November 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm #1185MikeKeymaster
I ask, “is it all the unregulated weather modification (aerosol
spraying)?” We do not know and are intentionally kept from knowing,
what is being used in the man-mad cirrus clouds
SNIPIs “”it global warming? Is it pollution? Predators?”
Scientists probing for clues to dying steelhead
It was simple surgery, done in four minutes from a makeshift
operating room floating on the Puyallup River.
Biologist Andrew Berger sliced open a young steelhead and tucked a
vitamin-sized transmitter into the folds of its belly.
As a colleague pumped water into the fish’s gasping mouth, Berger
quickly stitched the wound closed so the 8-inch smolt could continue
its journey out to sea.
Berger and other biologists with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians hope
the delicate operation on this and dozens of other young fish will
yield answers to some pressing questions: Where, exactly, do
steelhead go when they leave the rivers that flow to Puget Sound?
And why are so many dying?
Steelhead populations around Puget Sound have plummeted dramatically
enough that the federal government has proposed listing them for
protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Steelhead, which are similar to rainbow trout but spend much of
their lives in the ocean and return to rivers to spawn, have such
complex life cycles that unraveling the mystery of their decline is
Wildlife managers suspect the problem may have as much to do with
time they spend in Puget Sound or the Pacific Ocean as it does with
the health of rivers.
“The ocean is like this black box,” said Brodie Antipa, a hatchery
manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We just
don’t know what’s going on out there. Is it global warming? Is it
Young Puget Sound steelhead will be tracked by receivers placed at
intervals along Puget Sound and up the British Columbia coast.
“It used to be that you count your fish when they go out, wait a few
years and count them when they got back, and that’s all you knew,”
said Jim Myers with the federal government’s Northwest Fisheries
Science Center in Seattle.
Scientists in British Columbia have already used receivers to track
dozens of fish by computer. They’ve seen up to 40 percent of them
die within a few weeks of leaving Canadian rivers.
“If we could figure out if that’s happening here, we’d be way ahead
of the game,” Myers said.
Even if fish make it to open ocean past the range of the receivers,
it may help biologists rule out problems in Puget Sound.
“It won’t tell us exactly what’s killing them, only whether they are
making it from point A to point B,” Antipa said.
In some river systems, such as the Puyallup, steelhead declines have
become perilous, with spawning steelhead dropping from thousands to
hundreds in a half-dozen years. Steelhead spawning nests in one
Puyallup tributary numbered about 400 a few years ago. Last year
biologists found 32.
This spring, the tribe and state began capturing wild adult
steelhead from a fish trap on the White River, a tributary of the
Puyallup, and hauling them to a hatchery to rear more young. “People
have started to hit panic mode,” said Russ Ladley, resource director
for the Puyallup Tribe.
The decline in steelhead is happening even in rivers where runs of
some salmon, such as wild coho, are returning at the highest levels
scientists have seen since record-keeping began more than a half-
century ago. Steelhead runs on Olympic Coast rivers appear strong,
but pristine river systems in British Columbia are seeing declines.
It’s hard to predict how long young steelhead will stay in fresh
water before jetting out to the ocean, or how long they will remain
in the ocean before returning home to spawn. The entire cycle may
take as little as three years, or as many as seven if it happens at
Some steelhead can spawn rainbow trout, and vice versa, though
scientists aren’t sure what triggers the transition.
Steelhead have been known to travel great distances: Some fish that
can be traced to Puget Sound have been found a few hundred miles off
Japan. In the ocean, steelhead typically stay within 100 feet of the
surface, while many salmon species live deeper.
Even when runs are healthy, there are typically far fewer steelhead
than salmon in the rivers — as few as one for every 100 chinook. Yet
while steelhead often struggle when competing with other salmon
species, strong runs of both coexisted through most of the 20th
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com
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