Wild Fish Conservancy
Grays Harbor Juvenile Salmon/Fish Use Assessment
The Wild Fish Conservancy is heading a juvenile salmon/fish use assessment to develop a scientific basis for the evaluation of potential sites for future habitat restoration and protection projects.
The project seeks to document the distribution, abundance, habitat use, and timing of juvenile salmonids and other fishes in the Grays Harbor estuary, from riverine tidal waters through marine habitats.
Grays Harbor is the fourth largest estuary on the west coast of North America and is situated between the mouth of the Columbia River and the Olympic Peninsula. Its major tributary is the Chehalis River, one of the largest rivers in Washington. It is also the estuary for a number of the southern draining rivers of the Olympic Mountains, including the Humptulips, Wishkah, Wynoochee, and Satsop. Historically, Grays Harbor supported large runs of Chinook, coho, and chum salmon, as well as steelhead, cutthroat, and bull trout, but for a variety of reasons most of these populations have declined. The estuary is also an important rearing ground for a variety of larval and juvenile baitfish, including surf smelt, herring, anchovy, and sardines, which make up an important trophic layer in the marine food web.
In an effort to better understand how juvenile salmon utilize estuarine habitats in Grays Harbor, the Wild Fish Conservancy is initiating a multi-year study that will include a habitat inventory and assessment as well as sampling of the juvenile fish community throughout tidally influenced portions of the estuary. Juvenile fish will be sampled using beach seines and fyke nets, and the information collected will include species, size, abundance, water quality parameters, and coded wire tags. We will also take fin clips from steelhead, cutthroat and bull trout for genetic analysis to aid the WDFW and NOAA Fisheries in their efforts to create a genetic baseline database for these populations on the Washington coast. (Wild Fish Conservancy, Sandell, T. and Fletcher, J., http://wildfishconservancy.org).