New lab lets Tulalip Tribes study samples on site

TULALIP (Jan. 8, 2007) – The Tulalip Tribes will soon open a new laboratory where natural resource specialists can analyze the fish and shellfish samples used to shape fisheries management.

The lab equipment enables the specialists to study information contained in otoliths (salmon ear bones), fish scales and coded wire tags to determine factors such as the age and source of hatchery fish, salmon migration patterns and the general health of a fish stock. Equipment and supplies also are being acquired to identify the unique genetic mark given to all Tulalip Hatchery chum salmon. That, combined with 100 percent otolith marking of all chinook and coho salmon, means that all Tulalip hatchery production is uniquely marked and identifiable. Hatchery operators give otoliths a “thermal mark” by alternating the temperature of the water that flows over salmon eggs and hatched fry.

“Without the ability to assess these stocks, we wouldn’t know how many wild and hatchery fish there are in the Snohomish basin or in the region,” said Mike Crewson, fisheries enhancement biologist.

To aid shellfish management, for example, shellfish specialist Adam “Rocky” Brisbois uses the equipment to count the rings on geoduck shells to determine their age.

Crewson obtained the lab equipment to set up the new facility using limited grant sources and direct contributions of some equipment and supplies. Funding was provided through grants from the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors, Tulalip Tribes Shellfish Program, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Northwest Indian College. The U.S. Geological Survey has continued to provide Tulalip with otolith analysis training. The University of Washington’s chemistry department is building a specialized grinder for the lab, and the tribes purchased the chemistry department’s surplus countertops and sinks.

“Our guys did a terrific job with the little amount of money they had to use,” said Terry Williams, commissioner of fisheries and natural resources for the Tulalip Tribes.

The new lab provides technical jobs. Tribal member Robert Skoog, a natural resource specialist, is training to use the new equipment and is expected to work full time in the lab six months of the year.

“Eventually, the stock assessment lab will allow us to eliminate the cost and time delays of sending our samples to outside labs,” Crewson said.

For more information, contact: Mike Crewson, fisheries enhancement biologist, Tulalip Tribes, 360.651.4600; Kari Neumeyer, Information Officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 360.424.8226, [email protected].