The Tulalip Tribes continued a century-old tradition last week of partnering with state hatcheries for the increased production of Puget Sound salmon.
Since 1907, tribal members have traveled to the Wallace River Hatchery near Gold Bar, working with employees of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to improve chinook- and coho-salmon numbers in the Snohomish River system.
The Tribes went to end of the line last week to demonstrate their commitment. At Sunset Falls on the South Fork of the Skykomish River visitors were shown the elaborate fish trap built by the state. The falls are one of three impassable barriers on the river, this one 51 miles upstream from Puget Sound. Here is one spot where wild salmon are gathered to provide wild DNA for hatchery fish. Those broodstock are captured and then trucked to the Wallace River facility. Because there are 120 miles of river above the falls that can host salmon, some of the fish are trucked around the falls and released.
For the Tribes the goal is to produce a better fish, just a winemaker might blend grapes to create a better Chardonnay. But vineyards don’t face the centuries of habitat degradation fisheries do, and the Tribes want people to realize how important the issue is. A century ago tribal canoes paddled upstream to provide the first wild eggs to the Wallace River hatchery. Now those hatchery fish are the main staple for Puget Sound, and the Tribes are improving their hatchery fish to be able to meet those challenges.