The little red fish may be small, but they have a boatload of supporters in Issaquah and Sammamish.
Members of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group — including representatives from the cities of Issaquah and Sammamish, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, Save Lake Sammamish and the Snoqualmie Tribe — gathered at Issaquah’s Confluence Park on May 11 to discuss the importance of restoring the habitat of kokanee salmon and getting the population of the little fish back up to healthier numbers.
The yearly celebration normally centers around releasing kokanee into Issaquah Creek; this year, however, things were a little different. There were no young fish to release into the creek because the number of adult spawning kokanee during the 2016-2017 season was very low.
The absence of the yearly kokanee release tradition highlighted all the more the need to preserve the salmon.
“Kokanee recovery is going to take a long time — that’s why it’s important we’re engaging our young stewards,” Sammamish City Manager Lyman Howard stated.
And if the enthusiasm of the young students in attendance at Confluence Park was any indication, it looks as though the kokanee will be in good hands with these young stewards.
Cub Scout Pack 682 out of Challenger Elementary School in Issaquah and Girl Scout Troop 42130 out of Cascade Ridge Elementary School in Sammamish both received awards for their efforts to help rejuvenate the kokanee population.
The cubs received a special kokanee coin for completing the kokanee GeoQuest challenge, which required a great deal of knowledge about the salmon, and for participating in habitat restoration.
The Girl Scouts were the first-ever recipients of the kokanee patch for their efforts in not only educating themselves about the kokanee, but conducting a service project in which they educated their peers at school about the plight of the little red fish.
“You scouts … in what you do, it shapes your community,” said Robin Thorson, customer care and registration manager of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. She added that “our natural heritage is our national heritage.”
Alisa Burley of the Snoqualmie Tribe explained how the kokanee were once an important food source for tribes in the area. She encouraged those in attendance to get involved volunteering and to vote for public officials whose platforms include saving animal habitats.
“Kokanee spend their entire lives in this lake; their fate is in our hands,” she said. “Protecting and stewarding this land is our responsibility.”
King County, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, Friends of Pine Lake, Trout Unlimited and Mountains to Sound Greenway are also part of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.