State predicts smaller chinook, coho salmon returns
March 6, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
State salmon fishery officials expect a smaller coho return to Puget Sound streams in the months ahead.
Overall, the forecast calls for 732,363 coho to return to local streams — or 249,000 fewer coho than the 2011 forecast.
Fisheries experts expect a more robust chinook salmon return. Officials predicted the summer and autumn chinook salmon returns to Puget Sound to total about 224,165 fish — fewer than the 243,000 chinook projected for 2011. Officials said the chinook return is comprised mostly of hatchery fish.
By the numbers
Issaquah Salmon Hatchery crews and Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery members spawned chinook and coho salmon throughout the autumn months.
2,954 adult chinook trapped
1.7 million chinook eggs collected
1,018 adult chinook allowed upstream to spawn
4,460 adult coho trapped
1.2 million eggs collected
1,032 coho allowed upstream to spawn
Source: Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery
On Feb. 28, fishery planners released the initial salmon forecast for 2012. The forecast offers early indications of possible returns to the Issaquah hatchery.
224,165 chinook return to Puget Sound streams
4,728 chinook return to the Issaquah hatchery
732,363 coho return to Puget Sound streams
17,598 coho return to Lake Washington watershed, including Issaquah Creek
Source: Department of Fish and Wildlife
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the initial 2012 forecast Feb. 28.
The annual forecast announcement is the initial indicator of salmon returns to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery along Issaquah Creek. The hatchery spawns and raises coho and chinook.
In order to formulate the annual forecasts, scientists measure the number of wild smolts, or juvenile salmon, departing freshwater at locations around Puget Sound. Hatcheries also record the number of juvenile salmon released each year.
Managers then use the forecast information to set recreational fisheries for the affected areas, including Puget Sound and the Columbia River.
The unpredictable factor in the forecast is the Pacific Ocean environment. Experts focused on ocean conditions after a 2010 decline in coho.
Teams at the Issaquah hatchery trapped 475 coho in 2010. The coho count at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard barely crested 3,600 fish — a smaller figure than the 6,000 coho during the last slump a decade ago.
Biologists listed poor ocean conditions related to temperature or oxygen levels, predation or a lack of food sources as possible reasons for the 2010 decline.
The forecast for each salmon species can shift dramatically from year to year.
Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 2012 fisheries for Puget Sound chinook could be limited to hatchery salmon, due to expected low returns on several rivers.
The rollout of preseason forecasts marks the start of public meetings about salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process. The effort brings together state, tribal and federal fishery managers to establish salmon seasons for Puget Sound, Columbia River and the Washington coast.
The process is held as the Pacific Fishery Management Council — the organization responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water along the Pacific coast — holds additional public meetings.
The adoption of 2012 salmon fisheries is scheduled for April 1-6 at a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Seattle.
“Over the next few weeks, we will work with tribal co-managers and constituents to establish fishing opportunities on abundant runs of hatchery salmon while ensuring we meet or exceed conservation objectives for wild fish populations,” Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.