Grant may save Stillaguamish River chinook

The (Everett) Herald reported on the Stillaguamish Tribe’s project to recover South Fork Stillaguamish chinook.

The Seattle P-I, KOMO 1000 and The Olympian and others also picked up the story.

The Herald:

The Stillaguamish Tribe learned this week that it has received $634,044, which it will use to capture 15 to 20 male and female wild returning salmon each fall.

Starting next August, the plan is to collect the eggs and sperm, fertilize them and allow them to hatch and grow into fry at a tribal hatchery in Arlington.

Pulling wild fish into a hatchery has never been done on the South Fork, but a similar strategy has worked for 20 years on the North Fork Stillaguamish River, where 1,500 to 1,600 chinook return to spawn each year under conditions similar to those on the South Fork.

On the North Fork the tribe catches and breeds 50 to 60 wild males and females, said Pat Stevenson, the Stillaguamish Tribe’s environmental manager. He said they produce about 250,000 eggs, most of which survive and are released each May as fingerlings big enough to head out to Puget Sound and beyond.

“If it hadn’t been for that program over the last 20 years, there wouldn’t be a North Fork run,” Stevenson said.

If all goes well, 50,000 to 60,000 chinook fry will be released into the South Fork in May each year. Before they are let go, they will be put in pens so they can get acclimated to the river, which should help direct them back to the South Fork to spawn naturally.