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.