The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are working together to boost pink salmon populations in the Dungeness River watershed near Sequim. The supplementation program is now in its second year.
“The late run of Dungeness pink salmon limits its use the river to the very lower reaches and is in need of a boost,” said Scott Chitwood, the tribe’s natural resources director. “This area has poor habitat and the salmon that spawn in the lower river don’t do well there.”
Much of the problem is caused by dikes that constrain the river’s tendency to move around within its flood plain. Dikes increase the velocity of the river causing the gravel to scour which destroys salmon eggs located in shallow nests.
Pink salmon from the lower Dungeness River were collected and spawned last fall at the state’s Hurd Creek Hatchery. This spring 120,000 of those progeny were reared and released into the lower river. These “supplemental” fish were identified by having their adipose fins clipped before being released. When the fish return as adults in two years, the co-managers will assess the relative proportions of naturally produced and supplemented late timed pink salmon spawning in the lower Dungeness River
“Our goal is to create a better balance between the highly sustainable early run of pink salmon that spawn throughout the watershed and this less productive late run that spawns in the lower river only,” Chitwood said.
While pinks have a lower commercial value, they play an important role in a properly functioning ecosystem by providing food for other animals and contributing nutrients to the watershed.
“Cooperation is the key to protecting, enhancing and restoring the salmon resource,” Chitwood said.
That sentiment was echoed by Hurd Creek hatchery specialist Dan Witczak.
“Jamestown has always been supportive of the work we do,” Witczak said. “They put a lot more into the resource than they take out.”
For more information, contact Scott Chitwood, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s natural resources director at (360) 681-4616 or [email protected]; or Dan Witczak, WDFW Hurd Creek Hatchery manager, at (360) 683-1738 or [email protected]; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].