BURLINGTON — The state Department of Fish and Wildlife needs help marking about 110 million hatchery salmon and steelhead before release into state waters.
That’s 11 million more fish than a year ago which is good news — however, more fish means more hands are needed to complete the massive task.
Locally, the Samish Hatchery could use help marking about 5.4 million fish. The hatchery plans on beginning the process April 11.
“There are quite a few of them,” said Fish and Wildlife Project Organizer Jill Cady.
Staffing in recent years has been a challenge and volunteers are appreciated.
“Our program sizes are larger than we have ever seen and we are having issues finding staffing through contracted labor,” Cady said. “We have taken steps to increase hourly wages and have implemented gas bonuses to try and get more support. But it has been really challenging.”
The work takes place every year for several months in the spring and early summer and is often performed in shifts throughout the day and even on weekends.
Fish and Wildlife is also hiring full-time positions applied for at www.mykellyjobs.com; search “fin clipper.”
There is a caveat besides needing to sign up online.
“We are really looking for volunteers who can come in and commit for one eight-hour shift at the least at the hatchery,” Cady said. “Why a full shift? Because we are committing a lot of resources and time to get volunteers onboard and trained.”
She admitted the work is not exactly glamorous.
“It is very repetitive and involves a lot of standing along troughs with these smolt and scissors,” she said.
Fish and Wildlife’s mass-marking program has played a vital role in salmon management since the mid-1990s.
Hatchery fish are marked by clipping their adipose fin while still in the fry stage, before being released to make their way from their home waters to the ocean and back.
This marking helps differentiate hatchery fish from wild fish, playing a key role in fisheries where anglers may encounter salmon stocks or species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“This work is essential to fishing throughout the state, and critical to salmon conservation efforts,” said Fish and Wildlife Hatchery Division Manager Eric Kinne. “We continue working to recruit for these positions, but last year members of the community stepped up in a big way to help us complete this annual effort.”
Fish and Wildlife requested additional funding ahead of this year’s legislative session to improve automation of its marking process and support additional work, but much of the annual marking effort is still done by hand by employees and volunteers.
“If this work isn’t completed, it could have big impacts on fisheries in Washington,” Kinne said.
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