Port Gamble S’Klallam Studying the Health of Hood Canal Salmon

Despite blustery weather and a small craft advisory, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe spent a chilly October afternoon tow netting the waters just north of Hood Canal. The net, similar to a surface trawl, targeted juvenile salmon on their outward migration from Hood Canal and Puget Sound.

Port Gamble S'Klallam habitat biologist Hans Daubenberger checks a juvenile salmon for a coded-wire tag.

As part of the tribe’s juvenile salmon pilot study, natural resources staff collected data weekly between April and October. In addition to tow netting, the tribe used other collection methods, including beach seining and scanning the water column with SONAR.

“We want to get a better understanding of the health of salmon coming in and out of Hood Canal,” said Hans Daubenberger, the Tribe’s habitat biologist. “It will help us manage fisheries better.”

The objectives of this pilot project are to study the current state of the marine environment and to assess the health of juvenile fish as they head to sea. The tribe is collecting a variety of data, including the weight and length of fish. Genetic and gut samples also are being gathered.

“We know a lot about freshwater systems and what factors play important roles in those habitats, but not so much about nearshore and deep water marine environments,” Daubenberger said. “We want to see which method provides the most information in the most efficient way possible.”

Information from the pilot project will be used to develop a five-year study of the area starting next summer.

Similar projects are underway  in the Skagit watershed and the San Juan Islands. By conducting parallel studies throughout Puget Sound, biologists are able to compare data over a larger spatial scale. All this work is part of Puget Sound Partnership’s overall effort to improve the health of the Puget Sound by 2020.

Funding for this project came from Puget Sound Partnership and Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery funds.