Fish: Baseline Data

The Nisqually Indian Tribe began monitoring salmon habitat and prey availability within the Nisqually Delta years before the restoration took place. They also collected data on the number of fish, as well as the time of year fish were present. This allows for comparisons between populations now and then, and can help indicate the successes and weaknesses of the project.

Initial monitoring occurred from 2003-2006. In all, scientists completed 980 beach seine sets and over 70 fyke net traps to determine the average number of juvenile fish within the estuary during particular months of the year.  The scientists also collected data on fish diet, origin (hatchery or wild), and growth rates.

pre-restoration Habitat availability graphic


Realized Function PreRestoration Chart

One of the major reasons for the 2009 Restoration was to improve habitat conditions for Chinook salmon as they leave the freshwater and journey to the Pacific Ocean. Chinook salmon are threatened species, but are vitally important for the entire Puget Sound ecosystem, as well as for countless people that rely on them for food. The 2009 Restoration Project presented a unique opportunity to monitoring the impacts of a large scale restoration on fish populations. However, it would be impossible to determine the “success” or “failure” of a project without understanding conditions to start.

The baseline monitoring provided scientists a working template of fish ecology as it had been for the 100 years that Brown’s Farm Dike was in place. Once the dike was removed, all future monitoring can be compared to that template. This makes it easier to talk about strengths and weaknesses of the delta restoration.

Read more:

  • Barham, J. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Estuary Restoration Project: 2008-2011. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Olympia, Washington.
  • Ellings, C.S. and S. Hodgson. 2007. Nisqually Estuary Baseline Fish Ecology Study: 2003-2006. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and Nisqually Indian Tribe. Olympia, Washington.
  • Simenstad, C.A., and J.R. Cordell. 2000. Ecological assessment criteria for restoring anadromous salmonid habitat in Pacific Northwest estuaries. Ecological Engineering 15:283-302.