Sockeye salmon in Washington – 06/22/2005

  • October 23, 2013 at 3:12 am #728

    from arufon -‘

    By Warren Cornwall
    Seattle Times staff reporter

    Mike Mahovlich could tell something was wrong with last year’s Lake
    Washington sockeye-salmon run just by standing at the Ballard Locks.

    Salmon carcasses floated belly-up when water rose in the Locks, which
    separate Lake Washington from Puget Sound. Dying salmon lay gasping
    on rocks along the brackish water between the Locks and the Sound.

    “In my 15 years there was nothing as bad as last year, as far as just
    seeing dead bodies of sockeye,” said Mahovlich, a fish biologist for
    the Muckleshoot Tribe, which helps manage the sockeye run.

    But he was even more startled by the final picture that emerged late
    in the year: As many as 200,000 sockeye, roughly half the run, had
    disappeared somewhere between the Locks and their spawning grounds in
    streams beyond the lake.

    The mystery of the missing sockeye has scientists puzzled and
    worried, as they try to decipher the fate of a cherished run that
    passes through the heart of Seattle. So far, scientists are focusing
    their suspicion on abnormal water temperature. And they worry that
    climate change could make it more than a freak occurrence.

    Already there are signs that this wasn’t a one-time event. In the
    past 34 years, three of the four years with the biggest disparity in
    fish numbers between the Locks and the spawning grounds have been
    since 2000. And recent research shows Lake Washington has warmed over
    the past three decades, driven in part by rising air temperatures
    that could be a symptom of global warming.

    But for the salmon, 2004 was the worst by far. It caught the
    attention of researchers and convinced them that the drop wasn’t just
    a figment of imprecise counting methods.

    “I’m afraid it’s not one freak year,” said Eric Warner, another
    Muckleshoot fisheries biologist. “I think it’s probably a hint of
    things to come.”

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