About 2,000 fall chinook salmon carcasses – weighing about 13.5 tons – will be distributed in the tributaries of the upper Naches River northwest of Yakima next week to enrich the waters with nutrients needed by young salmon.
The salmon carcass nutrient enhancement effort, coordinated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will take place on Dec. 12 and 13.
The salmon carcasses, each weighing about 13.5 pounds for a total of 27,000 pounds or 13.5 tons, are from WDFW's Priest Rapids Hatchery where they were used for egg and sperm collection for fish production. Hatchery crews stored the fish carcasses in freezers and arranged for the Washington State University pathology lab to test and certify them disease free.
The carcasses will be hauled from the hatchery in a convoy of trucks and distributed by WDFW fish, habitat and wildlife program staff, the Washington Conservation Corp, Americorp volunteers, and U.S. Forest Service personnel. Carcasses will be distributed in the upper Naches River tributary streams including the American River downstream from Morse Creek, the Bumping River downstream from Goose Prairie, and the Little Naches River downstream from Crow Creek.
This is the third consecutive year for the project.
WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson explained the enrichment project is intended to bolster ocean-derived nutrients in areas of the basin with lower adult salmon and steelhead returns. Research studies in other areas of the Northwest, Canada, and Alaska have shown positive benefits to the aquatic environment through this type of nutrient enhancement, he said.
"Nutrients of marine origin play a critical role in the ecological processes found in anadromous watersheds in Washington," Anderson said. "Salmonids transport nutrients from the marine environment to the freshwater systems of our state. Salmon carcasses provide a significant amount of the nutrients which feed stream life."
Anderson said the process is especially important for young juvenile salmon.
"By using hatchery carcasses, we can directly benefit wild populations of stream-rearing salmon, steelhead and resident fish, as well as provide increased benefits to wildlife inhabiting the area," he explained.