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Central Puget Sound

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Salmon Monitoring Program 2013 - Community Salmon Investigation (CSI) for Highline

Adult Salmon Monitoring 2010-2013 - Community Salmon Investigation (CSI): Highline
Miller and Walker Creeks Stewardship

How many adult salmon return to Miller and Walker Creeks in Burien, Normandy Park,

Photo of two salmon swimming next to a log in a small stream

Different CSI teams go out each day during the fall salmon migration to count fish in the stream. These two adult coho migrated up Miller Creek October 23, 2009.

and SeaTac each year? We are finding out, thanks to some dedicated volunteers. In addition, we are starting to learn how many of these fish are stricken by pre-spawn mortality and thus how many survive long enough to lay the eggs of the next generation.

A better understanding of the numbers of fish returning to the streams in the Highline community and the extent of pre-spawn mortality is one of the top recommendations the community identified as part of coordinated monitoring of the streams (see the 2009 monitoring coordination recommendations). Adult salmon in our streams are the Pacific Northwest equivalent of the “canary in the coal mine” – they reflect the health of our lands and water.

The Community Salmon Investigation team of volunteers gathered data in 20102011, and 2012 to help us learn more about this community resource.

Salmon Monitoring Results for 2013  - Check back for updates!

In 2013, surveys started on October 4, and will continue until no live salmon have been seen for a week. Volunteers walk each day to look for salmon in sections of Miller and Walker Creeks where eleven property owners gave written permission. The survey reaches are approximately 2/3 of a mile long in each stream, and are not continuous.

Volunteer monitoring teams in 2013 reported seeing the following adult salmon (last updated 12/16/2013):
Coho (live): 115
Chum (live): 26
Unidentified adult salmon (live): 39

Sign Up for Community Salmon Investigation (CSI) in 2014

More adventurous volunteers will be needed for salmon surveys starting in October 2014. To find out more and be eligible to conduct surveys, attend our 2-hour training workshop!

CSI 2014 Training Workshop
Time and Date to be determined
Normandy Park City Hall, Council Meeting Room
801 Southwest 174th Street, Normandy Park, WA 98166
Light refreshments provided.

To sign up, contact Elissa Ostergaard, (206) 477-4792

As a volunteer, here is what to expect:

  • Teams (two people minimum) are responsible for data collection on one day each week (e.g., every Tuesday). Teams may be as large as you like, and alternate weeks, or the same people may survey each week.
  • Volunteers should expect to spend at least three hours on their survey day.  
  • Volunteers work only during daylight hours that become more limited as the season progresses. People who work five weekdays will want to volunteer for weekend surveys. Those with flexible schedules will be encouraged to do weekdays. 
Photo of adult salmon flopping on a streambank
This fish flung itself out of Miller Creek on October 23, 2009.  It died shortly thereafter before spawning, an apparent victim of pre-spawn mortality.
  • Volunteers need to be able to walk up stream channels/banks that are rocky, wet and slippery. You need to climb over and under downed trees and push through or go under brush. Overall distance walked on each daily survey is about one mile (only a portion will be in the stream).
  • Volunteers need to go out rain or shine but will not monitor when the stream is running high to keep you safe (plus it’s hard to see fish in deep, murky water).
  • Short drives will be needed for you to reach all the survey sites.
  • Volunteers work in pairs for safety and to maximize data quality.
  • Volunteers need to follow the access requirements of the private and public landowners who graciously provide access to the streams.
  • Volunteers count and record information on living fish.
  • Volunteers take measurements of each dead fish. This involves handling and cutting open carcasses. Gloves are provided. Volunteers record information on adipose fin presence (indicating whether the fish came from a hatchery), sex, percent egg retention, and spawning status.
  • Volunteers need to provide their own rain gear and footwear. You will need hip waders. Rubber hip waders can be purchased for around $40. Chest waders are also a good choice.
  • Volunteer teams are given sampling collection kits and recording documents.
  • New volunteers will be paired up with a trained volunteer.
  • The program coordinator will survey with each team at least twice during the season for additional training.

Salmon Monitoring Results for 2012

Final 2012 Salmon Survey presentation (PDF, 16.3 MB)

In 2012, surveys started on October 10, and ended on December 24, since no live salmon had been seen for a week.  Volunteers walked each day to look for salmon in sections of Miller and Walker Creeks where eleven property owners gave written permission.  The survey reaches were approximately 2/3 of a mile long in each stream, and were not continuous.

Volunteer monitoring teams in 2012 reported seeing the following adult salmon (last updated 3/15/2013):
     Coho (live):  432 (of these, 216 were in Miller Creek, and 216 were in Walker Creek)
     Chum (live):  113 (of these, 56 were in Miller Creek, and 57 were in Walker Creek) 
     Unidentified adult salmon (live):  69
     Coho carcasses (dead):  240 (150 females, 90 males) 
     Coho Pre-spawn Mortality (died before they spawned, females only):  88%, or 100 of 115 females of known spawning condition
     Spawned Coho Females:  14% (21 of 150)
     Predated Coho (marks indicating they had been eaten by a predator or scavenger):  27% (56 of 274 coho, chum and unidentified carcasses recovered)

Video of coho salmon female showing symptoms of prespawn mortality (swimming near the water's surface, disoriented, lethargic)

Volunteers from "Team Thursday," Christine Terry and Karen Williams, measure and collect data on a dead coho that had died before it had a chance to spawn.
CSI_ChristineT-KarenW-10_18_12

Final Salmon Monitoring Results for 2011

Fall 2011 Salmon Survey Results Presentation (Adobe PDF - large file)

In 2011, surveys started on October 10, and continued until December 23.  Volunteers looked for salmon in sections of Miller and Walker Creeks where nine property owners gave written permission.  The survey reaches were approximately 2/3 of a mile long in each stream, and were not continuous.

Volunteer monitoring teams in 2011 reported seeing the following adult salmon:
     Coho (live):   419    (of these, 262 were in Miller Creek, and 157 were in Walker Creek)
     Chum (live):  508    (of these, 158 were in Miller Creek, and 350 were in Walker Creek)
     Unidentified adult salmon (live):  66

The first coho of the 2011 fall sapwning season was seen on October 12 in Miller Creek, and the last live coho was reported on December 11.  The first chum was seen on November 13 in Walker Creek.  Chum were still making their way upstream to spawn on the day of the last survey, and are expected to spawn in these streams until sometime in January.

Carcass and spawning status information reported for coho:
     Out of 89 coho carcasses (found dead):    
         38 had successfully spawned!
         16 females died before spawning (pre-spawn mortality)
         14 were predated (eaten by a predator, not able to tell spawning status)
         21 had an undetermined spawning status
     Rate of pre-spawn mortality (percent of females that died before spawning, not due to predation):  39%
     Percent female:  46%
     Hatchery origin (no adipose fin):  62%

Pre-spawn mortality data 2011 (11/9/11 version) (Adobe PDF)

2011 Photos/Video

Youtube video of live coho in Walker Creek on November 20, 2011.  Courtesy of D. Bobanick.

Two high school seniors from Highline participated in the 2011 surveys as their Culminating Senior Project. Courtesy of D. Bobanick

Program Materials

Program files (check back for updates):

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Stewardship of the Miller/Walker Creeks basin is jointly funded by the City of Burien, City of Normandy Park, City of SeaTac, King County, and the Port of Seattle. On behalf of the partners, this page is proudly hosted by King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks - Water and Land Resources Division.

Related Information

NOAA Fisheries Pre-Spawn Mortality Project

King County Salmon Watcher Program

Sign Up to be a CSI Volunteer in 2014

Get involved in the fall 2014 CSI program - attend the training workshop to learn all about it - early October, time and date will be announced in August 2014. No experience needed!  To sign up or find answers to questions, email Elissa Ostergaard or call at (206) 477-4792.