Our enormous thanks go out to our incredible slate of volunteers that helped with this year’s salmon monitoring! Many, many thanks to our volunteers who contributed over 130 hours of their time to this program: Janelle Perreira, Steve and Jane Hannuksela, Christine Perkins, Ellen Gunderson, Deborah Milton, Fran Fuller, Gene Smith, Melissa Sherrow, Tami Meador, Martha Earnest, Kenzie Williamson, Jacki McClure, and Chris Moore. This work could not be done without you!
We monitored five transects on four Island streams this year: Cooper Creek at the head of Eagle Harbor, 2 reaches on Springbrook Creek which flows into Fletcher Bay, Murden Creek which flows into Murden Cove, and Manzanita Creek which flows into Manzanita Bay (See our Salmon Monitoring Map).
Unfortunately, this was another low year for salmon returns We recorded a total of 11 returning adult coho and chum salmon to Manzanita and lower Springbrook Creek, and some adults who could not be identified to species due to the condition of the carcass. In upper Springbrook Creek, we observed 45 smaller salmon, likely fingerling coho and a few cutthroat trout, which suggests that even though we did not see adult fish in this section, there are at least some salmon returning and spawning in upper Springbrook Creek. No adults were observed in Cooper Creek, which was the site of a chum supplementation program run by the Watershed Council and the Suquamish Tribe from 2006-2009. We observed no salmon in Murden Creek which feeds Murden Cove. At this time we have not identified any obvious barriers to upstream migration, but we are keenly interested in better understanding what might be causing a lack of observations of salmon in this stream.
As with the past few years, we are showing low numbers of returning adults and juvenile fish, with no sightings of juveniles outside of Springbrook creek. These data are extremely concerning, and consistent with low area returns over the broader region. Salmon face a number of serious threats in Puget Sound, including overharvesting which can particularly hit small streams, loss of stream habitat for rearing young, and difficult conditions facing them in the open ocean due to large issues including climate change. Unfortunately, Bainbridge salmon are subject to the same risks that face the larger salmon populations throughout our region. Our data support an urgent need to do more work to protect, conserve, and restore salmon runs in Puget Sound and beyond.
Last year we witnessed the phenomenon of a few “bright” dead salmon, which are salmon that have not yet transitioned to their spawning colors that are found dead. This year, we were relieved not to see any evidence of pre-spawn mortality, but we will continue to keep an eye out for this concerning issue. In urbanized areas, bright salmon may be a sign of pre-spawn mortality that has been linked to urban stormwater runoff and more recently, specifically chemicals from vehicle tires. Although Bainbridge and our surrounding areas do not have the level of urbanization that we would expect to create large stormwater runoff issues in the same way that the Seattle and Tacoma areas do, we cannot rule out that stormwater runoff could be a growing issue for our area as well.
We also had some wonderful experiences during monitoring. Our wildlife viewing included raccoons and playful otters.
Volunteers were able to alert the City to the need for additional sandbagging on the Springbrook weirs to maintain adequate flow this fall (see Figure to left). The City is pursuing funds with partnering organizations to replace and upgrade this salmon passage issue. Finally, we also identified building material debris downstream of Highway 305 on Murden Creek that was cleared by COBI and one of our monitoring volunteers. We are hoping that this undersized culvert will get back on track for a scheduled replacement project by WSDOT in 2022. These are just the kinds of salmon passage improvements that we need to keep working on in order to improve habitat for our Island salmon, and we are hopeful that such improvements will contribute to the health of the salmon who call Bainbridge Island home.