Squaxin Island Tribe's Natural Resources

Squaxin Island Tribe's Natural Resource Department Weblog

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Squaxin Island Tribe Deeply Concerned About State Chum Fishery

November 8th, 2018 by Joseph Peters Comments Off on Squaxin Island Tribe Deeply Concerned About State Chum Fishery

The Squaxin Island Tribe is calling foul on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for continuing a commercial chum salmon fishery despite deep doubts about the run.

The chum salmon runs in deep South Sound are all native stocks, and all managed for natural production.

“Today, the Department decided to continue its chum fishery, even though the escapement levels necessary to sustain the Kennedy Creek native stock is at less than 20 percent of what is expected at this time of year,” said tribal chair Arnold Cooper. “We decided some weeks ago not to fish, in order to ensure that enough fish returned to the river to spawn.”

Puget Sound tribes have harvested 50,000 chum. Despite warnings, and the unanimous recommendations of the tribal co-managers to stop, WDFW refuses to close the fishery and has now harvested 150,000 fish. For 2015-2017 combined the state commercial take has exceeded tribal harvest by more than 200,000 fish. Further, WDFW closed its Hood Canal fishery to non-Indian gillnetters and encouraged those fishers to move into Puget Sound, putting further pressure on the Kennedy Creek chum and increasing the risk that escapement will not be met.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife takes no lesson from the history of over-fishing stocks toward endangered status, Cooper said.

“Has the State learned nothing? The State wants to fish today and ignore tomorrow. It is irresponsible. When the co-manager alerts you to a problem in real fish, they need to stop telling us that the computer model says there is plenty of paper fish and there is no problem.”

The tribal and state co-managers largely agree on the estimated run size and have conducted in-season test fisheries to adjust the run size. The models that are used for management presume that a certain escapement will occur for a given run size. However, the expected escapement is more than two weeks overdue with no fish at or near the river mouth.

“The state ignores the warning, on the hope that the rains will come, the rivers will rise, and the fish will show up. The tribe hopes that is so, but is not willing to risk the run,” Cooper said.

“The Department’s mission is to “preserve, protect and perpetuate fish .., while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities,” Cooper said. “The Tribe has asked the Department to live up to its mission statement and stop fishing the Kennedy Creek chum run. The department has refused. That is wrong. The department’s actions are a direct threat to the perpetuating the native run and to having a sustainable fishery. The Department must stop,” he said.

Joseph Peters 360.490.6825
Arnold Cooper 360. 490.7933

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Squaxin Island Tribe Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

October 5th, 2018 by Candace Penn Comments Off on Squaxin Island Tribe Request for Qualifications (RFQ)



The Squaxin Island Tribe is seeking qualified candidates for a part-time (20 – 24 hours a week) Watershed Planning Coordinator to support the Tribe’s participation on several Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Committees in the South Sound area. For more information contact Jeff Dickison at 360-432-3815. Interested parties should respond by October 19, 2018. Eventual hire may be by a contract for services, or by a hire as a Tribal employee depending on circumstances with the eligible candidate.

The Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Committees are being established by the Washington Department of Ecology under Chapter 90.94 RCW (See Ecology’s website: https://ecology.wa.gov/Water-Shorelines/Water-supply/Streamflow-restoration). These Committees have until June 2021 to develop and approve a watershed plan to offset potential impacts to instream flows associated with permit-exempt domestic water use. The Tribe expects to participate in Committees in WRIAs 12, 13, 14, and 15.

The ideal candidate will have:
• Experience working with multiple partners and stakeholders, boards, and committees.
• Demonstrated experience with environmental planning and programs, preferably in salmon recovery and hydrology efforts.
• A familiarity with the Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Committee process as laid out in Chapter 90.94 RCW.
• Experience with grant management, reporting, and compliance.
• A strong desire to serve the Tribal interest.

• Five years of experience in environmental planning, outreach, or program coordination.
• Two years of salmon recovery and/or hydrology experience

A bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences or studies, or related field. A master’s degree is preferred.

A successful candidate could expect to:
• Represent the Squaxin Island Tribe at Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Committee meetings
• Coordinate with Tribal personnel to identify and rate restoration and conservation opportunities.
• Working with the Committee, develop a work plan to guide the overall effort of creating a prioritized mitigation project list to recommend for funding and implementation.
• Create a ranked habitat mitigation project list and submit it to the appropriate state agencies and boards.
• Document the goals and strategies needed for salmon recovery and hydrological restoration in the WRIA.
• Track salmon restoration and hydrological protection projects in the WRIA areas in the appropriate state database.
• Conduct community outreach and education relating to salmon recovery and streamflow restoration efforts.
• Undertake administrative tasks relating to the role of Watershed Planning Coordinator.

Highly qualified candidates will have the ability to:
• Lead and motivate others.
• Manage multiple projects.
• Problem solve and provide holistic solutions.
• Resolve conflict in an open and inclusive manner.
• Develop and write plans based on an analysis of data and ongoing stakeholder, community, and agency input.
• Communicate effectively (in writing and orally) with individuals and groups.
• Establish and maintain effective working relationships.

Hiring range for the position is approximately $2,000 – $2,500 per month on a part time basis for 20 -24 hours per week and depending on qualifications.

Email application materials to jdickison@squaxin.us or mail or hand deliver to 200 SE Billy Frank Jr Way, Shelton, WA 98584.

To be considered, applicants must submit all the following:
1. Letter of interest that addresses how your education, experience, knowledge, and abilities make you an ideal candidate for the position.
2. Resume.

The most qualified applicants will be invited to take part in an interview process. This position will remain open until filled. Applications will be reviewed beginning October 19, 2018.

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Planting Juvenile Coho in the Deschutes River

July 24th, 2017 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off on Planting Juvenile Coho in the Deschutes River

The Squaxin Island Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish teamed up this past June to release thousands of coho fry into Spurgeon Creek a tributary of the Deschutes River.

You can watch videos of the release here  and here

The Deschutes River system used to have a robust run of naturally spawning coho. This ended in the late 1980’s due to habitat degradation in coho spawning areas and decreases in marine survival along the entire west coast. Coho salmon generally spend 1.5 years in freshwater and 1.5 years in the ocean. This makes them especially vulnerable to changes in stream habitat and ocean conditions.

Coho salmon return to the stream they were born after three years. This means that a run of coho is made up of three different year classes or cohorts. In the late 1980’s one of these cohorts was considered essentially extinct because it was not producing enough fish to maintain the population. Starting in the mid 1990’s a second cohort also became functionally extinct.

Yearly plantings of juvenile coho will likely continue while in-river restoration and conservation projects are implemented and studies on the impacts of ocean conditions  such as the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project continue.

Return of adult coho to the Deschutes River 1980-2014:

Return of adult coho to the Deschutes by cohort/year class 1997-2014


Comments Off on Planting Juvenile Coho in the Deschutes RiverTags: Deschutes River Estuary · habitat · Salmon

2016 South Sound Science Symposium Presentations Now Online

February 3rd, 2017 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off on 2016 South Sound Science Symposium Presentations Now Online

The 2016 South Sound Science Symposium http://southsoundscience.org/ was held at the Little Creek Event Center on September 20th. There were over 450 attendees making 2016 the largest event yet for South Sound.

Topics included:

  • Nisqually Community Forest – process, analysis of ownership, how it can be used as a salmon recovery tool
  • Active tectonics in South Puget Sound
  • Landslides, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanic Eruptions: They all happen in Washington. Why? What does it cost? What can we do?
  • Sea level rise, Budd Inlet
  • Shoreline armoring data
  • An updated groundwater model for regional planning – Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed, Pierce County
  • Modeling trophic interactions in South Sound
  • Beach spawning, forage fish monitoring
  • LOTT’s Reclaimed Water Study: What we have learned so far about residual chemicals in our local waters
  • New science documenting toxic impacts on salmon and other aquatic species
  • Exploring drivers of fecal coliform pollution trends in South Puget Sound
  • Nisqually Community Forest VELMA modeling

In addition to the speakers there were 23 poster presentations.

Poster abstracts can be found here: http://southsoundscience.org/agenda/posters/

Copies of the presentations can be found here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7QIg0n4iR3cbllTVkhpVHBXMTQ

Speaker abstracts here: http://southsoundscience.org/agenda/speaker-abstracts/

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South Sound Science Symposium Registration Open

July 14th, 2016 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off on South Sound Science Symposium Registration Open

Registration is now open for the 6th South Sound Science Symposium to be held September 20th at the Little Creek Casino Event Center.

Registration information, a call for posters and general information can be found here at the Symposium website.

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Shelton Harbor Restoration

June 29th, 2016 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off on Shelton Harbor Restoration

We are pleased to announce the kickoff of a project designed to restore the Goldsborough and Shelton Creek estuaries in Shelton Harbor. When complete the project area and other high quality habitat in the harbor will be placed into permanent protection.

Existing conditions.

Shelton Harbor existing conditions.

Conceptual drawing showing completed project.

Conceptual design for the completed project.

The overall project involves-

Landowners: Simpson Lumber, Sierra Pacific Industries and the Port of Shelton.

Partners: South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, Mason Conservation District, Capitol Land Trust and the Squaxin Island Tribe.

Funding obtained to date has been provided by the Washington Department of Ecology National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program (information here) and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB, information here). Significantly, all of the Lead Entities present in South Puget Sound contributed to the project enabling the SRFB to increase the amount of money available.

The project is large in scope and when complete will:

  • remove 811 creosote pilings
  • remove 1/2 mile of armored shoreline
  • remove 1/4 mile of inter-tidal dikes
  • restore 47 acres of saltmarsh
  • restore 1/2 mile of shoreline riparian
  • conserve 51 acres of tidelands and over 14 acres of riparian upland

The partners are currently in the permitting phase and anticipate construction to begin in the summer of 2017. To keep informed of the project status we have created a website sheltonharbor.org. Check in regularly for updates.


Comments Off on Shelton Harbor RestorationTags: habitat · Salmon · Shellfish

2016 South Sound Science Symposium

June 28th, 2016 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off on 2016 South Sound Science Symposium

The sixth South Sound Science Symposium will be held September 20th, 2016 at the Little Creek Resort Event Center. A save the date announcement and a call for poster abstracts can be found here.


Comments Off on 2016 South Sound Science SymposiumTags: Events · Uncategorized

Kindergarteners Burfoot Park Field Trip, Puget Sound Sea Life, Scuba Divers too!

June 2nd, 2016 by Joseph Peters Comments Off on Kindergarteners Burfoot Park Field Trip, Puget Sound Sea Life, Scuba Divers too!


Burfoot 9 Griffin kindergarten student examines a sea star.

It’s that time of year when classrooms take a day to go on an end of the year field trip, somewhere fun, but somewhere educational.  On Tuesday May 24th, Griffin School and Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) kindergarten classes planned a trip to Burfoot Park along Budd Inlet, where they were greeted by Squaxin Island Tribe Natural Resources staff  in scuba gear and two wading pools full of sea life.    “It’s always fun to do this for the students.  To see the excitement in these young learners faces when we come to shore in all our scuba gear is priceless,” says Joseph Peters, Natural Resources Policy Representative for Squaxin Island Tribe.

Burfoot 7 Burfoot 10

This is the second year that Griffin School kindergarten classes have coordinated with Squaxin Island Tribe Natural Resources to have a “touch tank” of sea life for the class to learn about.  It was great that we could extend this to be a full day event so ORLA could participate in all the fun.   The hope is that we can make an impression on these young students about the importance of the Puget Sound and the life it contains.

Burfoot 3

Joe Peters and Scott Steltzner of Squaxin Island Tribe Natural Resources answer questions about Puget Sound sea life.

“Watching them interact with the sea stars, crabs, moon snails, and other sea creatures is amazing.  We like to keep our eye on those kindergarteners that stay around the touch tank the longest.  Those kids are our future marine biologist or scientists”, boast Peters.  There are plans to do this again next year with Griffin and ORLA. Squaxin Island Tribe Natural Resources does a number of educational outreach activities throughout the year.  Over three days in late April the Tribe and Shelton School District conducted the First Grade Field Experience.  First graders from Evergreen, Mountain View, and Bordeaux Elementary visited Arcadia Point where Squaxin Island Tribe set up three exploration stations and traditional story telling station.  Explorations stations included touch tank, watershed demonstration, and scavenger hunt.

Burfoot 1

Candace Penn, Joe Peters, & Scott Steltzner of Squaxin Island Tribe Natural Resources discuss Puget Sound sea life with Kindergarteners.

Burfoot 4

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Even more bad news coming for South Puget Sound salmon returns

February 16th, 2016 by Joseph Peters Comments Off on Even more bad news coming for South Puget Sound salmon returns


This year’s forecasts for coho coming back to the deep South Sound show the lasting impact of poor marine survival caused by the recent Pacific Blob, a large area of warm ocean water. For example, this coming year, only 1,800 coho that originated from the Squaxin Island Tribal net pens program are expected to return.

Usually over 25,000 Squaxin net pen coho return yearly from 1.8 million released. Historically, the net pen program’s survival has been as high as 3 percent in recent decades, but has dipped down to 1.1 percent the last few years. This year, the fish produced by the program will likely only have a 0.117 percent survival rate.

And, this is because of the lasting impacts of poor marine survival caused by the blob, even though it likely died this last fall.

Coho returning this year still spent enough time in the ocean that their survival was hurt by the blob’s warm water conditions.

NOAA fisheries recently pointed out how the area of warm water in the north Pacific Ocean turned everything upside down in terms of the ocean food chain:

“When young salmon come out to sea and the water is warm, they need more food to keep their metabolic rate up, yet there is less available food and they have to work harder,” said Elizabeth Daly, an Oregon State senior faculty research assistant with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, a joint program of OSU and NOAA.

“Our long-term data set contradicts the long-held assumption that salmon eat less during warm-water regimes,” Daly added. “They actually eat more. But they still don’t fare as well. When the water is warm, salmon are smaller and thinner.”

During the last two years, an unusually large, warm body of water has settled into the ocean off the Pacific Northwest that scientists have dubbed “The Blob,” which is forecast to be followed this winter by a fairly strong El Niño event. Though recent spring Chinook salmon runs have been strong due to cooler ocean conditions in 2012-13, the impact of this long stretch of warm water on juvenile fish may bode poorly for future runs.

“So far this year, we’ve seen a lot of juvenile salmon with empty stomachs,” Daly said. “The pressure to find food is going to be great. Of those fish that did have food in their stomachs, there was an unusual amount of juvenile rockfish and no signs of Pacific sand lance or krill.

“Not only does this warm water make it more difficult for the salmon to find food, it increases the risk of their own predation as they spend more time eating and less time avoiding predators,” she added.

The blob being replaced by a strong El Niño still means bad news for salmon survival.

El Niño is generally a warming of the Pacific Ocean that will likely last at least through this spring.

Last year’s returns of pink and coho salmon showed the devastating impacts bad marine survival can have on fisheries. Squaxin tribal fishers spent several frustrating weeks last fall landing fewer coho that were undersized as well.

Many of the fish we caught were about half the size of the fish we usually see. This was hard on our fishermen because for the same effort, their landings had much less value.

The Squaxin Tribe practices a protective fishing regime, focusing its efforts away from bays and harbors where wild coho congregate, fishing instead where plentiful hatchery-origin fish hang out.

Poor marine survival threatens the return of hatchery fish too, and will continue to hurt the tribe’s fishing-based economy and local sport fisheries. The Squaxin net pens program releases 1.8 million coho each year. When these fish returning as adults, they contribute to both sports fisheries through out Puget sound as well as tribal fisheries.

This decline in coho is devastating for both tribal and state-managed fisheries.

Comments Off on Even more bad news coming for South Puget Sound salmon returnsTags: netpens · Salmon

Collier Boat Ramp and Jetty Restoration

November 20th, 2015 by Scott Steltzner Comments Off on Collier Boat Ramp and Jetty Restoration

The Squaxin Island Tribe, working with our partner the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group http://spsseg.org/, recently completed a project to remove a boat ramp and large concrete structure that had  been used as a boat basin.

Both of these structures blocked the natural movement of sediment down the beach. Why is this important? This beach materiel is used by sand lance and surf smelt to lay their eggs. These, and other fish, are called Forage Fish because they provide a critically important food base for salmon and other creatures in Puget Sound. Blocking natural sediment movement causes the beach to cut down decreasing the available space for forage fish to spawn.


Before: Boat ramp with marine railway.  The concrete blocks sediment from moving as shown by the elevation difference on either side.


Before: Boat basin that had been used as a “dry dock” by the previous owner. This structure blocked sediment from moving down the beach.

The energy generated from waves breaking along the beach at an angle moves sand and sediment along the shoreline. We call areas where this happens over long stretches of beach Drift Cells as the sediment tends to drift or move in one direction. Structures located on the beach can block this sediment movement causing the beach to pile up on one side and down cut on the other.

In the early 2000’s the Tribe initiated a project to identify and rate beach sediment sources within Totten Inlet. The drift cell along the project area was found to be one of the longest in all of South Sound. This drift cell was rated as having a good sediment supply, called feeder bluffs as they feed sediment to the drift cells, and was found to be in generally good shape. Three structures were identified that blocked sediment movement down the beach. The first of these, the Arcadia Point boat launch, was fixed in 2011 when a solid concrete ramp was replaced with one that had channels that allow sediment to flow through.


Arcadia Point Boat Launch. Sediment channels are placed between concrete planks allowing sediment to flow through from left to right.

The other two structures were the Collier boat ramp and jetty. Sediment can now move unimpeded on this over five mile long drift cell.


After: The boat basin has been removed. Sediment can now flow down the beach unimpeded.

You can watch a YouTube video showing the construction project here:

Comments Off on Collier Boat Ramp and Jetty RestorationTags: habitat · Salmon · Uncategorized