Small planes fly kokanee salmon to Orcas Island hatchery, the latest emergency action by King County and partners to ensure the native species’ survival

King County –

King County and its conservation partners teamed up local pilots to fly Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon from an Issaquah hatchery to one located on Orcas Island, the latest emergency action to prevent the possible extinction of the native species.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group partnered with LightHawk, a nationwide nonprofit organization that offers small aircraft flights to advance conservation efforts that require fast, safe transport. The hatchery operators on Orcas Island, Long Live the Kings, offered their facility to help with the recovery effort following a sudden, alarming decline in the number of spawners returning to Lake Sammamish streams.

“We are crossing land, air, and sea to try to save our native kokanee salmon,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “It is inspiring to have volunteers join our coalition to prevent the extinction of a salmon species that is important to our history and habitat.”

The 9-month-old fish will be raised to adult at Long Live the Kings’ facility and their offspring will later return to Lake Sammamish, boosting the fish population. Raising the fish at the hatchery on Orcas Island will shield them from potentially hazardous conditions in Lake Sammamish – including high temperatures, low oxygen levels, and voracious non-native predators – that biologists believe contributed to the recent population crash.

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