Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Propagation and Inspiration - Spawning Time at Quilcene NFH

The return of adult salmon to Washington streams is an exciting time of year for all to see and experience. The successful return of these fish is a time of celebration and a busy time of year at Quilcene National Fish Hatchery. Of the approximately 400,000 coho juveniles released by the hatchery each spring, an average of 5% to 7% return to the hatchery as adults. In a typical year, hatchery staff and volunteers spawn the returning coho salmon, resulting in over 1,800,000 fertilized eggs. At the same time, our staff and staff from the Olympia Fish Health Center sample returning fish for coded-wire tags, size, and disease presence. This year, the crew successfully sorted, sampled, and spawned 750 females, 599 males, and 151 jacks (small males). This success is a testament to their teamwork and dedication toward forwarding the USFWS mission of "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people." 

Staff also provided a unique and exciting educational experience for local youth, parents, and teachers. Students from Quilcene, Vinland, and Wolfley Elementary Schools and a local Girl Scout troop visited the hatchery during spawning days and were treated to some new and fascinating experiences. The children were split up into small groups that rotated through five learning activities--hatchery tour, live salmon spawning demonstration, fish health sampling, tag scanning/retrieval, and fish dissection. From watching hatchery workers fertilizing and cleaning buckets of eggs, to exploring and handling internal organs such as the heart and liver, these students had a "grossome" time! In the end, U.S Fish & Wildlife Service employees and volunteers provided a valuable experience for over 200 youth and 45 adults.

Footnote: Quilcene National Fish Hatchery recently celebrated its 100th year of operation! For more information about the hatchery, please visit


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