New Three-year Study to Guide Future Restoration within Puget Sound Nearshore
In early January, Wild Fish Conservancy initiated an extensive three-year nearshore fish use study in Hood Canal, Admiralty Inlet, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Through a combination of beach seining and fyke netting, WFC biologists and volunteers began documenting outmigration patterns of juvenile salmonids at sample sites throughout the expansive study region. The project is focused on ESA-listed Hood Canal summer chum but will also document the presence and abundance of juvenile Chinook, coho, fall chum, pink salmon, steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout and various other nearshore fish species. The goal of the project is to provide a scientific basis for selecting and prioritizing future salmonid habitat restoration and protection projects within the nearshore of Hood Canal, Admiralty inlet and the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Nearshore environments provide crucial rearing grounds and migration corridors for juvenile salmonids as they prepare for the open water conditions of the greater Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. Currently there is a lack of information regarding when and where salmonids are using different nearshore habitat types in Hood Canal and neighboring basins, which makes prioritizing habitat restoration and protection opportunities difficult. This study will address major data gaps in the abundance, spatial distribution, species composition and the timing of juvenile salmonid out-migrations.
Forty sample sites have been selected throughout the study area representing a variety of habitat types. Each sample location will be surveyed weekly from January to June over a three year period. Habitat data collected at the time of seining as well as habitat data obtained using remote sensing and previous studies will be used to construct statistical models to describe how and when salmon and other fish species use the nearshore environment within the Hood Canal, Admiralty Inlet, and Straits of Juan de Fuca. In addition, fin clips will be taken from juvenile chum and Chinook salmon for genetic analysis that may identify their rivers of origin.
The project is a continuation of WFC’s previous pilot study which took place in Hood Canal in the winters of 2012 and 2013. For this project, WFC has partnered with the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, WDFW, Northwest Watershed Institute, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and the U.S. Navy. It is our hope that this group effort will lead to science-driven policy decisions, steering restoration and protection projects toward the most critical nearshore habitats which are vital to the health and sustainability of these iconic fish.