of the King Salmon, the first salmon run of the year. It is a time for the people to all share in the first returning salmon. It is here that the yearly blessing of the fishermen takes place, praying for their safety and a bountiful season.

Helen Fenrich and Joanne Jones perform the blessing of the fishermen.Photo courtesy of the family of Stan and Joanne Jones
Helen Fenrich and Joanne Jones perform the blessing of the fishermen. 1997
Photo courtesy of the family of Stan and Joanne Jones

“We are thankful the fishermen have made it through another season. This is the reason we have the blessing of the fishermen, we ask the Great Spirit to bring them home safe, and ensure a good salmon catch,” said longtime ceremony leader, Stan Jones, Scho-Hallem.

For 24 years, my entire life, I have been raised with the salmon ceremony. I have attended all but one, and do not see myself missing any others. When practice starts, it is my favorite time of the year. For two months before the actual ceremony, families come together every week to share a meal, share the teachings, and share the songs and dances. I take great pride in seeing the ceremony continue and grow, and I am grateful to be a part of it. I’m thankful to carry on the work so many have handed down, thankful to see the familiar faces, and glad to see new faces.

Me, Andrew Gobin, leading the Snohomish War Dance for the first time in 1997.Photo courtesy of Stan and JoAnn Jones
Me, Andrew Gobin, leading the Snohomish War Dance for the first time in 1997. Derek Jones and James Whitebear follow.
Photo courtesy of Stan and JoAnn Jones

Glen Gobin, Tee-Chulh, who leads the ceremony today said, “This is the first year we have entered with the welcome song and not been able to fit everyone around the longhouse floor.”

In my lifetime, the number of participants has steadily grown. But over the last four or five years, many young people have started to come to practice, and continue to return year after year. This could not have been possible had the Salmon Ceremony been lost, as it almost was. Revived in 1974, thanks to the work of Harriet Shelton Dover, Morris and Bertha Dan, Molly Hatch, Daisy Williams, Stan and JoAnn Jones, Bernie and Delores Gobin, Neil Moses, Louie Moses, Bobby Moses, and many more, the ceremony continues today.

Harriette Shelton Dover speaks about the history of the salmon ceremony and how it was revived.Photo courtesy of Stan and JoAnn Jones
Harriette Shelton Dover speaks about the history of the salmon ceremony and how it was revived. 1976
Photo courtesy of Stan and JoAnn Jones

In First Salmon Ceremony Then and Now, Harriette Shelton Dover, Hiyultsa, was filmed as she spoke about the revival of the ceremony. “Morris Dan and I, we were cousins. And we talked about the salmon ceremony, which had been, really, disappeared, because all of the Indians were discouraged from speaking the Indian language. And so, this Salmon Ceremony is a revival of the Snohomish Tribe’s Salmon Ceremony.”

The Salmon Ceremony continues today. It is as much a place for learning as it is a place for celebration. During the weeks’ prior practices, families gather to teach new participants, ranging from small children up to their grandparents, the songs and dances, and what they mean literally and what they mean for our people. Many cultural values are discussed at practice as well, working to preserve the essence of our culture along with the songs and dances.

“We remember an almighty Creator, that we call, in our language, Dukwibulth. Dukwibulth created all the earth, all of its people. He created us. He created the salmon for our use,” said Hiyultsa.

We depend on the salmon in many ways for local economies and for cultural subsistence. One of the many teachings brought out at the ceremony each year is the importance of our visitor.

Glen Gobin leads the Salmon Ceremony, entering with the Snohomish Welcome Song. Photo: The Seattle Times.
Glen Gobin leads the Salmon Ceremony, entering with the Snohomish Welcome Song. 2000
Photo: The Seattle Times

“He is a scout for the salmon people,” said Tee-Chulh. “If we treat him with respect, if we receive him in a good way, and if we acknowledge his sacrifice for us to eat, he will return to the salmon village and tell his people that we are good people. And we will have a good fishing season that will sustain us through the year.”

“He is our grandfather,” added Patti Gobin, Squatalq, Glen’s sister who passes down the teachings she received from Hiyultsa at each practice. “Long before we were human, we were the salmon people. We still call ourselves the salmon people. Our grandfather allowed us to become human so long as we remembered who we are and where we come from. And so he comes every year to see if we remember and to see how we live our lives.”

His return symbolizes the return of a healthy salmon run, which our people depend on to survive, in many ways; as a source of income, and as a primary food source. A ceremonial feast to honor and celebrate that begins with the sharing of a small piece of fish and a drink of water, symbolic of everyone sharing in the salmon returning and the life that the water provides for our people.

For a few years now, the issues of climate change and environmental preservation and protection have been talked about on the long house floor at the salmon ceremony. Today, in the State of Washington, there is legislation being moved that would make regulations on industrial pollution more lenient. That legislation has direct impacts on the salmon and the people that depend on them.

“That piece of fish that we share in, that small amount we will all eat, that is equal to what the state is saying you can eat in a month without health risk. That’s not just us [Indian people], that’s everybody. And so, when we as tribes fight this, we do it for everyone,” said Tee-Chulh.

The Tulalip First Salmon Ceremony is about many things, but above all is the importance of culture. Our culture, the culture of the salmon people, extends far beyond our traditional customs to the values placed on caring for the environment and respecting the natural world. My grandfather, Bernie Gobin (Kia-Kia), always talked about respecting our resources, not taking them for granted.

Ray Fryberg Sr, Stan Jones Sr, and Stan "Sonny" Jones Jr. lead the people out to greet our visitor.
Ray Fryberg Sr, Stan Jones Sr, and Stan “Sonny” Jones Jr. lead the people out to greet our visitor. 1983 Photo: Stan and JoAnn Jones

Ray Fryberg Sr., Sdatalq, often shares a story that I appreciate. He was fishing with his grandmother, and there were lots of fish around, but his grandmother only ever caught enough to fill her small canoe and went home. When he asked why she didn’t stay and take more salmon home to sell or to keep, she simply replied that she left them so they would be there tomorrow.

The value in that story is to make sure there is enough salmon, enough of any natural resource, for tomorrow, for the next generation. That doesn’t just mean not overharvesting, it means protecting the environment so that the resource continues to not only survive, but thrive. If you take care of the resource it will continue to take care of you, and that is what salmon ceremony about today.



Andrew Gobin is a staff reporter with the Tulalip News See-Yaht-Sub, a publication of the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department.
Phone: (360) 716.4188

Key To Saving Endangered Orcas: Chinook Salmon, Says Local Expert

FILE -- In this file photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and shot Oct. 29, 2013, orca whales from the J and K pods swim past a small research boat on Puget Sound in view of downtown Seattle.AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries Service, Candice Emmons
FILE — In this file photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and shot Oct. 29, 2013, orca whales from the J and K pods swim past a small research boat on Puget Sound in view of downtown Seattle.
AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries Service, Candice Emmons


By Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU

Following the release of a federal report on the state of endangered orcas, one local researcher says there’s one factor that matters more to the whales’ wellness than toxins and vessel traffic: fish.

Ken Balcomb, whom many regard as the godfather of whale conservation, is the director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor. For almost 40 years now, the center has been keeping track of every individual whale in the three pods that make up the southern resident population of the iconic orcas that live in Puget Sound.

Balcomb says among the risk factors outlined in the report summarizing a decade of research, the orcas’ food is what matters most. They are very picky eaters, and scientists now know that about 80 percent of their diet consists of chinook salmon, another endangered species. So, if we want to recover orcas, says Balcomb, we need to focus on recovering that specific species of salmon.

“They need food. And that’s where the emphasis should be, is on enhancement of the chinook salmon stocks in the Salish Sea and the whole eastern Pacific,” he said. “We’re just not going to have a predator population without a sufficient food population.”

The research also shows the orcas hunt less and call louder when vessels are in the area, and they head to the outer coast during the winter, foraging as far south as central California. Toxins are also a factor in whale mortality, says Balcomb; high levels are found in their blubber.

But he says transient orcas are surviving in growing numbers despite these conditions, because their diet includes seals and porpoises, and they have plenty to eat. The toxins only become a critical factor when the whales are going hungry and living off their fat, triggering the toxins’ release, according to Balcomb.

Muckleshoot Tribe Urges Rejection of Genetically Engineered Salmon Application


Business Wire Source: Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

— The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe has joined with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) in calling on the United States Food and Drug Administration to deny any application for the introduction of genetically engineered salmon into the United States until a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and further scientific review is completed and formal consultation with Northwest Treaty Tribes undertaken.

AquaBounty, a large Boston-based biotechnology company, has proposed to produce genetically engineered salmon eggs in Canadian waters, ship them to Panama where the engineered salmon would be raised to maturity in inland tanks, then slaughtered and processed in Panama and shipped to the United States for human consumption.

AquaBounty has patented a process whereby the DNA of wild Chinook salmon and an eel-like pout fish are fused and injected into Atlantic salmon. That engineered salmon is said to grow to full size in half the time of a wild fish and, according to AquaBounty, “increase the efficiency of production.”

According to federal guidelines, not only would the genetic engineering process and resultant salmon be owned by a corporation, but the fish would not be labeled as genetically modified so consumers wouldn’t know if they are buying it.

Northwest Tribes share a number of serious concerns about genetically engineered salmon, including the possibility of escape into the wild habitat and competing with wild salmon for food and rearing locations, or inbreeding with wild salmon which could result in the destruction of the species upon which all Indian people of the Pacific Northwest depend. Studies have not ruled out those possible impacts.

“From time immemorial salmon has been central to the culture, religion and society of Northwest Indian people,” said Virginia Cross, Muckleshoot Tribal Council Chair. “Genetically engineered salmon not only threaten our way of life, but could also adversely affect our treaty rights to take fish at our usual and accustomed places.”

In opposing FDA approval, the Muckleshoot Tribe and ATNI cite the precautionary principle, which states that habitat modification should not be undertaken until the full impacts are known and the natural and human environments are protected – and that the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls upon those proposing the action.

“The Coast Salish people have organized their lives around salmon for thousands of years,” said Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot Tribal member and Native Foods Educator. “We see them as our greatest teachers, giving their lives for us to have life. Corporate ownership of such a cultural keystone is a direct attack on our identity and the legacy our ancestors have left us. Absent indisputable evidence that there is no harm in human consumption, wild fish habitat or the treaty-protected fishing rights of Northwest Indians the FDA must not permit the promised increase of production efficiency to trump sound science or fishing rights and culture of Northwest Indians.”

Read more here:

Endangered Salmon Migrate Via Trucks Around Cracked Dam

At Priest Rapids Dam workers practice transporting salmon in trucks. They'll have to transport hundreds of fish a day so the salmon can get past the lowered water and several dams.Anna King Northwest News Network
At Priest Rapids Dam workers practice transporting salmon in trucks. They’ll have to transport hundreds of fish a day so the salmon can get past the lowered water and several dams.
Anna King Northwest News Network

By Anna King

April 15, 2014

The Columbia River will remain drawn down at least until June because of the cracked Wanapum Dam in southeast Washington.

That means fish can’t reach their traditional ladders, so now hundreds of Chinook salmon are being rounded up and loaded into tanker trucks to hitch a ride around the problem.

A short-term solution

Engineers are working on extensions and “water slides” to get fish ladders at the dam working again. But work to install this new equipment has been difficult with cranes, man baskets and the whipping Columbia River wind.

“You’re up here now and it’s kind of a nice cool breeze. But imagine it with 60 to 70 mile per hour gusts,” says Grant County utility district’s Thomas Stredwick. “And workers and man lifts and trying to haul equipment around — you can see how in pretty short order things can get pretty dicey.”

Workers are installing massive steel structures with wooden slides to help the fish over the dam.

This crew could start to see 12,000 fish collecting per day at the dam in the peak of summer. Already some early migrating fish are forcing a short-term solution that could turn into something longer.

At Priest Rapids Dam, about 20 miles down the Columbia River, Grant County utility district workers are trapping these early migrators so they can be trucked around the dams.

Trucks will fill up with thousands of gallons of river water and about 150 fish per load.

“The most endangered fish we have”

“It’s unthinkable for anyone in the state that we wouldn’t get a salmon run up the river,” says Jeff Korth, a major fish manager for Washington’s Fish and Wildlife.

At the peak of the fish run, Korth’s crew and Grant County utility district employees could be moving about 1,500 fish a day. They’re all hoping that engineers and construction crews can finish fixes on Wanapum and Rock Island dams soon so they won’t have to truck as many fish.

“One thing that’s not fortuitous is that the first run of salmon just happens to be the spring Chinook,” says Korth. “And they are the most endangered fish we have up here. We are going to have to deal with the most critical population, right out of the gate.”

“Never put anything past a fish”

Korth worries that even with the best plans and engineering, working with salmon is still unpredictable.

“That falls under the category that I call never put anything past a fish. If you’re absolutely sure they won’t do something, they’ll end up doing it.”

And if the modified ladder systems don’t work by the time the larger summer run arrives, Korth says, “We’d have to make some very hard decisions. But we’re pretty optimistic we’re not going to get there.”

He adds, “The logistics of hauling something like a half million fish would be pretty difficult.”

Korth says inept ladders would probably mean deciding which runs of salmon to save. Korth says a lot of engineering, policy and sweat has gone into getting salmon past the cracked dam, but we won’t know for at least a few weeks whether all this hard work will pay off.

California drought has migrating salmon hitching truck rides


By Michael B. Marois

Bloomberg News March 25, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California began hauling 30 million young chinook salmon hundreds of miles toward the Pacific Ocean in tanker trucks to save the fishing industry after a record drought left rivers too low for migration.

Three climate-controlled trucks, each bearing 130,000 silvery three-inch smolts, left a federal hatchery 180 miles north of San Francisco on Tuesday for a sloshy, three-hour drive to San Pablo Bay, where they are held in netted pens to acclimate before release. Officials had said they might need as many as four vehicles.

Visitors walk over Salmon Falls Bridge, normally submerged, at Folsom Lake in California last month. California began hauling 30 million young chinook salmon hundreds of miles toward the Pacific Ocean in tanker trucks to save the fishing industry after a record drought left rivers too low for migration.KEN JAMES — BLOOMBERG NEWS
Visitors walk over Salmon Falls Bridge, normally submerged, at Folsom Lake in California last month. California began hauling 30 million young chinook salmon hundreds of miles toward the Pacific Ocean in tanker trucks to save the fishing industry after a record drought left rivers too low for migration.

“Water conditions, because of the drought, are going to be horrible for the fish,” said Harry Morse of the state Fish and Wildlife Department. “Depending on how far those fish have to go, the longer they must travel through the system, the higher the losses.”

The fish taxi is the latest in a series of emergency steps that state and federal authorities are rushing into place as reservoirs ebb one-third below normal and farmers idle thousands of acres. Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a voluntary 20 percent cut in water use and many areas have declared mandatory restrictions. More than 800 wildfires have broken out since Jan. 1, three times more than usual, according to state records, and smog in Los Angeles is worse without winter rains to clear the air.

California’s 38 million people endured the driest year on record last year. The most-populous state has only about a quarter of the average amount of water in mountain snow that melts in the spring to fill lakes and rivers.

The hatchery fish that typically migrate through the Sacramento River Delta to the sea are key to the state’s $1.5 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry, according to the Nature Conservancy. Fish released now will be part of the population that can be harvested in a few years.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which helps set fishing seasons, predicted earlier this month that more than 630,000 fall-run Chinook salmon from the delta are in the Pacific Ocean now. That’s less than last year but more than enough for a normal commercial fishing season, the council said.

The lack of rainfall means that the Sacramento River will prove too shallow and too warm for the tiny fish to survive the 200 to 300 miles of river and tributaries some must navigate to reach the Pacific.

Convoys of four to seven trucks daily will make the trip from the federal hatchery for 22 days during the next two and a half months. In all, 12 million juvenile fish will be taxied from there, along with 18 million raised in four state-owned hatcheries in June. When released from the pens, the tiny fish will migrate to the ocean and mature. They return to the rivers as an adult to spawn.

“Our 2016 fishing season may be riding on the survival of the fish in these trucks,” said Roger Thomas, chairman of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, an advocacy group based in Petaluma. “We know that fish trucked around dangers lurking in the rivers and delta survive at much higher rates than those released at the hatcheries.”

While the state usually trucks some of its hatchery fish to the ocean, this year’s haul will be about three times the usual. It costs California taxpayers $1,500 a week to rent the tanker trucks, and the state expects to spend $150,000 on trucking, including fuel costs, Morse said.

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation said last month that it won’t be able to deliver any of the more than 2.4 million acre-feet of water requested by farmers in California’s Central Valley, the state’s most productive agricultural region. An acre-foot is the volume needed to cover an acre of land one foot deep with water.

The Bureau of Reclamation supplies water to 1 million people and a third of the irrigated farmland in California through a 500-mile network of canals and tunnels.

About two-thirds of Californians get at least part of their water from northern mountain rains and snow through a network of state-managed reservoirs and aqueducts known as the State Water Project, which also has said it won’t be able to deliver any of the water requested.

The California Farm Water Coalition said March 17 that farmers probably will fallow as much as 800,000 acres of land because of the lack of water at a cost of $7.5 billion.

Fall Chinook Salmon Spawn in Record Numbers in Snake River

Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries/Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish CommissionSalmon nests, known as redds, in the Clearwater River. Fall 2013 saw a record number along with an equally record number of returning salmon.
Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries/Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
Salmon nests, known as redds, in the Clearwater River. Fall 2013 saw a record number along with an equally record number of returning salmon.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Fall Chinook salmon not only returned in droves to spawn in the Snake River Basin, but also created a record number of redds, or nests, that bodes well for the future.

Data culled from several sources show that a record number of salmon spawned in the Snake River Basin in 2013, boosted by a record number of wild fall Chinook that passed Lower Granite Dam, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) announced on February 25. It was the highest number of wild fish to return since the Ice Harbor Dam was built in 1960.

“The multi-agency run reconstruction of fish returning to Lower Granite Dam revealed 21,000 wild fall Chinook returned to the Snake River in 2013, accounting for 37.5 percent of the total Snake River fall Chinook return of 56,000 fish,” the CRITFC said in a statement. “Over 6,300 redds were created in the Snake River and its tributaries between Lower Granite and Hells Canyon dams. The increase in Snake River returns and the increased distribution in redds were aided by tribal programs that supplement existing Snake River fall Chinook populations.”

Fall Chinook numbers were already surpassing expectations in the Columbia River, with more than a million returning, the CRITFC noted back in September 2013. Moreover, fall 2014 is looking to surpass even that record, with a potential 1.6 million returning, the Lewiston Tribune reported on February 21.

RELATED: Northwest Tribes Exult as Nearly One Million Chinook Return to Columbia River

Now, Northwest tribes are again jubilant at yet another “return of the king,” as Chinook are known. The Snake River return records are being attributed to the success of an innovative hatchery program that intermingles hatchery fish with wild. It was a controversial notion when it was first implemented, but subsequent studies have indicated that the interbreeding does not harm either population.

RELATED: Hatching a Plan for Northwest Salmon: Conference Highlights Fish Stock Restoration

“The Nez Perce Tribe’s Snake River recovery program has resulted in fall chinook returns that the region can truly celebrate,” said CRITFC Chairman and Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee member Joel Moffett in the statement. “Despite returning to a river noted for hot temperatures and poor passage conditions, these resilient fish were able to spawn in numbers not witnessed in many, many years.”

Every year the Nez Perce Tribe releases 450,000 yearling fall chinook and 2.8 million sub-yearling fall Chinook, the CRITFC said. In all, the broader program releases five million juvenile fish back into the Snake and Clearwater river systems. Since 1990, when the adult fall Chinook return numbered just 78 in the Snake River, the number has increased to 2013’s 21,000 wild adults, the commission said. More information on the ins and outs, as well as the history, of the Nez Perce restoration project is at Snake River Fall Chinook.

RELATED: Fisheries Are the Lifeblood of the Nez Perce Economy

“Abundance is a key to success in the Columbia Basin. The Nez Perce Tribe has shown the Columbia Basin that we can rebuild salmon runs with the assistance of hatcheries,” said CRITFC Executive Director Paul Lumley in the statement. “We are anticipating a lot of fall chinook returning to the Columbia River this year. For anyone wondering why, the answer lies with tribal programs like the Nez Perce Tribe’s Snake River Fall Chinook Program. It is as simple as putting fish back in the rivers and protecting the watersheds where fish live.”

Moffett noted that the record numbers are just the beginning and do not guarantee future success without continued effort.

“This year’s run gives us hope for the future, but we still have a long way to go,” Moffett said. “We must continue to do everything we can to ensure the fish runs continue on this path toward a healthy, self-sustaining population capable of supporting well-managed tribal and non-tribal fisheries. Doing so will ensure the success of this run is repeated in years to come.”



Tribes study chinook use of small coastal streams


Kari Neumeyer Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Jan 29th 2014

The Tulalip Tribes and Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) recently completed a six-year study of juvenile chinook salmon use of small coastal streams in the Whidbey basin.

“Small coastal streams are often overlooked as potential salmon habitat because many flow seasonally and do not provide spawning habitat,” said Todd Zackey, the marine and nearshore program manager for Tulalip who obtained grant funding for the research. Derek Marks, Timber/Fish/Wildlife manager for Tulalip, was an additional principal investigator on the research.

The researchers electrofished 63 streams in the Whidbey basin and found juvenile chinook using more than half of them. The migrant fry originated from the three nearby rivers: Skagit, Snohomish and Stillaguamish.

Todd Zackey electrofishes Hibulb Creek to determine whether there are juvenile chinook using the small coastal stream.
Todd Zackey electrofishes Hibulb Creek to determine whether there are juvenile chinook using the small coastal stream.

“Juvenile chinook salmon are not just present in these small streams, but they are actively rearing and growing,” said Eric Beamer, research director for SRSC, the natural resources extension of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes. “They appear to be using the streams as a nursery, much like they use natal and pocket estuaries.”

The results of the study suggest that better mapping is needed to improve the protection of small stream habitat.

“The streams are small enough that the habitat can easily be degraded through direct actions such as channel straightening, armoring, removal of riparian vegetation, and culverting,” Beamer said.

To protect and restore small streams, new culverts should not be built near stream mouths, and existing culverts should be removed or retrofitted to allow upstream passage.

“The next phase of research will determine key stream characteristics that can be used to develop a predictive model to identify the coastal streams used by juvenile salmon,” Zackey said. “If we are to protect this critical rearing habitat for threatened chinook, we need to continue our research and monitoring efforts.”

The study was funded by the tribal allocation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency National Estuary Program administered by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and a state Department of Ecology watershed grant funded by the EPA NEP. Additional collaborators include the Adopt A Stream Foundation and Whidbey Watershed Stewards.

Read the report.

For more information, contact: Eric Beamer, research director, Skagit River System Cooperative, 360-466-7228 or; Todd Zackey, marine and nearshore program manager, Tulalip Tribes, 360-716-4637 or; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 360-424-8226 or

South Fork Nooksack Chinook Captive Broodstock Reach Spawning Age

Staff at NOAA’s Manchester Research Station ultrasound a chinook salmon to determine its sex and whether it is ready to be spawned.
Staff at NOAA’s Manchester Research Station ultrasound a chinook salmon to determine its sex and whether it is ready to be spawned.

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

More than 500 mature chinook salmon raised in captivity could produce about 1 million eggs at the Lummi Nation’s Skookum Creek Hatchery this year.

Of those, more than 600,000 juveniles are expected to be released into the river next spring.

The fish are part of a captive broodstock program to preserve threatened South Fork Nooksack River chinook. The multi-agency effort involves Lummi, the Nooksack Tribe, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Its goal is to help the recovery of the South Fork Nooksack chinook, a significant population that must be on a path to recovery before Endangered Species Act restrictions can be lifted.

In 2007, the partners began collecting juvenile chinook in the South Fork Nooksack River to raise to spawning age. The juveniles were genetically tested to sort out stray fish from hatchery programs and the South Fork Nooksack chinook were transferred to the WDFW Kendall Creek Hatchery for initial rearing. Later, half of the fish were retained to rear in fresh water at Kendall, while the other half were transferred to the NOAA Manchester Research Station for rearing in salt water.

The first offspring spawned from the captive broodstock were released in 2011. Project managers expect the program to peak in 2016 with the release of 1 million juveniles. Based on a conservative survival rate, more than 4,000 adult chinook could return to the South Fork Nooksack in 2019.

Historically, about 13,000 natural origin South Fork spring chinook spawned in the Nooksack River, but since 1999, surveys estimated that fewer than 100 native spring chinook returned as adults. Degraded and lost habitat are the main reasons for the population’s decline, as there are no directed harvest on the stock. Incidental catches, mostly in Canadian fisheries, are relatively insignificant.

“We needed to protect this population while we conduct extensive habitat work,” said Merle Jefferson, natural resources director for the Lummi Nation. “Our hope is that these fish, when they return, will jumpstart the population in restored habitat.”

Both the Nooksack Tribe and the Lummi Nation have done restoration work in the South Fork to re-establish suitable habitat for salmon to rear, feed and spawn.

Lummi Nation harvests hatchery fish, releases natural origin chinook

Lummi Natural Resources staffers Tony George, left, and Ralph Phair collect a hatchery chinook salmon from a tangle net in the Nooksack River.
Lummi Natural Resources staffers Tony George, left, and Ralph Phair collect a hatchery chinook salmon from a tangle net in the Nooksack River.

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Lummi Nation Natural Resources Department is conducting a pilot tangle net fishery for hatchery chinook salmon that allows natural origin fish to be released without harm.

Nooksack River early chinook are part of a major population group that must be recovering before the Puget Sound chinook listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can be delisted.

“We’re trying to conserve all the natural origin fish by using a smaller mesh net,” said Alan Chapman, ESA coordinator for the tribe. “The fish tangle by the snout, rather than the gills or body, so they can be safely released.”

Fish from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s North Fork Nooksack early chinook hatchery program are marked with a clipped adipose fin and/or coded-wire tag. When a tangle net is used, tribal fishermen can harvest those fish, while releasing the wild ones.

The Lummi Nation contracted with tribal fishermen Rab Washington and Johnny Olsen to fish the small mesh net, with the assistance of natural resources staff who sort the fish, take tissue and scale samples from natural origin fish before releasing them, and take scale samples and coded-wire tag information from the retained hatchery salmon.

“We hope this pilot program will lead to a closely supervised tribal fishery so we can get back to the days our elder fishers reminisce about,” said Merle Jefferson, director of Lummi Natural Resources. “Eventually, we could use the tangle net to harvest pink salmon that haven’t been available to tribal fishermen because of chinook bycatch concerns. This will also increase fishing opportunities during the spring and summer months, and help protect the fall chinook fishery from bycatch concerns.”

The decline in salmon runs has come at a great cost to Lummi fishermen, who make up one of the largest tribal fishing fleets in the country. Increasing fishing opportunities is crucial to supporting their Schelangen, or way of life, and retaining their tribal identity.

“We need to get our kids out fishing so they can understand the way it used to be and why we do what we do,” said Randy Kinley, fisherman and Lummi policy representative. “Future leaders need to remember where we came from, as it was taught to us.”

The tangle net fishery helped the tribe get one step closer to that goal by providing all of the salmon served at the Lummi Nation’s First Salmon Ceremony in May.

“Everyone in our community had an opportunity to feast on the salmon and celebrate our culture and connection to our fishing heritage at our First Salmon Ceremony,” Jefferson said.