“Salmon — whether being tossed between Pike Place Market fish mongers or wending their way through the locks in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood — are one the most iconic images of the Pacific Northwest.
They’re also one of the most threatened.
Since at least the 1980s, steelhead and certain salmon populations have been tanking in Puget Sound. Local steelhead alone have plummeted to less than 10 percent of their historic population size. But many people are unaware that the area’s beloved fish are in such dire straits.
Survive the Sound is a new interactive game that hopes to both educate the public about the salmons’ plight and help save the fish by raising money for essential research and environmental restoration.
“Without salmon, there is no Northwest, there is no Puget Sound and there is no home,” said Michael Schmidt, deputy director of Long Live the Kings, a nonprofit working to protect chinook or “king” salmon, and related fish. The group created Survive the Sound in partnership with Paul Allen’s Vulcan.”
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Survive the Sound participants sponsor a steelhead, track it as it migrates through Puget Sound, and receive updates about the challenges their fish encounters along its way to the Pacific Ocean.
Seattle— Salmon recovery nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has partnered with Vulcan Inc. to develop Survive the Sound, an innovative new way for people of all ages to learn about steelhead—Washington’s State Fish—and contribute to their recovery.
Survive the Sound is the first ever endurance race for wild steelhead. It uses real data, obtained from sophisticated transmitters implanted in the fish, to track steelhead’s migration from release points in south Puget Sound and Hood Canal to the Pacific Ocean.
From now until May 7, Survive the Sound participants can sponsor the fish of their choice with a minimum $25 donation. Beginning on May 8, sponsors will watch as their fish embark on a harrowing 12-day journey—avoiding predators, fighting disease, and navigating obstacles—on their way to the Pacific.
Email and text alerts will signal to sponsors when their steelhead have made it beyond important milestones, and even when the fish have perished due to any of the myriad struggles they encounter on their migration route. Prizes will be awarded to sponsors who build the biggest “school,” who have the most survivors, whose fish have the fastest average speed and travel the greatest average distance.
Throughout the Survive the Sound experience, sponsors will learn about steelhead, the challenges they face in the Salish Sea, and what is being done to recover imperiled populations.
All fish sponsorships support LLTK, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been working to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.
How Survive the Sound Works
Each year, wild steelhead are caught as they make their way downriver from their natal streams. LLTK and partners implant the fish with tracking devices, each of which emits a unique acoustic ping. The steelhead are then tracked by researchers who triangulate their position with receivers that have been placed in the water in various locations around Puget Sound. The steelhead available for sponsorship through Survive the Sound represent real fish, using data that depicts real survival outcomes for the entire population.
This work is part of the larger Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, an international US/Canada effort to determine why certain species of salmon and steelhead are dying in the combined marine waters of Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia.
Why it Matters
Currently, only 20% of wild steelhead survive their trek through the saltwater environment of Puget Sound. They’re now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Unless we can better understand the reasons for steelhead’s decline in Puget Sound and mitigate the threats they face, there is serious concern that steelhead may slip into extinction.
Survive the Sound provides scientists with important new data about steelhead’s lifecycle, gives the public an opportunity to engage with wild steelhead in a fun and interactive new way, and raises essential funds for Long Live the Kings’ salmon and steelhead recovery projects.
To learn more, visit www.survivethesound.org.
Opportunities are available to experience the science behind Survive the Sound in action. To schedule, contact Lucas Hall: 206.382.9555, x30 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
High resolution images are available upon request.
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Understanding the decline of Puget Sound steelhead is no easy task. Try explaining the unexpected death of one of your children’s cherished goldfish in a scientifically defensible way and you’ll only begin to understand this daunting challenge. LLTK and our partners investigating marine survival devote countless hours developing strategies that allow us to understand one key piece to the puzzle – where steelhead die.
To identify where steelhead die, scientists need to characterize typical steelhead migration routes. They can do this by tagging a sample of steelhead and extrapolating the data gathered to the larger population. Steelhead maintain a relatively consistent speed and trajectory as they race to the Pacific Ocean. When tracking data show that they’ve deviated from that path or speed, it means they’ve likely encountered some sort of obstacle during their migration. The obstacle could be a physical barrier, an encounter with a predator, a decline in health related to disease, and/or a variety of other things. When scientists observe these changes in behavior, we know to investigate further in order to pinpoint the problem.
Acoustic telemetry is a relatively new and precise way to understand steelhead behavior. The system utilizes a tiny, pill-sized transmitter, or “tag”, inserted into a juvenile steelhead’s belly that communicates with an array of receivers, placed on the seafloor in strategic locations along the migration path. The transmitters are about the size of a pill capsule and the receivers no larger than a Gatorade cooler. There are over 125 receivers deployed in the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca today. This includes a tight network of receivers around the Hood Canal Bridge. High steelhead mortality is occurring at the bridge, and we are now using the receivers to triangulate exactly where the steelhead are dying.
Acoustic receivers can detect tagged fish from 200 meters away! The properties of water make acoustic systems especially effective. Molecules in a liquid are more densely packed than those of a gas. This higher molecule density means less sound energy is lost over the same distance in water relative to air. If you’ve ever swum in a lake and heard a distant motorboat while underwater, you’ve experienced this property of water. Whales take advantage of the same principle, communicating great distances using echolocation.
When receivers “hear” a tag, they catalog the precise movement of the fish. When multiple acoustic receivers hear a tag at the same point in time, researchers are able to triangulate the location of the fish based on the relative intensity of the fish’s signal at each receiver. Some types of acoustic tags contain a pressure sensor which records information about the fish’s depth in the water column.
Acoustic tags can also tell scientists about predator-prey interactions. In Puget Sound and Hood Canal, scientists attach a “backpack” containing an acoustic receiver to the backs of harbor seals. While the seals swim around the Sound, they collect data on every tagged fish they encounter. When the seals molt (shed its fur) in the fall, the backpack falls off and scientists can retrieve the data. Scientists are currently using this technique, combined with analyzing seal diets, in attempt to determine how big of an impact seals have on steelhead survival.
Now, an astute reader may be thinking, “Doesn’t tagging a fish increase its chances of mortality and bias the results?” Many studies have been done to test this question. In these experiments, fish are tagged and held in large tanks for several months or more. Throughout the experiment, scientists monitor fish health to see whether the tags have any effects on growth or survival. Thankfully, all the studies have concluded that the tags don’t adversely affect the fish.
Scientists working on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project have also tested whether tags act as a dinner bell, calling seals to the tagged juvenile steelhead. This study is performed by pausing the “ping” a tag emits when the fish pass through the areas seals frequent, and the tags resume “pinging” before the fish reach the Pacific Ocean. We compare the fish whose tags were paused, to fish with tags that “pinged” continuously. The survival of these two groups is not different, and therefore, showing no evidence of a dinner bell effect in Puget Sound.
LLTK’s Deputy Director, Michael Schmidt, was recently interviewed by Seafood Source regarding the current administration’s proposal to eliminate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds for Puget Sound recovery, and dramatically reduce or eliminate National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) salmon funding for western states. Both cuts would significantly impact the science that guides our actions, critical habitat restoration underway, and the overall momentum to recover salmon and their ecosystem. Hitting close to home, the work of our Salish Sea Marine Survival Project to understand juvenile salmon mortality is at risk. Specifically, the $800,000 per year currently proposed in the draft Puget Sound Federal Task Force Action Plan and Puget Sound Science Plan. This funding would drive recovery actions and implement new management tools that will transform the way we manage our fish and the ecosystem they depend upon.
Also at risk is the twelve-entity collaborative zooplankton monitoring program initiated via the Marine Survival Project, currently funded by EPA. Zooplankton stand at the intersection of the physical and biological environments, providing us the best chance to understand how water quality and climate impact the productivity and success of salmon, forage fish, and the Puget Sound food web as a whole. This program is so important to salmon and Puget Sound recovery that tribal, state, federal, academic and nonprofit players have all come together to make it happen.
EPA and NOAA funding are also instrumental in understanding the impacts of the Hood Canal Bridge. LLTK is leading an effort to determine why the floating bridge is a hotspot for juvenile fish mortality and determine what short- and long-term management actions could be taken so that other investments in Hood Canal habitat and water quality are realized and protected.
Visit Seafood Source for the complete story. Also, check out the recent KUOW interview with our partners, the Nisqually Tribe, as they discuss the critical importance of the zooplankton program, the marine survival project, the risk of lost federal funding, and their own massive investment in these efforts.
Long Live the Kings–in partnership with the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, tribes, and state and federal agencies–is working to pinpoint the causes of high steelhead mortality at the Hood Canal Bridge, and to gauge the bridge’s effect on water quality. Alison Morrow from King5 News recently tagged along as LLTK and our partners conducted research near the Bridge. This research is also related to our Survive the Sound campaign, which will launch March 15th! Watch Alison’s report below and click here to learn more about our Hood Canal Bridge Ecosystem Project.
See the full report from King5 News here.
Why are steelhead dying near the Hood Canal Bridge? @Longlivekings and partners seek answers Click To Tweet
This spring, thousands of people across the Pacific Northwest will join Long Live the Kings (LLTK) and Vulcan Inc. for a fun and interactive journey. Starting March 15th, you and your friends, family, and coworkers can sponsor a steelhead with a minimum $25 donation. Once you’ve chosen your fish (see a few of our contenders below), you can team up or compete, and between May 8th and 19th, follow your steelheads’ adventure as they fight to survive their grueling trek through Puget Sound, avoiding predators, fighting disease, and navigating other obstacles. Sign up now to be notified when you can begin sponsoring!
Survive the Sound is a new way for people to interact with and learn about our Washington State fish. Steelhead are magical: their behavior can signal deeper issues within the surrounding ecosystem, they are prized by chefs and anglers alike, and their presence is critical to sustaining tribal culture and treaty rights. Unfortunately, the Puget Sound steelhead population has declined dramatically over the past century —to less than 10% of its historic size— and they’re now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Today, there is serious concern that this iconic fish will slip into extinction.
LLTK and our partners are especially concerned with the low numbers of juvenile steelhead surviving their brief, two-week journey through the marine waters of Puget Sound on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Fewer than 20% are successfully making the trek!
To track these patterns, LLTK and partners capture wild juvenile steelhead annually as they make their way downriver to Puget Sound. Upon capture, we implant sophisticated transmitters into the fish that emit a unique acoustic ping. Our partners then track each signal by triangulating their position with receivers strategically placed in the water around Puget Sound.
This research approach makes Survive the Sound possible. The steelhead available for sponsorship represent real fish, using data depicting real survival outcomes for the entire population.
This research is part of LLTK’s work to restore wild salmon and support sustainable fishing. LLTK and our Canadian partners, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, coordinate the work of over 60 entities in the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project: to determine why certain species of salmon and steelhead are dying in the combined marine waters of Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia, known as the Salish Sea.
We’re moving quickly to isolate solutions to specific problems we’re certain impact salmon and steelhead. For example, we know steelhead are dying at the Hood Canal Bridge, and it’s likely their normal migration path is being disrupted by the floating bridge somehow, increasing the chances that a nearby predator will find an easy meal. The Survive the Sound campaign shines a spotlight on our marine survival research and Hood Canal Bridge assessment by inviting people to learn what’s really going on with steelhead beneath the surface of Puget Sound.
If you’re interested in helping to save Puget Sound Steelhead and supporting Long Live the Kings, sign up for updates and share the campaign with your friends and family. If you’re looking for more ways to get involved, contact Lucas Hall at email@example.com.
Survive the Sound is presented by:
Please join us for Salish Stories: Fish Tales and Sea Shanties, our 2017 Benefit Dinner, on Thursday, April 20, at Sodo Park, in Seattle. Here is a preview of this year’s event:
- LLTK Founder and Board Chairman Jim Youngren will be honored with our Lifetime Achievement Award in Salmon Conservation
- Incredible live and silent auction items including Husky football tickets!
- Salmon stories from the LLTK community
- A peek at our brand new Survive the Sound campaign
- More details to come!
Expect your invitation in the mail soon! To make sure you don’t miss an update, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t already receive LLTK’s eNewsletter, scroll down to the form in the footer and sign up!
“‘Seafood sleuths’ study mystery of Pacific Northwest salmon declines”
Wherever you live in the Pacific Northwest, you likely have salmon for neighbors. And while the human population boom shows no sign of slowing (about 3.5 million in the Seattle metro area covering the vast swath from Everett to Tacoma), it’s an entirely different story for the salmon.
For reasons no one fully understands yet, juvenile chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead (the Washington state fish) are surviving at far less than historic levels in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, the combined international waters known as the Salish Sea.
One of the organizations taking a leading stewardship role in salmon conservation is Long Live the Kings, which has worked since 1986 to restore wild salmon and steelhead populations and support sustainable recreational, commercial and tribal fishing in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.
Read more at the Seattle Times.
Read about some of what we accomplished in 2016, and the entities that partnered with us, in our 2016 Digital Annual Report.
For more than 50 years, my family and I have fished the Salish Sea, trolling for Blackmouth in the winter and chasing Coho and Chinook salmon in the summer. Spots like the west side of Orcas Island, Obstruction Pass, Elliot Bay, and Point No Point bring back so many great memories!
Fishing is an important part of my heritage and contributes to my sense of place. It is central to how I define my home in this region. Yet, fishing has changed dramatically over recent decades, making it harder and harder to continue as before. Read more