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Steelie ‘Smolts’ Again Set To Try To Survive The Sound

For the third spring in a row, dozens of steelhead “smolts” will try to make their way from southern Puget Sound and Hood Canal rivers to the Pacific, an interactive game meant to highlight the plight of the little fish against predators, pollution and other perils.

This year’s online Survive the Sound challenge kicks off May 6 and playing is now free (previously the public entered with a donation), with teachers also supplied with a new toolkit of activities for their students.

PARTICIPANTS PICK CARICATURES OF STEELHEAD SMOLTS THAT CORRESPOND TO ACTUAL YOUNG FISH FROM THE NISQUALLY AND SKOKOMISH RIVERS THAT WERE IMPLANTED WITH RADIO TAGS FOR THE PREVIOUS YEAR’S MIGRATION. ACOUSTIC DEVICES IN PUGET SOUND RECORD THEIR PASSAGE AND THAT DATA IS USED FOR THE CURRENT YEAR’S SURVIVE THE SOUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The project’s website has also been simplified, with participants encouraged to join teams.

“The team with the most surviving fish at the end of the five-day migration wins!” says Lucas Hall of Long Live The Kings.

In the first two years, Northwest Sportsman‘s smolts have not had the best of luck, and Hall’s organization is working to understand the reasons behind declining marine survival in Puget Sound and other inside waters for not only real-world steelhead but also Chinook and coho.

Some of that work is pointing towards the Hood Canal Bridge as a very bad chokepoint for steelies.

LONG LIVE THE KINGS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JACQUES WHITE POINTS TO A SLIDE SHOWING HOW TWO SMOLTS FARED AT THE HOOD CANAL BRIDGE — THE ONE ON THE RIGHT, FAIRLY WELL, THE OTHER LIKELY AS DINNER FARE FOR A HARBOR SEAL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

During a kickoff celebration to this year’s event held earlier in April at Anthony’s Pier 66, LLTK’s Jacques White shared a slide that showed how two different radio-tagged fish dealt with the structure, which lays across most of the canal and continues underwater at least 15 feet.

One fish was able to emerge from underneath the bridge, swim back to the top and continue on towards the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The other made a number of dives to depths that steelhead would otherwise avoid — probably in the stomach of the harbor seal or possibly a harbor porpoise after the young fish was eaten.

Those two fish are among the 500 or so implanted with radio tags in their home streams before their journey to the ocean. Acoustic devices in Puget Sound record their passage or lack thereof, and that data is used for the 48 representative smolts that make up the field of contestants in the challenge, as it were.

TOURISTS AND OTHERS ENJOY A VIEW OF PUGET SOUND ON A SUNNY SEATTLE SATURDAY, A TRANQUIL SCENE THAT BELIES THE MAJOR CHALLENGES FISH FACE IN THE INLAND SEA AND ITS TRIBUTARIES. THE SURVIVE THE SOUND GAME AIMS TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON THOSE AND HOPEFULLY HELP SUPPORT HABITAT AND OTHER ACTIONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

With six days until the migration begins, 4,000 people have joined and nearly 740 different teams have formed so far (ours is Team Sealyalater, captained by Steely).

Deadline to join is May 5 but afterwards you can still follow the Journey Of The 48 on Survive the Sound’s map.

The experience is sponsored by a number of local tribes, Tacoma Power, Vulcan, and the Pike Place Market, among others.

A SIGN ADVERTISES A NEW BAR AND RESTAURANT COMING TO PIKE PLACE MARKET, BUT LITTLE FISH ARE ALSO SWIMMING PAST NOT FAR AWAY IN PUGET SOUND, OUTMIGRATING STEELHEAD, CHINOOK, COHO, CHUM AND SOCKEYE SMOLTS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Steelhead Smolts (And Their Sponsors) Set To Try And ‘Survive The Sound’ Again

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM LONG LIVE THE KINGS

Local nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has launched Survive the Sound, an interactive game that lets local residents “race” steelhead as they make their annual migration through the Puget Sound. All proceeds help fund LLTK research and conservation efforts to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations in areas of critical need.

STEELHEAD SMOLTS WILL ONCE AGAIN TRY TO MAKE IT OUT OF PUGET SOUND, AND FOR THE SECOND YEAR THE PUBLIC CAN FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEY THROUGH FISH THEY CAN SPONSOR. (SURVIVE THE SOUND)

Steelhead are now at 10 percent of their historic abundance, due in part to the many threats they face on their way through the Puget Sound: predators, disease, and habitat destruction. During this spring’s steelhead migration, Puget Sound residents can make a difference by sponsoring a fish (or a whole school of them) through an interactive game, Survive the Sound.

Sponsoring a steelhead allows players to track their progress to the finish line via the Survive the Sound website. Players can compete with friends, family and colleagues to see if their pick survive the migration to the Puget Sound – it’s like fantasy football for fish. And the stakes are high on this dangerous journey. Last year, just six of 48 steelhead survived. People looking to join must lock in their picks by May 6 to play.

LTTK has worked for more than 30 years on research and conservation efforts to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations. Participation in Survive the Sound helps LLTK bring the game to local classrooms for free–engaging students in local conservation efforts. This year the resources will reach more than 30,000 students.

“As the Washington State fish, it is up to all of us to help protect wild steelhead – they need all the help they can get,” said Michael Schmidt, Deputy Director of Long Live the Kings. “By using an interactive gaming platform, Survive the Sound gives local residents and kids the opportunity to learn about the major threats to salmon and steelhead populations, make a difference, and have fun while doing so.”

The Survive the Sound migration runs from May 7-18. Players can also create their own team to raise funds for steelhead recovery efforts or spark friendly competition at work by challenging colleagues. Registration closes May 6.

Support of Survive the Sound helps LLTK continue their work to ensure that wild salmon and steelhead remain a vital part of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem for years to come.

For more information on Survive the Sound, visit www.survivethesound.org.