The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is using a torpedo-shaped SONAR device to assess the nearshore environment in Hood Canal and Admiralty Inlet.

The purpose of the study is three-fold – to prioritize nearshore habitat restoration projects; to determine what species are living where throughout Puget Sound waters; and to learn more about habitat conditions in the nearshore environment.

Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe habitat biologist Hans Daubenberger prepares to lower the SONAR device into Port Gamble Bay.

Weekly since May, the tribe has been beach seining, tow-netting and using the underwater SONAR device to gather information about the size and population of fish found in the top 15 feet of the water column. That includes species such as chinook, coho, steelhead, cutthroat and herring. Puget Sound chinook and steelhead are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Beach seining and tow netting help get a snapshot of what’s out there, but those tools miss the wide open areas that the SONAR can cover,” said Hans Daubenberger, the tribe’s habitat biologist. “It gathers tons of that information – such as the depth the fish are swimming – without hurting the fish.”
The “torpedo” is towed behind a boat through sampling areas and beams sound waves that capture images of fish that swim past. The SONAR information will be correlated with data from beach seining and tow-netting to create a comprehensive database of about fish distribution, abundance and health conditions throughout Hood Canal and Admiralty Inlet.

Funding for the project comes from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and Puget Sound Partnership.