Return of the King

The (Everett) Herald has a story about the Tulalip Salmon Ceremony, and notes that the chinook run already has arrived:

This Saturday, Tulalip tribal members will welcome Big Chief King Salmon, the symbolic first salmon of the season, with great pageantry.

Every year, tribal members welcome the salmon – a message to all the fish that they are the honored guests of the season.

And this season, for the first time in years, King Salmon will come from Tulalip Bay.

In years past, once-strong wild salmon runs slowed to a trickle and forced tribal leaders to quietly buy the ceremonial first King from fishmongers.

This year, thanks to a shift in the tribes’ hatcheries four years ago, the annual salmon run that feeds Tulalip families has come four months early – in the summer, instead of the fall.

“That has a huge impact for us culturally,” said Steve Young, manager of the Tulalip Tribes’ Bernie Kai-Kai Gobin Salmon Hatchery.

Four years ago, the Tulalip hatchery began using summer chinook stock.

Before that, the hatchery relied on fall chinook. Those fish, originally from the Green River, aren’t adapted for north Puget Sound, Tulalip fisheries biologist Mike Crewson said.

Tulalip leaders wanted to raise fish that are genetically closer to the native wild salmon that return to Tulalip Bay. If they spawn together, their progeny will be genetically similar to wild stock.