OLYMPIA -The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and operators of a commercial hatchery are charting a course of action to remove Atlantic salmon from Thurston County's Scatter Creek, after several hundred of the non-native fish were found there during a recent stream survey.
About 250 juvenile Atlantic salmon, some up to a foot long, were sighted in the Thurston County creek during a WDFW snorkeling survey earlier this week. The survey was the first in a series funded through a grant from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Additional surveys for non-native species will be conducted in 13 other watersheds over the next two years.
During the Scatter Creek survey, WDFW biologists collected 17 juvenile Atlantic salmon and took them to WDFW's lab in Olympia for genetic testing and analysis. It has not yet been determined how long the fish have been in Scatter Creek.
Scatter Creek, a tributary of the Chehalis River, is home to a healthy, naturally spawning coho salmon population. Atlantic salmon are not native to the Pacific coast and, like other non-native species, can compete with native fish for food and habitat.
WDFW biologists and representatives of Cypress Island, Inc., which operates the commercial hatchery on the creek, plan to meet next week to determine how to remove Atlantic salmon from the creek, prevent future fish escapes from the hatchery and step up monitoring for hatchery escapees, said Lew Atkins, director of WDFW's Fish Program.
Biologists are exploring ways to remove the Atlantic salmon from the creek without harming native fish. Possible methods include hand-netting the fish from the creek, electroshocking the creek, or constructing a trap that would allow the Atlantic salmon to be removed from the creek as they migrate downstream, said John Kerwin, WDFW's head hatchery official.
The Scatter Creek commercial hatchery produces up to three million juvenile Atlantic salmon annually for transfer to the company's eight marine net pen sites throughout Puget Sound. Those net pens in turn produce 11 to 14 million pounds of salmon each year.