Scientists release kokanee fry to re-establish species

April 13, 2010

On a rain-soaked night late last month, scientists gathered along the banks of Ebright Creek to complete the latest step in a monthslong experiment meant to pull a species from the edge of extinction.

The team used buckets to transfer Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon fry — a few millimeters long and not much larger than a paperclip — from aerated coolers for the last leg of the journey from a hatchery to the wild.

Months earlier, biologists and ecologists collected mature kokanee from the same creek, as part of a last-ditch effort to boost the population of the dwindling species. From Ebright, Lewis and Laughing Jacobs creeks, teams took the fish to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, where teams harvested almost 35,000 eggs.

Scientists had not attempted to raise Lake Sammamish kokanee at a hatchery before. Throughout fall and winter, workers at the state hatcheries in Ravensdale and Lakewood raised the fry from fluorescent orange eggs.

Hans Berge, a King County senior ecologist, and a team gathered March 25 to release about 14,000 fry into the same creeks where he and others netted spawning salmon last fall. In a reverse maneuver, the team plunked the fledgling kokanee into the creeks on a cloudy, wet night.

The nighttime release offered less risk of predators picking off the fry.

Scientists deposited the fry far upstream from Lake Sammamish to allow the fish time to “imprint” on the creeks. Biologists hope the fry memorize the characteristics of the waterways and someday return to the creeks as stop-sign-red, mature salmon to spawn.

Berge estimates the fry swam from the creeks into the lake on the same night as the release. Inside Lake Sammamish, the fry feed on microscopic organisms called zooplankton. Only a fraction of the fry will reach maturity and — in three or four years — return to the creeks to spawn.

Within the next few weeks, scientists will release another 20,000 kokanee fry into Ebright, Lewis and Laughing Jacobs creeks. Read more

Environmentalists wait to learn fate of Lake Sammamish kokanee

February 23, 2010

Hans Berge, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks biologist, holds kokanee salmon retrieved from Lewis Creek during a restoration project. Contributed

Conservationists continue to await a decision by the federal government about the status of the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon — years after rules required the federal government to act.

Environmentalists and local government officials estimate the population of adult kokanee at a few hundred. Before a species can receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, the animal or plant must be placed on the federal list of threatened endangered species.

Read more

County Council urges protection for Lake Samm kokanee

July 7, 2009

Conservationists seeking to protect threatened Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon received a boost last week from King County leaders. Read more

On the water with a master canoe carver / June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009

Community points out flaws in hatchery plans

September 19, 2008

A roomful of concerned community members left with more questions than answers Sept. 11 after representatives from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife tried to explain their plans for altering operations at the Tokul Creek Hatchery in Fall City.

In an effort to bolster the wild steelhead population in the Snoqualmie River, department officials want to essentially sequester the hatchery-raised steelhead away to the Skykomish River.

The crowd of more than 100 community members at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery were nearly in total agreement this was a bad idea that has not been thoroughly thought out, even those who agreed the wild steelhead population did need to be replenished.

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