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BELFAIR, Wash. Dave Kangiser is up to his chest in the Tahuya River, fighting the current and stepping over logs to get to a carcass.

Yeah, we re going to sample this fish, he said to co-worker Seth Elson.

Just as he was using a stick to retrieve the spawned out chum, he jumped and shouted, Oh there he goes, did you see that!

Kanginser, a biologist with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, had just stepped on a very healthy coho salmon hiding in the stream. It s a good example of why the health of the Tahuya is so important. It is a spawning river for several species of fish. By counting and sampling the dead salmon in and around the river, the group can provide a census for fish managers.

The group conducts carcass surveys on rivers and streams feeding the Hood Canal, which has been suffering steady losses in salmon numbers. Several factors are blamed: leaking septic tanks, runoff from waterfront homes, yards, roads and warming water temperatures.

There are ways to address many of those issues, but there s only one way to get an accurate number of the salmon returning to the rivers and that s what Kangiser, Elson and a group of volunteers are doing, pulling on the waders, and taking a wet hike right up the river.

It s dirty, tough and dangerous work. And when they re done with each carcass they sample, it goes right back into the river where a hungry ecosystem is waiting to gobble it up.

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