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Salmon sprung in Port Gamble Bay
PORT GAMBLE S’KLALLAM — It was an important annual event with little fanfare.
The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released more than 200,000 juvenile coho salmon into Port Gamble Bay Monday and Tuesday.
Because the wild population of salmon isn’t “sufficient to satisfy fishing pens,” according to tribe habitat biologist Hans Daubenberger, the tribe and the state bring in the salmon for commercial, sport and sustenance fishing, with the assistance of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The salmon will grow a bit more while in the tribe’s fish pens before being released in June.
This is the 25th year of the tribe’s fish pen program.
The 225,000 fish were hatched at the Quilcene Hatchery, raised at the state-run George Adams Hatchery in Shelton (a freshwater facility), and transported to Port Gamble. This is around half the number of salmon usually brought into the bay, but Paul McCollum, director of Port Gamble S’Klallam Natural Resources, said George Adams was hit with cold-water disease, killing thousands of juvenile salmon.
“[Fishermen] will certainly notice, but most folks realize these hatcheries work really hard...if the hatchery wasn’t there, [fishermen] would get nothing,” McCollum said.
Salt water was pumped up thick, black tubes to a holding tank, which sat on the edge of a ridge near the tribal center. The fish, transported by truck, were released into the tank, down the tubes into the bay and the net pens. The tribe also did a “bucket test,” taking a few fish from each stage to ensure the fish weren’t traumatized by the transfer from fresh to saltwater.
In previous years, the tribe would transport the fish from a truck onto a barge in the bay, which would release the fish directly into the pens. Daubenberger said all transport is stressful on the fish — “they don’t like to be handled” — but McCollum said this system seems to be less taxing on the fish.
Port Gamble S’Klallam is a signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point and has a government-to-government relationship with the United States. It has a treaty-guaranteed right to harvest salmon. It is a member of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and works to improve and protect salmon habitat.