Leader of nation’s top conservation agency joins King County Executive to release juvenile kokanee, announce new urban refuge education projectThe ongoing work of restoring imperiled Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon received high-profile assistance today, when Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined King County Executive Dow Constantine and other partners of the Kokanee Work Group at their fifth-annual juvenile fish release.
“It is truly an honor to have Secretary Jewell participate in what has become a King County Earth Week tradition that reflects our shared commitment to protecting and restoring the environment,” said Executive Constantine. “The effort to save the kokanee salmon is an excellent example of what local governments can achieve when we partner together with communities and volunteers to achieve a common goal.”
Standing alongside a restored stretch of Ebright Creek, Secretary Jewell, Executive Constantine, representatives of the Kokanee Work Group, and school kids on an Earth Week science field trip helped release 100 inch-long kokanee fry into the wild.
At the event, Secretary Jewell announced that Lake Sammamish has been chosen as one of eight pilot partnerships nationwide under the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. The partnership will help connect people in the Seattle metro-area to the great outdoors and, in particular, efforts to restore kokanee salmon runs in the Lake Sammamish Watershed. Read More >>
“Children have become increasingly disconnected from nature,” Jewell said. “The Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership seeks to reverse this trend by providing meaningful opportunities for urban residents in the region, especially young people, to get outdoors and engage in hands-on learning and conservation of kokanee salmon and its habitat. Building on the strong local partnerships that are at the center of these restoration efforts, the initiative will connect kids with nature, increase understanding of our ecosystem and prepare the next generation of environmental stewards.”
The slender, silver fish released today are the offspring of adult Lake Sammamish kokanee captured from Ebright Creek during the 2013 spawning season and taken to the Issaquah State Salmon Hatchery where they are spawned artificially. While the fish are incubating prior to hatching, they are kept in water collected from the stream where their parents were captured so they will imprint on their home water’s unique smell.
The fish grow in the hatchery for two weeks before release back into the stream where their parents were collected. After growing in Lake Sammamish for three to four years, they will return to the same stream as their parents.
This year marks the fifth-consecutive release of native juvenile kokanee into Lake Sammamish from the specially designed supplementation program, which aims to boost kokanee survival and ultimately increase future numbers of adult kokanee spawning in the Lake Sammamish watershed.
The Ebright Creek fry release occurred on property owned by Wally Pereyra, whose commitment to Lake Sammamish kokanee restoration earned him a King County Green Globe Award in 2013. Pereyra’s work on behalf of kokanee restoration includes installing a fish-friendly culvert and planting native vegetation along Ebright Creek on his property that more than doubled the available high-quality habitat for fish.
The hatchery program is funded primarily by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which is a part of the Department of the Interior, and is implemented with the support of King County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Streamside landowners and community groups pitch in to the recovery effort by restoring and preserving habitat, and by tracking adult Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon during the spawning season in fall and winter.
The hatchery program is intended to serve as a temporary tool for recovery, ensuring that kokanee population numbers are stable or increasing as critical habitat improvements are completed. The work group’s ultimate goal is to restore by 2021 enough habitat to ensure the long-term health of the population without a hatchery that can support a sustainable fishery in Lake Sammamish.
Two fifth-grade classes from Campbell Hill Elementary School in Renton participated in the kokanee fry release, highlighting the recently announced Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, which will increase awareness, understanding and support of the USFWS and national refuge system, as well as conservation of aquatic ecosystems and native species in the Lake Sammamish watershed.
The pilot wildlife refuge partnerships are an effort to connect city dwellers to nature, and allow the USFWS to work with key community organizations that have been active in wildlife conservation and can help set the stage for expanding the nation’s conservation constituency. The Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership is just one of two partnerships on the West Coast.
A longtime King County resident, Secretary Jewell won the 2009 King County Green Globe “Environmental Catalyst” Award, attended Renton High School and the University of Washington, and is the former president and CEO of Seattle-based retailer REI.
The Kokanee Work Group is comprised of King County, the USFWS, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife , Washington State Parks, the cities of Sammamish, Issaquah, Bellevue and Redmond, the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, Save Lake Sammamish, Friends of Pine Lake, Trout Unlimited, Mountains to Sound Greenway, community groups and kokanee recovery advocates.