Over 36 Salmon Spotted In Miller & Walker Creeks, But Many Are Dying, Possibly From “Pre-Spawn Mortality”
Our friend Dennis Clark, Miller/Walker Creek Basin Steward for King County, alerts us that over 36 salmon have been spotted in Miller and Walker Creeks.
Here’s his report:
With the rains of fall comes another age-old marker of the turn of the seasons: the salmon are returning to Highline.Â Since October 10, at least three dozen coho salmon have returned to Miller and Walker Creeks.Â Coho have been reported multiple times in Normandy Park, Burien, and as far upstream as SeaTac.Â On Tuesday, Josh Feigin, an environmental specialist at the Port of Seattle, saw at least seven fish in Miller Creek on the airport property.
Remarkably, three of the fish made it past a substantial waterfall near S. 157th St. that usually prevents further upstream fish passage.Â The coho began their upstream migration from Puget Sound following the first fall rains and appear to come in spurts with each succeeding rainfall.
While these are fairly good numbers for early in the season, the news is not all good.Â Coho salmon on Miller Creek are suffering from what is termed â€œpre-spawn mortality.â€Â Otherwise seemingly healthy fish are dying before they can spawn.Â Their deaths are preceded by bizarre swimming in which the fish literally throw themselves out of the water.Â I witnessed this disturbing behavior on Friday when a fish jumped over my boots before dying (more info here).Â It seems that as the rains gradually wash the pollutants that accumulated over the summer off the streets, fewer fish succumb to this phenomenon (and where do these pollutants go when â€œwashed awayâ€? Read more info here).
While the exact cause of pre-spawn mortality is unknown, it is likely linked to some combination of pollutants associated with modern industrial life.Â While research continues, Burien residents can avoid or reduce pollution that is known to harm salmon such as car wash soap (wash your car at a commercial car wash or while parked on the lawn), leaking oil (fix oil leaks promptly), and pesticides (limit use or choose alternatives safer for kids, pets, and fish).
Despite these problems, the presence and persistence of salmon that begin and end their epic lives right here in Burien is a compelling reminder of the amazing world we share.Â If you observe fish in the streams, please let Stream Steward Dennis Clark know by e-mail or at 206-296-1909.
Here’s a photo Dennis took Oct. 23rd of a male and female salmon at Miller Creek in Normandy Park:
Here are some photos courtesy Brett Fish showing the various stages of “pre-spawn mortality”:
More information is available at Dennis’ excellent blog here.