Kokanee fundraiser nets almost $10,000 for preservation

April 3, 2012

By Staff

Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon supporters raised almost $10,000 last month to protect the disappearing fish species.

Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and Coho Café organized a March 16 fundraiser to net dollars for a kokanee restoration program.

The sold-out event raised funds from ticket sales for a reception at the Watershed Science Center on the hatchery grounds and a silent wine auction benefit.

Matt Baerwalde, a Snoqualmie Nation representative, presented a $5,000 check to FISH Executive Director Jane Kuechle for the kokanee spawning program.

In the program, experts deploy along creek banks throughout the season to collect fish in creeks near the lake and spawn the salmon at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Then, hatchery employees and FISH members spawn the fish and tend to the eggs until tiny fry can be released into local creeks.

The kokanee program includes the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, King County and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Despite the broad participation, the program — considered as a stopgap measure for kokanee survival — operates on a limited budget.

The local Trout Unlimited chapter is another important participant in the effort.

In recent years, the number of salmon in the late-fall and early-winter run has dwindled to fewer than 1,000 in some seasons. The fish return to only a handful of creeks — Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis — to spawn.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials declined last year to list the species as endangered. The agency determined the Lake Sammamish kokanee population did not meet the definition of a “listable entity” under the “distinct population segment” policy.

The once-abundant kokanee declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality.

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