NISQUALLY – Habitat protection actions and restoration in the Nisqually watershed over the past 20 years could result in a 60 percent increase of federally protected fall chinook salmon.
The Nisqually River Council, in cooperation with the Nisqually Indian Tribe and state salmon co-managers, are rolling out an update to the 2001 Nisqually Chinook Recovery Plan that governs salmon in the watershed to reflect those improvements.
The changes are part of the update of the Nisqually Watershed’s 3-year salmon recovery work plan. Nisqually chinook are part of the Puget Sound population listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“The main reason more naturally spawning fish survive is that they have enough habitat in which to spawn and rear,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the tribe and chair of the Nisqually River Council. “The Nisqually is one of the few places in the entire Puget Sound where you can easily say we’ve increased salmon productivity.”
Public comment on the update to the recovery plan will be considered by the Nisqually River Council’s executive committee. Background materials and a chance to comment are available at: http://nisquallyriver.org/home/chinookplan/
The Nisqually Tribe has been working with partners throughout the watershed to increase the productivity of naturally spawning salmon. Habitat restoration projects on two important chinook tributaries – the Mashel River and Ohop Creek – and restoration of the river’s estuary will result in more naturally spawning chinook.
That increase in salmon productivity will drive changes in salmon hatchery and harvest management. The Nisqually Tribe will begin operating a weir this summer that will separate hatchery produced chinook salmon from naturally spawning fish migrating upriver.
“This weir is the next step in salmon management on the Nisqually River,” Troutt said. The river-spanning weir, located on a stretch of river on the Ft. Lewis military reservation, will operate when chinook salmon are in the river.
“We have an obligation and now the opportunity to create a productive and locally adapted stock,” Troutt said. “But first we have to control straying of hatchery fish onto the spawning grounds. And, the most direct way to do that is with a weir.”
Since the 1960s when the native chinook stock in the Nisqually River was killed off by hydroelectric practices and over-harvest, all chinook returning to the Nisqually (both hatchery and natural origin) are predominately descended from an imported Green River stock.
In addition to eventually controlling the number of hatchery fish straying onto the spawning grounds, the weir will also help the Tribe monitor the overall health of the entire run. “We’ll have a real-time understanding of exactly how many fish are in the river,” Troutt said.
“We’ll get to strong salmon populations because we’ve been smart about restoring and protecting habitat, in addition to smart about fisheries management,” said Georgianna Kautz, the tribe’s natural resources manager.
For more information, contact: David Troutt, natural resources director, Nisqually Indian Tribe, (360) 438-8687, ext 2134. Jeanette Dorner, salmon restoration program manager, Nisqually Indian Tribe, (360) 438-8687, ext 2135. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, [email protected]