Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe Studying Coho Salmon Returns

LITTLE BOSTON (Sept. 20, 2005) – The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is conducting two projects to better understand how hatchery coho salmon return to Port Gamble Bay and nearby Hood Canal streams.

“We want to really know what is truly happening with these hatchery coho populations; when they return, where they are going, and how they affect other salmon stocks,” said Cindy Gray, finfish manager for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. The tribe rears a hatchery coho stock from the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery at the Port Gamble Bay Net Pens.

To find out exactly what those fish are doing, the tribe is combining information from a Port Gamble Bay test fishery with a new genetic study. Coupling information from the two projects will help the tribe determine the best way to manage hatchery coho salmon fisheries with minimal risks to wild salmon stocks.

The test fishery, which involves setting a gillnet in the same spot of Port Gamble Bay twice a week from July 31 through Oct. 6, gives the tribe an idea as to when hatchery coho move into the bay, when the run peaks, and what other species of salmon are mixed with the returning coho. This is the final year of the three-year test fishery project.

The new genetic study, which begins this fall and also will run for three years, builds on an existing effort of tribal crews surveying spawning grounds. Those crews will walk nearby streams and collect genetic samples from salmon carcasses, taking a tissue sample from each salmon’s gill cover and also checking each carcass for an adipose fin and a coded wire tag. As juveniles, Port Gamble Bay hatchery coho salmon have their adipose fin removed and a coded wire tag inserted in their nose to distinguish them from wild coho. The tag contains information on when the fish was released and where the fish was reared.

The study is funded by a $104,000 Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The genetic study will initially focus on eight northern Hood Canal streams: Martha John, Little Anderson, Seabeck, Stavis, Shine, Thorndyke, Tarboo, and Rocky Brook creeks. The tribe also will collect information on juvenile salmon on Little Anderson, Big Beef, Seabeck and Stavis creeks. The juvenile salmon study is in conjunction with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

By studying salmon carcasses, the tribe can determine how hatchery and wild coho populations interact, and if that interaction is harming wild coho or any other salmon species such as summer chum. The Hood Canal summer chum population is listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“These projects will help us determine the best way to manage hatchery fish, and properly adjust our fisheries,” Gray said. “The key here is to provide fishing opportunities in the northern Hood Canal area while protecting the wild coho population along with other salmon species. The more we know about these different stocks of hatchery salmon, the better management decisions we can make.”


For more information, contact: Cindy Gray, finfish manager for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, (360) 297-6311, [email protected]. Darren Friedel, information officer for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 297-6546, [email protected].