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Super seiners: Island volunteers honored for salmon recovery work

Representatives of the San Juan County Beach Seiners and San Juan County’s Salmon Recovery coordinator pose outside the State Capitol. From left, Barbara Rosenkotter, Salmon Recovery coordinator; David Loyd, Waldron Island; Shann Weston, WSU Beach Watcher  coordinator; and Harry Dickinson of San Juan Island.  - Contributed photo
Representatives of the San Juan County Beach Seiners and San Juan County’s Salmon Recovery coordinator pose outside the State Capitol. From left, Barbara Rosenkotter, Salmon Recovery coordinator; David Loyd, Waldron Island; Shann Weston, WSU Beach Watcher coordinator; and Harry Dickinson of San Juan Island.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The San Juan Islands are critical habitat for salmon and their prey.

Just how important our nearshore environment is is the subject of considerable monitoring and study by a group of local volunteer Beach Watchers. And for their work, the 44 volunteer “Beach Seiners” were honored March 10 at the State Capitol.

Specifically, the beach seiners were recognized for “outstanding and ongoing volunteer efforts supporting critical salmon recovery projects that assess the use of the San Juan Islands’ nearshore environments by young salmon.”

The recognition coincided with the 10th anniversary of the state’s Salmon Recovery Lead Entity Program, which coordinates salmon recovery projects in about 27 counties. All told, eight citizens and groups from all over the state were selected for their dedication and significant contributions toward salmon recovery.

Many of San Juans’ seiners are WSU Beach Watchers working with fisheries oceanographer Tina Wyllie-Echeverria to gather data critical to the understanding of salmonid resources and habitat use.

To do this work, they travel onboard a 20-foot research vessel and, during the March through September sampling season, visit five or more sites, in all kinds of weather, 10 times a month.

They set more than 500 beach seines on nine islands, sampling thousands of fish — pink, chum, coho and chinook salmon, as well as important prey species for fish, marine birds and marine mammals such as sand lance, herring, surf smelt and shiner surf perch.

Another group of beach seiners are a part of community citizen science teams organized by Kwiaht on Lopez and Waldron islands. This group helped with the project described above and, guided by Russel Barsh, also conducted a study of the prey used by juvenile salmon.

These volunteers, working in small groups with microscopes on evenings and weekends, identified and counted more than 4,000 bits of fish, crustaceans, insects and other prey items and developed digital taxonomic keys and photo atlases for reference and training future volunteers. More than 35 Lopez and Waldron volunteers participated in extensive specialized training, field and lab work, contributing more than 1,200 volunteer hours.

Both teams plan to monitor juvenile salmon abundance and prey use over the next few years.

Volunteer Beach Seiners: Donna Adams, Fred Adams, Marta Branch, Lance Brittain, Isa Delahunt, Harry Dickenson, Chris Davis, Martha Dickenson, Robin Donnelly, Tom Donnelly, John Droubay, Rick Ekstom, Quinn Freedman, Laurie Glenn, Martye Green, Phil Green, Mike Griffin, Ann Gwen, Andria Hagstrom, Mike Kaill, David Loyd, Julie Loyd, Holly Lovejoy, Marolyn Mills, Daphne Morris, Chuck O’Clair, Mike O’Connell, Jim Patton, Diane Robertson, Steve Ruegge, Chuck Rust, Josie Scruton, Kim Secunda, Dan Silkiss, Elsie Silkiss, John Swan-Sheeran, Lorri Swanson, Gretchen Wagner, John Waugh, Susie Waugh, Zach Williams, Cathy Wilson, Susan Wilson.

Another San Juan County award winner was Jim Slocomb. He was honored for his efforts as a dedicated salmon recovery project volunteer. He began donating time in 2001 with the Forage Fish Habitat Assessment project and has continued ever since.

Slocomb recently volunteered hundreds of hours in order to complete the very complex Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling required for the Salmon Habitat Protection Blueprint project.

“Many in our community are grateful for all the time that Slocomb dedicates to marine resource protection efforts,” Barbara Rosenkotter, Lead Entity Program coordinator for San Juan County, said in a press release.

“He has served on the county’s Marine Resources Committee for 10 years and continues to provide countless hours of volunteer service to help the MRC achieve their goals and program objectives.”

Slocomb often donates the use of his boat for survey and monitoring work. For the past two years, Slocomb has also volunteered hundreds of hours sampling water quality in San Juan County.

During the celebration event in Olympia, members of the public also had an opportunity to learn more about lead entities, which are local, citizen-based organizations that develop salmon habitat protection and restoration projects with the help of technical experts. Lead entity coordinators and volunteers from across the state were on hand to discuss their work and projects.

Established by the state Legislature in 1998, the Lead Entity program has grown to 27 lead entities across the state and is considered a national model for creating effective restoration projects at the local level.

“Salmon recovery and habitat restoration in our watersheds would not be possible without the partnerships and commitment created through this critical program,” said Joe Stohr, deputy director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

For more information about local salmon recovery efforts, contact Rosenkotter, 370-7593, or barbarar@sanjuanco.com.

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