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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bellevue, tribe and state release salmon into streams

On Nov. 21, the City of Bellevue joined the Muckleshoot Tribal Fisheries Department and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife as they released 500 coho salmon into Coal Creek. Over the past week, more than 1,200 coho were also released into Kelsey Creek. video

"Bellevue’s numbers of coho salmon are down for the year," said Kit Paulsen, the city's Watershed Planning Manager. "So we were happy to partner with the Muckleshoot Tribe and the State to accept salmon from the Issaquah hatchery to supplement our fish. We've made improvements to fish habitat in Kelsey and Coal Creeks, and this will be a good way for more salmon to utilize it."

The adult fish are expected to spawn in Bellevue streams within weeks. If all goes well, the eggs will hatch next spring, and the fry will live in Bellevue streams for a year before migrating to the Pacific Ocean. In two to three years, the adult fish will return to the same Bellevue streams where they were born.

Little is known about why salmon travel thousands of miles to return to the stream of their birth. Scientists think seasonal changes, currents, and the earth’s magnetic forces trigger migration to fresh water. Another theory is that, like migrating birds, salmonids use the sun and stars to guide them. As they get closer to their spawning streams, the smell and flow of the stream water have been identified as key elements to locating their natal streams.

Paulsen said that she and other staff have already observed released coho spawning in Kelsey Creek. Once salmon spawn, they die, and their carcasses release nutrients that are actually good for water quality.

"Salmon carcasses are like a vitamin pill for streams," Paulsen said. "So, if people see a dead salmon in a stream, they should leave it alone."

Although there is no way to tell if coho that return in a few years are hatchery fish, Paulsen said that it doesn't really matter. Bellevue salmon are identified as part of the same population as Issaquah Hatchery coho. Issaquah Hatchery fish have been planted in Bellevue streams since the 1980s. 

"With all the challenges salmon face in urban streams, hatcheries are one more tool to keep salmon in our streams," Paulsen said. "We keep working to improve habitat so that someday hatchery fish won't be needed, but even with the work we have done so far, that day is still in the future. We appreciate the work that the Tribe and State are doing to keep salmon spawning in Bellevue streams."

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