Catching bugs part of Skokomish estuary monitoring work

The Skokomish Tribe is studying the bugs that reside in the Skokomish Estuary, providing food for chum, chinook and coho salmon and other fish.

The tribe has four fallout traps located near the edge of the estuary. Made of plastic boxes stabilized between four rods of conduit, the traps catch bugs that land in the tubs of soapy water.

Skokomish habitat biologist Shannon Kirby holds the fine mesh strainer that collects the bugs from the fallout trap. For more photos from the fallout traps, click on the photo.

The tribe collects the invertebrates, which can include flies, twice a month and sends them off to a U.S. Geological Survey lab for analysis.

“By collecting these invertebrates, we’re creating a baseline of information of what kind of food is currently available for salmon,” said Shannon Kirby, the tribe’s habitat biologist. “Invertebrates are important indicators of water quality and ecological integrity of estuarine habitats. They are also key food resources for fish and bird predators.”

Beside the fallout traps, the tribe also is looking at the stomach contents of juvenile fish.

“By comparing the types of invertebrates found in the stomach samples, we can determine whether or not juvenile salmon are feeding in the tidal channels where they are found and what food is available for them to eat,” she said.

This is just one small piece of the monitoring effort of the estuary, since the three-phase restoration of the nearly 400-acre estuary started in 2007. Phases 1 and 2 were completed in 2007 and 2010; Phase 3 is expected to star this fall with the removal of undersized culverts and installation of new culverts and four new bridges. The tribe also has been conducting vegetation surveys, sediment sampling and water quality monitoring.