Editorial: Kokanee work group does important work
July 15, 2014
The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group is one of those little committees that government seems to form all the time. Typically, these sorts of bodies get together, author an important-sounding report and disband. The report gathers dust, and nothing actually happens.
This one is different. The kokanee work group has certainly done its share of fact-finding, but the facts are being put to use. The little red fish is recovering, and the efforts of the work group should be applauded.
The kokanee salmon is a kind of sockeye native to Lake Sammamish, and is genetically unique. It lives its entire life in the lake and then spawns in surrounding streams and shoreline areas. For years, it had been in decline. Streams in Issaquah, which had been thick with the fish, now have none, leaving only a handful of streams in Sammamish as home to the fish.
The salmon’s numbers are still barely above what’s needed to sustain the species, but since the group formed, salmon returns have been up. Some of that could be attributable to dumb luck. Since the fish live typically four years, a mild winter four years prior (one where there’s not a huge storm that washes out eggs before they hatch) can mean a bigger return.
But the work group, along with great work at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, is finding ways to plant thousands of fry in local streams, including the occasional stream in Issaquah, in an effort to revive the population. Their efforts have been so successful that the federal government has decided to help.
Lake Sammamish has been selected as one of only eight spots in the nation to pilot a new urban wildlife refuge program, due in no small part to the efforts of the work group. The designation will bring in a bit of cash to help with education about Lake Sammamish’s ecosystem, and wider recognition of the fish.
The kokanee is an area native that can likely trace its roots back further than anyone living here today. The kokanee work group should be applauded for its efforts to save it.