YAKIMA—Scores of volunteers next week will join Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employees in scattering more than 1,000 large salmon carcasses in the Yakima River basin.
The goal is to provide food for juvenile fish while restoring carbon, calcium and other nutrients to the rivers' food chain, according to Keith Wolf, WDFW's fish program manager for South-Central Washington.
He explained the salmon themselves once provided the nutrients by returning in large numbers to the rivers to spawn, die and decay. In recent years, however, too few salmon have returned to provide the necessary nutrients. The small fish runs are due to various factors including land-use practices, excessive harvests, poor ocean conditions and migration obstructions such as dams.
Wolf said the carcasses, many of which are in the 30- to 40-pound range, are surplus hatchery fish from the Columbia River's Hanford Reach. They are being placed in the American, Bumping and Naches rivers as well as several of their tributaries.
The Department, local residents and Yakama Indian Nation are trying restore salmon runs in the basin but the task is difficult because the food chain and ecosystem are sterile without the carcasses, Wolf explained.
"We're giving Mother Nature a jump-start so that the natural process of recycling salmon nutrients can resume," he added.
He noted several research studies have proven distributing carcasses helps streams rebound as healthy salmon habitat.
Bobcats, martens, mink, cougars and other animals also consume the salmon carcasses, Wolf said.