OLYMPIA--The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today joined the Nisqually Tribe to begin marking approximately one million young hatchery chinook salmon so fishers can identify them and protect wild fish.
WDFW and the tribe are marking hatchery fish so opportunities to fish for Puget Sound chinook and other salmon species can continue while Washington works to rebuild wild Puget Sound chinook runs. Puget Sound chinook recently were given federal Endangered Species Act protection as a "threatened" species.
The fish being marked today are at the tribe's Clear Creek Hatchery at Fort Lewis. They were marked by clipping their adipose fins. The adipose fin is located on the back just forward of the tail.
"We can rebuild wild Puget Sound chinook stocks while continuing to fish for healthy wild and hatchery salmon runs," said Jeff Koenings, WDFW director. "Marking hatchery chinook is an important tool that will help us achieve both goals."
Koenings said this year's chinook marking program is a demonstration project designed to show how marking is an effective management tool and how cooperation among fish managers will help recover wild fish while preserving fishing opportunties.
Information gathered during the mass marking will be used by the department and the Nisqually Tribe for chinook research.
WDFW recently began marking some 13 million 2-inch chinook produced in its own hatcheries in Puget Sound and on the Columbia River—an operation scheduled to take about two months. The Puyallup and Squaxin tribes are cooperating with the Department on marking the Puget Sound fish.
Next year WDFW hopes to mark 35 million of its hatchery-produced Puget Sound chinook.
David Troutt, the Nisqually Tribe's natural resources director, said the mass marking of the Clear Creek Hatchery fish "will provide an additional management tool to evaluate the effectiveness of salmon recovery efforts in the Nisqually Basin.
"We are pleased to be working cooperatively on this project with the Department of Fish and Wildlife," Troutt said.
Koenings noted that WDFW has been marking hatchery steelhead for years—a program that has made it possible to continue to provide recreational steelhead fisheries at a time when efforts are under way to rebuild wild steelhead runs harmed by habitat degradation.
"We believe comprehensive hatchery salmon marking will be as successful and popular as our well-established steelhead program has proven to be," he added.
Koenings said salmon marking has been taking place on a limited scale for approximately 30 years. Small numbers of hatchery salmon have been marked for years to to identify them as fish carrying coded wire tags—tiny pieces of metal containing information about their origin, feed and other information vital to managers who obtain the heads containing the tags after the fish are caught.