Both the Olympian and the Nisqually Valley News covered the enormous run of pinks coming back to the Nisqually this year.
John Dodge wrote about them in his Soundings column last week:
What gives? The first phrase out of the mouths of fish biologists is: “good ocean survival.” But that’s a catch-all phrase that might not tell the whole story.
A little more about a pink salmon’s life history: A pink salmon migrates to saltwater shortly after it emerges from the gravel as a fry salmon. They quickly make their way through Puget Sound to ocean waters.
They live only two years, returning to spawn in odd-numbered years. By comparison, the four other species of Pacific Northwest native salmon – chinook, coho, sockeye and chum – live three years or more in fresh and salt water.
So pink salmon live the simplest of lives – less time exposed to pollution, predators and harvesters.
And they eat pretty low on the food chain. Their diets consist of things like zooplankton and small, abundant marine crustaceans, said tribal salmon-enhancement manager Bill St. Jean.
So while marine scientists puzzle about why the more prized salmon such as coho and chinook experience disturbingly low survival rates in Puget Sound, the pink salmon seem to be growing in abundance and geographic reach.
Steven Wyble’s story in the Nisqually Valley News:
The fish are being counted at a weir on the river set up by the tribe in July to remove hatchery salmon from the river to aid recovery of Chinook salmon, which isn’t thriving as well as pink salmon.
While the meteoric rise of the pink salmon marks great progress in the restoration of salmon in the river, it also poses troubling questions about the health of Puget Sound, Troutt said.
Standing on the shore of the Nisqually River last week, Troutt looks out over the weir, which extends from the Thurston County shore to the Pierce County shore, with machines operating on each side.
“We’re running both sides continually … because the fish are just coming strong,” Troutt said.
The fish enter gates into a trap, which funnels the fish into a “giant archimedes screw,” then lifts the fish and water into a fish tank at the top. Every time they work the trap, they handle about 500 fish, Troutt said. The traps can handle about 1,000 fish at a time.