Evaluating the effects of barging (transporting) coho beyond mortality hot spots in Puget Sound

Investigators: Scott Steltzner (Squaxin) and Ryan Lothrop (WDFW)

Results from current and past studies indicate potential areas of high mortality on juvenile salmon and steelhead. One such high-mortality area is South/Central Puget Sound. Squaxin Island/South Sound Net Pen hatchery operations provide a high-value opportunity to fishers for both state and tribes: greater than 80% of adults from this hatchery are caught within Puget Sound. Its location is conducive to fishing as returning coho must swim through most marine areas and a variety of natural and intentional variables to entice residency so that year-round harvest opportunities exist. The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of physically moving juvenile coho salmon that were reared in deep South Puget Sound past mortality hot spots to release. It will test the hypothesis that when juvenile fish are moved past high-mortality regions, they will survive to return as adults in higher numbers. Additionally, although much research has been conducted on in-river barging, little is known about the impacts of marine barging. This study will evaluate the effects of barging juvenile coho through marine waters on survival and return rates.