Survive the Sound

Team #Bothell

May 3 - 7, 2021

Welcome to rainbow's blog!

Hey there! I'm Rainbow, and your community voted for me to be the spokesfish for Team #Bothell during this year's Survive the Sound race!

What's Survive the Sound, you ask? It's an interactive online game that uses real steelhead tracking data. It lets you follow my friends and me as we try to migrate through the Puget Sound and make it all the way to the Pacific Ocean without becoming someone's lunch or meeting our demise some other way!

Statistically, only 20% of us juvenile salmon survive this migration. It's just me and 47 other fish in this race...who's your pick to win? I sure hope I have what it takes! Follow me here on my blog May 3 - 7 to find out how my friends and I are doing. You can also find lots of information about our journey at www.survivethesound.org.

About me

They call me Rainbow and my journey started in the Duwamish River. I'm about 7.48 inches long and only weigh 2.25 oz, which is pretty typical for a youngster like myself.

My home watershed

The Duwamish River begins at the Green River in the Central Cascades Mountains and runs through the ancestral lands of the Duwamish People. Since the area’s industrialization, the lower Duwamish has become one of the most polluted rivers in the United States, its estuary is almost non-existent, and there is some disease in the system. Fortunately, the efforts from many organizations, businesses, and partnerships have made some progress on improving the area, but there is still much more work to be done. As you watch the tour, keep an eye out for Kellogg Island. This section of the Duwamish river has remained untouched over decades of development and remains a glimpse of historic estuary habitat. Get a glimpse of the lower watershed by watching the video below.

Here are some of my best friends that are racing with me. Please root for all of us!

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Are you ready to find out whether I'll "Survive the Sound?" I'll blog about my journey each day of the race from May 3 - 7 and will include daily videos, vocabulary, quizzes, and more fun stuff!

Wish me luck, and check my blog again starting May 3 for daily updates on my progress!

Survive the Sound is provided by Long Live the Kings, a local organization whose goals include implementing solutions to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations in Hood Canal and Puget Sound, unraveling the mystery of low salmon survival in the Salish Sea, advancing science, and retooling management throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Day 1

May 3

And....we're off! My 47 friends and I have started our race through the river to Puget Sound, and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean! Navigating through the tricky waters of the Duwamish River was really stressful, but I made it to Puget Sound alive! I’m keeping my fins crossed for my 11 friends who are still trying to make it through the Duwamish.

All fish in the race

Made it through the Duwamish!

I’m 115 miles from the finish line, and I know I’ve got some big challenges ahead of me. But at least the route I plan to take won’t pit me against the dreaded Hood Canal Bridge (AKA “The Steelhead Graveyard”). I’m in 7th place right now, which makes me luckier than 41 other fish in the race. I’m hoping to catch up with the leaders soon though. Hey – wait up Sea Slough, Chinook Book Cherie, Sam Q Newsfish, Community, skawel, and Steel(head)! I’m on my way!

Day 1 Vocabulary

Anadromous: Fish born in freshwater who spend most of their lives in saltwater and return to freshwater to spawn.

Estuary: Simply put, it's an area where fresh water and salt water meet and mix. The mixing of fresh water and salt water provide high levels of nutrients, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats in the world. Healthy estuaries are critical to supporting healthy fish populations.

Salmonid: Any fish that belongs to the Salmonidae family (like me!), including the salmons, trouts, chars, and whitefishes.

Day 1 videos

Today let's learn about the different types of Pacific salmonids, and let's learn the difference between salmon and steelhead.

Day 1 Quiz

What benefits can estuaries provide to salmonids?

a) Shelter from predators

b) Rearing habitat

c) Food

d) Transition to saltwater

e) All of the above

If you answered "e," you're right! Did you know Puget Sound is the largest estuary, by water volume, in the contiguous United States?! Puget Sound encompasses many other estuaries, including large ones and small ones, found in sheltered bays, inlets, and lagoons.

about habitat restoration

Many estuaries have been extensively degraded or entirely lost due to human development. Habitat destruction has long been identified as one of the main causes of our threatened salmon and steelhead populations. In response, Washington has invested almost $1 billion in habitat restoration, completing thousands of restoration projects. Healthy estuaries are critical to supporting healthy fish populations. Habitat restoration not only helps the environment, but also provides local jobs, recreation opportunities, and improved health and safety for the surrounding community. Click to learn more about habitat restoration efforts.


Nisqually Estuary and Olympics (Photo credit: Eric Hall)

Wish me safe travels, and I’ll “sea” you again tomorrow!

Day 2

May 4

Since today is known as Star Wars Day, I was going to start off with something clever and inspiring about the Force being with me and all that jazz, but the only thing I can say right now is "It's a trap!" In a terrible and shocking turn of events, overnight I died in the Puget Sound...109 miles from the Pacific Ocean finish line.

Yesterday I was feeling so hopeful, so energetic, after making it through the Duwamish River faster than most of my friends. I reached a major milestone and we feeling pretty good about myself, then BAM. I died. I can't even tell you my cause of death yet - it all happened so fast! Do you have any theories? Did I become someone's lunch? Did I get hit by a boat (since we tend to stay closer to the surface when we're migrating in freshwater)? Did the water pollution get to me? Some young Chinook in Puget Sound have toxics called PCBs in them at levels which are known to impact their health. These toxic chemicals can also impact young steelhead. Toxic pollution and poor habitat can make fish more vulnerable to being eaten by a predator or to contracting other diseases or parasites.

My final resting place in Puget Sound

Where we all are in the race (green = alive, red = not alive)

Whatever the cause of my death, it all happened way too soon. I joined the ranks of five of my friends who also didn't survive the night. Here’s to you Eddy Gar, Salmon Ella, Sushi, Sammy, and Willy. You swam a good swim.

Lost at sea: Sammy, Sushi, Rainbow, Willy, Eddy Gar, and Salmon Ella

After reading all that, you’re probably ready for some good news, right? We can celebrate the fact that 42 of my friends are still alive and getting closer to the Pacific Ocean! Here’s the leaderboard as of Day 2:

  1. Jaws (86 miles to go)

  2. Sam Q Newsfish (90 miles to go)

  3. The Swiss (91 miles to go)

  4. Sea Slough (92 miles to go)

  5. Chinook Book Cherie (92 miles to go)

I think Jaws has a real chance, already having made it past the treacherous Hood Canal Bridge! That’s one lucky fish. Even though I’m out of the race, let’s keep cheering for my friends! Come on, my finned friends...you got this!

Leaders Jaws, Sam Q Newsfish, The Swiss, Sea Slough, and Chinook Book Cherie

Day 2 vocabulary

Heterotroph: An organism that cannot manufacture its own food and instead obtains its food and energy by taking in organic substances, usually plant or animal matter.

Zooplankton: A type of heterotrophic plankton that range from microscopic organisms to large species, such as jellyfish. Zooplankton drift in oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. Zooplankton eat a variety of bacterioplankton, phytoplankton, and even other zooplankton species. Since such organisms live at the surface of bodies of water, zooplankton are also typically found in the upper waters.

day 2 video

Watch this 10-minute video to learn about our lifecycle, starting from the time we're just tiny thoughts in our parents' minds to when we finally go to The Great Blue Beyond. Our lifecycle includes these stages:

  • eggs

  • alevin

  • fry

  • smolts

  • sea-run adults

  • spawning adults

day 2 quiz

Which of these are not a type of zooplankton?

a) Trysopods

b) Amphipods

c) Krill

d) Crab larvae

e) Copepods

You’re correct if you answered “a!” We tried to trick you on this one. Trysopods isn’t even a real word. But amphipods, krill, crab larvae, and copepods are all types of zooplankton. Many factors can impact the health of zooplankton. This makes it difficult to tell people exactly what they can do to help beyond the essentials – reduce energy consumption, dispose of waste properly, fix oil leaks on cars, etc. By gathering more data and comparing to other data sets, researchers hope to be able to prioritize actions to focus their efforts and come up with new solutions.

About zooplankton

Long Live the Kings and regional partners began a Puget Sound-wide zooplankton monitoring program in 2014 to record the composition and abundance of zooplankton in the water and to develop indicators for salmon survival. Due to their sensitivity to environmental change and critical place in the food web, they are excellent indicators of ecosystem health. The metrics developed from this data are used to evaluate impacts of a changing Puget Sound food web and provide guidance towards improved salmon harvest management and Puget Sound Stewardship. Learn more about zooplankton in Puget Sound.

Zooplankton for juvenile salmon (Photo credit: NOAA)

Even though my journey was cut short (crushing all my dreams in the process), keep checking my blog each day this week and I'll tell you how my friends are doing in the race.

Day 3

May 5

Happy Wednesday from the ghost of Rainbow, coming to you from beyond my watery grave! Since I started off with bad news yesterday, today I’ll share the good news first. One of my friends has pulled away from the pack and it’s looking like the finish line ribbon could be cut soon! Jaws kept the lead overnight and now has only a mere 58 miles until he reaches the Pacific Ocean! He’s followed pretty closely by his peers Steel(head), Puget Pounder, and April, who are all in a 3-way tie for second place. Little Red rounds out the top five with just 75 miles to the finish line. I’m especially proud of Steel(head), who hailed from the Duwamish River just like me.

Leaders Jaws, Steel(head), April, Puget Pounder, and Little Red are nearing the finish line

And now for the bad news. Fate caught up with these 13 fish overnight, who now join me and 5 others in the Great Blue Beyond: Anna Dromous, Arluq, Chowder, Coder, Community, Empowerfish, Fishy McFishface, Ray, Scien-fish, Sea Slough (I really thought he was gonna make it!), Stormy, Trigger, and Utilifish. If you’re keeping track, that makes 19 dead out of 42. And things especially aren’t looking good my friends still trying to make it through the Duwamish River. For the past two races, only 7 out of 48 fish survived to the finish line. Let’s all keep our fins crossed that the odds are a little better this year.

The living and the lost at sea

What's happening in the Duwamish River that's ending my friends' journey so soon?

day 3 vocabulary

Forage fish: Small schooling species that serve as prey for larger commercially and recreationally important fish, as well as for marine mammals and sea birds. Anchovies, herring, chub mackerel, and sardines are some common forage fish.

day 3 videos

Learn about salmon habitat and salmon anatomy.

day 3 quiz

Which of these is not considered a “forage fish” of the Pacific Northwest?

a) Pacific herring

b) Surf smelt

c) Pacific cod

d) Sand lance

e) Anchovies

You’re right if you answered “c.” Pacific cod are not forage fish. Herring, smelt, sand lance, and anchovies are all forage fish, which supply salmon with the energy they need to avoid predators and grow into huge orca-snacks. In many cases, shoreline property owners can do their part to restore forage fish spawning habitat by removing seawalls and bulkheads and replacing them with engineered, natural shorelines. (But remember to obtain the proper permits before moving ahead with any new shoreline development activity.)

about forage fish

Forage fish, such as Pacific herring, sand lance, anchovies, and surf smelt are small, silvery fish that are a good food source for larger predators such as salmon, birds, and seals. Research indicates that some forage fish populations are declining in Puget Sound due to habitat loss related to shoreline development. Without abundant forage fish, salmon may struggle to find enough food and other predators may turn to eating more Salmon. Learn more about forage fish.

Pacific herring (Photo credit: Steve - Flickr)

We’re over halfway through the race now. Check back tomorrow to see if Jaws and the other leaders were able to keep afloat to the finish line!

Day 4

May 6

Jaws is soooooooooooo close to crossing the finish line…in fact, he probably already did! Last night’s tracking update placed him 25 miles from the finish line, but knowing Jaws like I do, he probably kept swimming all night long and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s celebrating his victory in the Pacific Ocean right about now. Way to go, buddy!

All fish in the race, dead or alive

It looks like these friends will likely be the next finishers:

  • Puget Pounder (26 miles to go)

  • Steel(head) (46 miles to go)

  • Sam Q Newsfish (46 miles to go)

  • Little Red (47 miles to go)

  • Pierre 59 (48 miles to go)

  • April (60 miles to go)

All in all, there are 15 fish alive as of today. Unfortunately, that also means we recently added 14 of my friends to the death toll. Can we take a moment of silence for the overnight casualties, please? BackJack, Bert the Frontline Worker, Boom, Dawg Paddle, Forest, Goldie, Habitat, Neptune, Scifi, Sergeant Snackbar, Seven-fishy-seven, skawel, Swedish, and The Swiss.

Here are a few interesting things I noticed. First, the Duwamish River doesn’t seem to be the most fish-friendly place. So many of my friends that began their journey there didn’t even make it out of the river! I think we need to figure out what’s going on. Why do you think our survival rates are so low?

Juvenile salmon that didn't make it past the Duwamish River

Another thing I learned was that the Hood Canal Bridge doesn’t seem to be the most fish-friendly place either! Researchers found that half of all juvenile steelhead that try to make it past the bridge will die in the process. It’s not that they’re not trying to get past it – I mean, look at the tracking pattern of just one single fish trying relentlessly to get past this obstacle! Here’s part of the problem: The bridge pontoons create an obstruction, increasing fish densities and making my friends and me more vulnerable to predators near the bridge. Us young steelhead like to swim within about three feet of the water’s surface while we’re migrating, but most of the Hood Canal Bridge’s concrete extends about 15 feet into the water. If we get tired of hitting a wall and eventually try to swim to one of the sides to get past the bridge, we’re easy targets for seals, birds, and other predators who are just waiting for an easy snack.

Dotted lines show the tracking pattern of one single fish trying to pass the Hood Canal Bridge

Scroll down a little further to read more about the solutions scientists are thinking about to solve The Big Bridge Problem (that’s what my friends and I call it).

Tomorrow’s the last day of the race, so check back here then and I’ll share the final outcome of the race!

Day 4 vocabulary

Predator: An animal that naturally preys on others.

Prey: An animal that is hunted and killed by another for food.

Day 4 videos

Learn about juvenile steelhead predation and how the Hood Canal Bridge affects juvenile steelhead.

day 4 quiz

Which of these does not eat juvenile salmon?

a) Harbor porpoises

b) Humans

c) Seals

d) Birds

The correct answer here is “b.” While humans do eat adult salmon, they do not fish for juvenile salmon, or the juvenile steelhead featured in Survive the Sound. But seals, harbor porpoises, and some birds certainly enjoy the young fish. Predators are often blamed for the decline of salmon and steelhead populations, and their impact is significant, but the collective health of the ecosystem can play a larger role. When talking about predator management, it’s important to consider factors that could be exacerbating predation, such as migration barriers, lack of habitat, disease, and pollution. A healthy ecosystem can provide more fish for everyone.

about migration barriers

The data used in Survive the Sound, collected by Megan Moore at NOAA National Marine Fisheries Services, revealed that half of all juvenile steelhead that make it to the Hood Canal Bridge won’t make it past alive. An assessment, coordinated by Long Live the Kings, showed that the bridge is a migration barrier for steelhead, and other salmon – like Chinook and chum – are also impacted by the bridge.

Hood Canal Bridge (Photo credit: Long Live the Kings)

Partners are currently working to construct interim solutions to increase fish passage while working on a more fish-friendly bridge design. Read more about the Hood Canal Bridge project.

Also read about how we can reduce the environmental impacts of a floating bridge.

Seals and Rock Hood Canal (Photo credit: Hans Daubenberger, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe)

Day 5

May 7

It’s the last day of the race, and just like that, history repeats itself with just 7 out of the original 48 fish crossing the finish line! Congrats to all the survivors (which, if you remember yesterday’s entry, I predicted would make it to the ocean): Jaws, Puget Pounder, Steel(head), Little Red, Sam Q Newsfish, Pierre 59, and April!

The Lucky 7!

To all my friends who didn’t make it, you gave it your all and we’re proud of you! A moment of silence for the fallen, please: Anna Dromous, Arluq, BackJack, Bert the Frontline Worker, Bodhi, Boom, Bubbles, Chinook Book Cherie, Chowder, Coder, Community, Dawg Paddle, Eddy Gar, Empowerfish, Fishy McFishface, Floundry10, Forest, Goldie, Habitat, Lulu, Lunchbox, Neptune, Rainbow (that’s me!), Ray, Salmon Ella, Sammy, Scien-fish, Scifi, Sea Slough, Sergeant Snackbar, Seven-fishy-seven, skawel, Stormy, Sushi, Swedish, The Incredible Vulc, The Swiss, Trigger, Utilifish, Venti, and Willy.

Yikes, that's a lotta red!

To the seven survivors, we wish you all the luck in the world in that great big ocean!

Jaws

Puget Pounder

Steel(head)

Little Red

Sam Q Newsfish

Pierre 59

April

Day 5 vocabulary

Stormwater runoff: Water from rainfall and snowmelt that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots and flows into surface water including drainage facilities, rivers, streams, lakes, and Puget Sound. Stormwater runoff can also come from hard grassy surfaces like lawns, playfields, and from graveled roads that don't absorb water very well.

Watershed: A land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. Learn how to make your own watershed model using a piece of paper, a few markers, and some water.

Day 5 videos

You already know that I came from the Duwamish watershed, but take a few minutes to learn about where my friends came from - the Skokomish and Nisqually watersheds. What's similar about the watersheds? What's different? And which one do you think gives juvenile steelhead the best chance of survival?

The Skokomish River flows from the Olympic Mountains to the south end of Hood Canal, a fjord. The Skokomish Indian Tribe has lived in this area since time immemorial. Human use of this area is primarily for forestry and farming and estuary restoration efforts have been significant. Once salmonids exit the river, they must travel north and navigate around the Hood Canal floating bridge.

The Nisqually River starts at the southern slope of Mt. Rainier and flows into South Puget Sound. The Nisqually Indian Tribe has stewarded this area long before the colonization of North America and the Tribe continues to care for this land. Over 900 acres of Nisqually estuary habitat has been restored and remains protected as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. However, Interstate 5 runs through the area posing a threat to natural habitat and creating a barrier to recovery and predators have taken advantage of some bottlenecks in the estuary.

The Duwamish River begins at the Green River in the Central Cascades Mountains and runs through the ancestral lands of the Duwamish People. Since the area’s industrialization, the lower Duwamish has become one of the most polluted rivers in the United States, its estuary is almost non-existent, and there is some disease in the system. Fortunately, the efforts from many organizations, businesses, and partnerships have made some progress on improving the area, but there is still much more work to be done. As you watch the tour, keep an eye out for Kellogg Island. This section of the Duwamish River has remained untouched over decades of development and remains a glimpse of historic estuary habitat.

day 5 quiz

Approximately what percentage of juvenile steelhead that make it to the Hood Canal Bridge will not survive past it?

a) 5

b) 20

c) 30

d) 50

3) 80

The right answer is "d." Up to 50% of juvenile steelhead that make it to the bridge do not survive past it. Isn't that crazy? Addressing environmental problems involving public infrastructure is no easy task. Everyone pays for it, benefits from it, and never realized it would be a problem for fish. It’s important to encourage research to identify issues early and find new solutions so we can enjoy our modern conveniences while protecting the environment. It can be expensive, but in the long run it’s much cheaper to invest in solutions sooner than later. You can’t fix extinction!

About harbor seals

Salmon are an important part of our life and diet, but we share this resource with many other species. Birds, seals, sea lions, bears, porpoise, whales, and other fish all depend on salmon for a portion of their diet. With salmon and steelhead populations at risk, many people are asking if too many mouths are at the salmon buffet.

Current research suggests harbor seals are eating many salmon. In Puget Sound alone, the harbor seal population has increased three-fold since the 1980s, a time when our salmon survived at much higher rates. While researchers are still working to better understand their impact on salmon recovery, initial studies suggest seals and sea lions may be consuming two times as many Puget Sound salmon as are caught by humans, with seals being the primary consumer.

If a seal boom is contributing to the further decline of already-threatened salmon and steelhead populations in Puget Sound, researchers need to answer more questions to address the problem. How many seals should there be? What should they be eating? Who’s eating them, or isn’t eating them? Are there factors that make it easier for these predators to hunt salmon? While we don’t have complete answers to these questions, and continued research is absolutely critical to making thoughtful decisions, scientists’ work has uncovered some new ideas which give us options to start investing in solutions. Read more about who’s eating young salmon and steelhead.

Long Live the Kings uses “seal-packs” that help research predator-prey interactions (Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium)

Let's wrap up this year's race with a fun and easy way to remember the names of the Pacific Northwest's five iconic salmon species. Just look at your fingers!

Join Team #Bothell again next May to follow a new set of young steelhead during Survive the Sound 2022. I hope my journey inspired you to help protect my friends and me! We can all do simple things to help protect our environment. Learn how you can help...starting right now!