As juvenile steelhead make their treacherous trek through Puget Sound people can now follow individual fish on their journey to see if they survive.
The fish are tagged with acoustic transmitters like the one NOAA Fisheries Research Biologist Megan Moore implanted in a juvenile steelhead this week. It will send signals to receivers in the water so scientists know when the fish passes by.
"We don't know why their populations have been declining," Moore said.
Predators are just one of many challenges steelhead face on their way from rivers like the Skokomish all the way to the ocean. About 80 percent of them die along the way.
"The receiver picks up a ping from the transmitter up to 300 meters away," Michael Schmidt said.
Schmidt is Deputy Director of Long Live the Kings, a group committed to figuring out why steelhead are disappearing. They believe the fish deserve a bigger audience. That's why they've launched "Survive The Sound," a campaign where people can choose to sponsor a tagged steelhead. Whenever there's an update -- sponsors will get a text or email.
"There's a lot of information we have and that we're learning through this science that we need to get out so people understand a little more about the problem. If they just hear 'fish are dying' and they don't understand why or how, it's not as effective," Schmidt said.
The fish are named, among them Venti, Killer, Blitz and Puget Pounder. For $25 per fish, people choose one or multiple steelhead and even gift a fish for a friend.
"And actually be able to compete by choosing fish, seeing which fish can survive, which can't," Schmidt said.
The money will support Long Live The Kings' salmon and steelhead recovery in Puget Sound.
"If we could boost this phase of their survival, then we would have a much better chance of having higher abundances," Moore said.
Scientists recently deployed transmitters at the Hood Canal Bridge, the place where many of the fish die.
Without public support, however, securing similar research in the future is more difficult.
"Without the public asking for it, we're dead in the water," Schmidt said.
For more information on sponsoring a steelhead click here.
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