For 1st time in years, chinook salmon return to rehabbed Seattle creek to spawn
SEATTLE - Finally, a bit of good salmon news this week, courtesy Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).
For the first time in eight years, chinook salmon have returned to Thornton Creek, in northeast Seattle, to spawn.
The creek was the subject of an $8 million rehabilitation project in 2014, where SPU crews replaced 1,000 feet of a narrow, deep streambed with a wider, engineered streambed. This keeps high-quality gravel in place for spawning salmon, according to a release by SPU.
At least one pair of salmon has taken advantage of the improvements, four years later.
"The chinook salmon pair traveled almost one-and-a-half miles to select this site for spawning. That's a vote of confidence!" SPU biologist Katherine Lynch said in a statement.
Like other species of salmon, chinook salmon spend their lives in the ocean, but move to freshwater to lay eggs in streams and rivers. As juvenile salmon mature, they move slowly down those rivers and streams to estuaries, and eventually enter ocean waters.
Chinook salmon are an endangered species. They are the Pacific's largest species of salmon and are a critical source of food for Puget Sound's resident orcas.
Orcas are facing their own plights. Experts have said that dwindling chinook salmon supplies and shrinking salmon size, plus pollution accumulated in the salmon, all contribute to the shrinking population of resident killer whales, which have reached a 30-year low.
Earlier this year, restaurants around Seattle stopped serving chinook salmon in an effort to help preserve the population for hungry orcas, fueled by the grief of one orca mother who carried her deceased calf with her for 17 days and 1,000 miles. The calf had died minutes after being born.
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