The 7-year active research phase of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project may have concluded with last year’s publication of the Synthesis Report, but that doesn’t mean the work is finished. Learning what causes Salish Sea salmon to die at alarmingly high rates as they enter the marine environment is just the first step for the SSMSP partners. Our ultimate goal is also to equip managers and decision-makers with science-backed strategies to increase their survival.
In February 2022, we released Local Level Salmon Recovery Recommendations Based on the Findings of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, a guidance document for local salmon recovery organizations in the United States to put these findings into action. LLTK worked with salmon recovery experts at ESA to create this document, in consultation with local salmon recovery organizations and Tribes, as a toolkit to incorporate the SSMSP’s findings into watershed-level planning and projects. The actions target the issues that the SSMSP identified as key limiting factors for marine survival: local marine food supply and predation hotspots, along with strategies to address contaminants, restore estuaries, manage water quantity, and continue essential monitoring and data collection. In combination with regional-scale tools, including regional recovery plans and co-management processes, this resource provides local entities with a roadmap to support ecosystem-wide recovery in ways that best align with local conditions and goals.
Read on for more background about the Local Guidance Document and a link to the full story on ESA’s website:
Developing Local Solutions
ESA’s natural resource specialists have worked with salmon recovery lead entities and the Puget Sound Partnership to integrate adaptive management and updates into salmon recovery plans. With this understanding of fish recovery needs, the collaboration with Long Live the Kings was a natural fit.
The Local Guidance document builds on SSMSP recommendations and presents strategies and actions for local entities to apply at the local scale. It details how groups can address local impacts on marine survival rates by improving fish habitat conditions while limiting predation, enhancing food supplies, and partnering with fellow conservation efforts to accelerate estuary habitat restoration.
“The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project gave us clear evidence that environmental changes, from estuary and nearshore habitat loss to climate shifts, have impacted the entire Puget Sound food web in ways that are limiting the productivity, survival, and fitness of our juvenile salmon,” says Jacques White, Executive Director of Long Live the Kings. “This guidance document translates those findings into management and restoration actions. ESA had both the science and policy expertise that were essential to connect the research to concrete steps. We hope this toolkit provides a timely ecosystem perspective to equip local and regional salmon recovery efforts.”
“The breadth and depth of issues that salmon recovery groups are being asked to tackle continue to grow as we learn more about what it is going to take to recover these species,” notes Senior Conservation Planner Susan O’Neil, who guided the creation of the guidance document.
O’Neil explains that local recovery strategies will need to apply a holistic approach to address the complex interconnectedness of environmental factors that are contributing to the low Chinook, coho, and steelhead numbers in order to increase survival rates and meet recovery goals.
Your passion for the region, salmon, and their ecosystem fuels real solutions for a sustainable and thriving Pacific Northwest!
The Latest from Mike
Mike O’Connell, resident Chinook expert and Facility Manager at Glenwood Springs for 16 years, reports another year of strong returns with large, beautiful fish. Mike’s latest count totaled at 410 and they’re still coming in – he expects more than 700 to show up.
“The fish look big this year,” said Mike, “It could be because they’ve been able to find more food or these big fish may have stayed out in the ocean or Salish Sea for longer. We’ll only be able to tell after checking the coded wire tags.”
LLTK’s Glenwood facility releases about 700,000 Chinook smolts each year, mass-marking all of them, and inserting coded wire tags into about
100,000. “Mass-marking” refers to the practice of clipping the adipose fin to signify to fishers that a particular fish is from a hatchery and is okay to keep and eat. Mike regularly dissects fish heads in order to check them for coded wire tags, which give him information about the fish’s origin and release data.
What’s with the fascination with fish heads? It’s believed that many Chinook caught from the Glenwood facility are never identified as such, so knowing how many Glenwood Springs Chinook are caught is one way we can understand the effects of our efforts. If you’d like to help us analyze our impact, Mike is happy to receive your frozen fish heads and listen to your fish stories. So, if you catch a Chinook in the San Juan’s without an adipose fin, freeze the head and contact Mike at email@example.com.
Salmon Homecoming 2017
On September 16th, over 100 family, friends, and community members joined Long Live the Kings for the 2017 Salmon Homecoming event at Glenwood Springs.
We send huge thanks to Jim and Kathy Youngren for opening their home to the community, which allowed guests to welcome home hundreds of huge Chinook while visiting with wonderful people, eating delicious grilled salmon, wood-fired pizza, and tasty sides (courtesy of our incredibly generous sponsors!). Check out the photo album here.
LLTK was also grateful to welcome representatives from the Lummi Nation, who spoke of the significance of place and the land on which Glenwood Springs resides.
A Special New Partnership
The 2017 Salmon Homecoming not only connected guests to the returning Chinook and community members, but also featured a beautiful demonstration of a special new partnership with the Lummi Nation.
In addition to supporting the Bellingham Bay fishery through Chinook production, Glenwood Springs holds significant meaning to the Tribe’s history as well.
Councilman Nic Lewis addressed an enraptured crowd stating, “… this is where my ancestors are buried, right down there by the water today… I went and laid down on the beach, and again I found another arrowhead from my ancestors. Something with this property is really touching me in my heart… this is a place that’s really showing that our ancestors are still here and looking over us.”
A special sense of place can be found at Glenwood Springs. With a unique combination of natural beauty and ideal salmon-rearing conditions, it provides an essential resource to the community, and may also serve an important function in years to come. Leading by example, this year the the Lummi Nation provided a very generous $15,000 grant to Glenwood Springs.
As Councilman Lewis stated, the Lummi support this work “… so that the generations that come after us, those not born yet, can see it in all its beauty. As native people, this property represents everything we stand to protect.”
The meaningful contribution comes at a critical time, as Glenwood Springs lost $50,000 in public funding in 2017.
Glenwood has always received a significant level of support from the San Juan community, but grants and private funds like these are becoming even more critical to ensure we can continue to provide sustainable Chinook to our fisheries and killer whales.
Glenwood Springs FAQ
While drooling over our Chinook ponds, people often ask Mike what Long Live the Kings does with all the fish. A number of the fish are used to collect the 800,000 eggs necessary to sustain the annual returns at Glenwood.
Once eggs are collected, spawned carcasses are used to either enrich Glenwood’s stream with natural nutrients or are composted for use by the Orcas Island community. One only has to visit some of the local farmers at the Saturday market in East Sound to know that fish carcasses from Glenwood Springs are put to good use.
Fish not used for spawning are given to local schools, the Orcas Island Food Bank, and sold to local stores. Nothing goes to waste! To learn more about Glenwood Springs, and LLTK’s other efforts on Hood Canal and the Salish Sea, click here.
LLTK is working with our partners to better understand and mitigate the impacts of the Hood Canal Bridge on out-migrating salmon and steelhead. This work is based on recent research findings by scientists from NOAA Fisheries, which indicated that 36% of juvenile steelhead being tracked as they migrated past the Bridge were presumed dead; and on preliminary modeling conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory which showed that the Bridge may be restricting water circulation in Hood Canal. Read more
On June 15th, Lummi fishermen completed another year of their pilot tangle net fishery. This project, begun in 2012, stemmed from discussions between Lummi Natural Resources staff, Long Live the Kings and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The purpose of the selective fishery is threefold: to gather information on the status of the early Chinook spawning migration; to test the feasibility of conducting a traditional fishery in a manner that would protect ESA listed species; and to provide access to surplus hatchery fish returning to the North Fork Chinook supplementation program at WDFW’s Kendall Creek Hatchery. Read more
Our summer research season has kicked into gear. LLTK and our partners are out in the field, working to understand the impacts of the Hood Canal bridge on out-migrating steelhead, tracking harbor seals to monitor their interactions with young salmon, and more. Enjoy these updates from their efforts.