Stillaguamish Tribe deploys hydrolab in Port Susan

A solar-powered yellow buoy bobbing in the middle of Port Susan is collecting information that will help forecast migration conditions for Stillaguamish River chinook.

The Stillaguamish Tribe’s Natural Resources Department deployed the buoy with the help of an Island Transporter barge in late March. A large concrete block was lowered into the water to anchor the buoy. Divers from the tribe’s Natural Resources Department ensured that the anchor was placed properly and did not impact any eelgrass beds.

The yellow buoy is an oceanographic hydrolab that will transmit real-time data about temperature, turbidity, salinity, chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen.

“We know these factors affect food resources in the estuary for outmigrating chinook smolts and migration conditions for returning adults,” said Don Klopfer, biologist for the tribe.

Stillaguamish chinook are among the most threatened salmon populations in Puget Sound. When state and tribal co-managers plan fishing seasons, Stillaguamish chinook are one of the runs they strive to protect.

“One of our biggest challenges is determining how much harvest to allow without compromising the recovery of critical stocks,” said Shawn Yanity, Stillaguamish tribal chairman. “Information we learn from this buoy in Port Susan will be combined with existing Puget Sound and North Pacific oceanographic data to further improve our forecasting model.”

The buoy also will help document changes in saltwater acidity, which is a symptom of climate change, and monitor the effectiveness of marine habitat improvement projects.

For more information, contact:
Don Klopfer, Stillaguamish Tribe, 360-547-2687 or [email protected]; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226 or [email protected].

View photos on NWIFC’s Flickr feed.