October 23, 2013 at 3:12 am #728MikeKeymaster
from arufon -‘http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002344228_sockeye21m.
By Warren Cornwall
Seattle Times staff reporter
KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
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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