How to Stand Out in a Crowd

Have you ever thought you were doing something or wearing something that made you stand out in a crowd? We counted our salmon affected by albinism (check out our previous latest news), and found 21 Coho Salmon that were all affected by this genetic mutation. If you do the math, that comes out to about 0.03% of our total coho population. As you can see, albinism isn’t a widespread phenomenon, but it is a cool teaching opportunity!

Genetic mutation is one part of the machinery that evolution operates off of. If a mutation enhances an individual’s survival rate, it is able to pass those genes to its offspring. In the case of albinism in our coho, they have a much lower chance of survival than coho with darker pigments since they can blend in with their environment. Most likely, coho affected by albinism won’t get the chance to reproduce. But they still serve a very useful role in capturing an observer’s interest, and sometimes that’s all you need to get them excited about salmon!

A well-known example of a successful genetic mutation that has passed on in humans is lactase persistence. This is where human can consume dairy products even in their adulthood. Due to positive selection in this phenomenon, varying populations around the world now have this trait. We don’t see albinism in coho because of strong negative selection.

After we counted them, they were quickly put back with their other coho friends. Thank you for reading!

Baby Salmon on the Move

Last Saturday, all of our 80,000 alevins, young salmon that still have their yolk sac attached, were moved from their rearing trays into holding troughs. In the holding troughs, our alevin are acclimated to the process of feeding before they are released into the rearing pond. The holding troughs are also used to check on their development process as they finish the process of “buttoning up”, which is where they lose their yolk sac from their bellies.

We had the Students Saving Salmon Club and other volunteers show up and help us with this large move for our small coho salmon. They are moved from the trays that simulate their natural environment with their meshed-made redds into the holding troughs by gently placing the tray into the trough, and are then allowed to swim outside of the only world they’ve known so far. After making sure all of the alevin have swam out of the trays, the trays are then rinsed off. In the holding troughs, our volunteers helped remove eggs that didn’t make it.

The water that flows into the troughs comes directly from Willow Creek, which provides the oxygen and clean water that young salmon vitally need. A cool thing to notice if you get to see them in their troughs is how they swim against the current. Salmon instinctively do this either because they get more oxygen since water is flowing directly past their gills or because this is how they feed by eating small zooplankton that are carried with the current.

Albino Alevin Discovery

Rarely, maybe a couple a season, WCSWEC finds an albino salmon among our tiny, developing salmon, as shown in the picture below! These salmon are a favorite with school groups and something to look for when they are larger and in the rearing pond.

Albinism is usually inherited, but may be due to genetic mutation, diet, age, disease, or injury. Since Albinism, when inherited, is a recessive trait, both parents carrying the trait could look normal and spawn a salmon with Albinism. Chromatophores are the specialized cells that contain and produce pigments, and are responsible for producing skin and eye color in many types of animals. Cyanophore is a bluish pigment that is unique to fish and amphibians.

Another odd example of weird salmon pigmentation is when their meat is white, as compared to the usual red meat. Salmon get their usual red color from eating small crustaceans which contain carotenoid, a red-orange pigment. When salmon lack the ability to metabolize this pigment, they can have meat that is white.


The Hatchery Is Back in Action!

On Friday, December 14th, we welcomed our newest Sound Salmon Solutions employee, Brooke, who is now our Hatchery Operations Coordinator. Her arrival was just in time to get the hatchery up and running again.

On the following Saturday, the hatchery received its annual 80,000 fertilized Coho salmon eggs to raise and release in the Spring. The eggs were collected from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and brought back to the hatchery, carefully transported by our dedicated volunteers and our Hatchery Operations Coordinator. Sound Salmon Solutions was grateful to be greeted by many volunteers, some of which came from the Edmonds Woodway High School student group, Students Saving Salmon. Together the volunteers and Sound Salmon Solutions staff worked to sterilize the eggs with an iodine solution to remove bacteria and fungi from the eggs, clean the egg trays, remove the minimal dead eggs, and weigh out the 42.6 pounds of eggs. In the end, each egg tray acquired about 3 pounds of eggs! With the warm winter the Puget Sound area is facing, the hatchery is expecting the eggs to hatch out at the beginning of 2019.