Following record high temperatures this summer across western Washington, Tulalip tribal biologists noticed that chinook salmon weren’t making it all the way to Wallace River, a tributary to the Skykomish River.
The hot, dry weather likely contributed to poor returns in a couple of ways. Water temperatures were too warm and a lack of rainfall reduced water levels and flow.
The Tulalip Tribes and the state share the eggs collected at the state’s Wallace River Hatchery, but this year’s returns were far below normal. Most years, the tribe gets about 2.4 million chinook salmon eggs for its hatchery program. In the event of a shortfall, the state gets the first million eggs, the tribe gets the next 800,000, and then the remaining eggs are split evenly.
While it is still too early to tell exactly how low the run will be this year, a model used by the tribe predicted that the total egg take would be under 2 million and as low as 1.4 million, which could have left the tribe with as little as only 400,000 eggs.
Action had to be taken to make sure enough salmon return four years from now. Both the tribe and the state closed their fisheries, and the tribe opened its fish ladder in Tulalip Bay to catch the adult chinook that were failing to swim upriver.
Update (Sept. 28): The tribe collected 530 chinook in Tulalip Bay and held them at the tribe’s Bernie Kai Kai Gobin Salmon Hatchery until they were ready to spawn. The state and the tribes also worked together to capture an additional 530 fish below the hatchery on Wallace River. In September, the tribe spawned hundreds of the fish and expects to be able to fertilize more than 1.3 million eggs this year.