Suquamish deep into East Kitsap nearshore study

KINGSTON (August 10, 2007) – Tiny bubbles disturb the water’s surface as the Suquamish Tribe’s research boat approaches Pilot Point, one of the last undeveloped beaches on the east side of Kitsap County. It could be herring or shiner perch rippling the water.

While these type of forage fish are important to the nearshore environment, it’s salmon the biologists on board are most interested in. A 100-feet long beach seine is played out and hauled in hopes of finding salmon in these waters.

This scene in early August was part of the beach seine study led by the Suquamish Tribe, complementing the East Kitsap nearshore habitat assessment coordinated by Kitsap County.

The focus of the beach seine study is to gather information on the juvenile salmon that are living in the nearshore during the spring and summer. The study is also aimed at identifying areas that need habitat protection or restoration to help boost natural salmon production.

“We actually don’t know much about the nearshore habitat in Puget Sound,” said Paul Dorn, the Suquamish Tribe’s salmon recovery coordinator. “We need to document the changes that are occurring in these habitats to better understand how these changes affect the wild salmon’s use of our estuaries and nearshore.”

Amidst the mass of shiner perch, herring, crabs and sculpin caught throughout the day, a handful of adult pink salmon and half dozen juvenile coho were gathered for observation.

Juvenile salmon feed and rear in nearshore habitat for up to two years before moving out to sea. Eelgrass thrives in this area, providing food and shelter for the young fish. Nearshore habitat throughout Puget Sound is often damaged by construction of man-made structures, such as bulkheads, and sources of pollution, such as failing septic systems.

The project is examining nearshore habitat for about 150 miles, from the southern end of Kitsap County, at Manchester, to the very tip of the peninsula, at Foulweather Bluff. The project started in June 2006 and will continue through 2008.

Funding for the project comes from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. Other participants in the study are Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Sea Grant, City of Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey and local volunteers.