Burien Population Grows By 42,500! (fish, that is…)

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Last Saturday, the population of Burien grew by 42,500.

You could be forgiven for missing your new neighbors because they’re only about an inch and a half long. They’re also covered in scales and like to eat bugs, so you may not have a lot in common with them. These new residents of Burien are coho salmon fry:

Basin Steward Dennis Clark and Normandy Park’s new city councilmember Marion Yoshino pour nearly 7,000 new Burien residents (aka Coho Fry) into Miller Creek where First Ave. South crosses it.

For the last six weeks, the salmon fry been raised by the volunteer group Trout Unlimited in a small hatchery on the grounds of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District plant in Normandy Park. The group received the coho as “eyed eggs” from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. At the hatchery, a small building next to Miller Creek, the eggs and fry were incubated in trays constantly bathed in clean well water.

Trout Unlimited volunteers line up with buckets and coolers to collect their salmon fry for the run up the watershed to the outplanting locations.

On Saturday morning (Jan. 17th), 15 volunteers used buckets and ice chests to carry the fish to 15 sites along Miller and Walker Creeks in Burien and Normandy Park. Another 25,500 fish were released in Normandy Park.

Upon release, the coho have to fend for themselves amongst wild salmon fry. All the fry have to learn to survive the challenges of high stream flows and polluted stormwater, avoid predators such as great blue herons, and find enough food (insects – yum!). A smart, strong, and lucky few will survive a year living in our streams before heading down to Puget Sound. Even fewer will survive another 2-3 years in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. In 2012 and 2013, a tiny fraction of the 42,500 fry released today in Burien will have survived incredible odds and will struggle to swim back up Miller and Walker Creeks. Back in fresh water, they’ll be looking for a bit of gravel and a mate to spawn with (our Pacific Northwest “circle of life” can match the Lion King’s any day!)

To help ensure the fish have healthier streams to return to, there will be a variety of restoration projects where you can volunteer this year – and as always, The B-Town Blog will list the opportunities well in advance!

To learn more about the streams and how they support our new neighbors, visit the Miller and Walker Creeks stewardship webpage.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Extra special thanks to Miller/Walker Creek Basin Steward Dennis Clark for this post and photos!]

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