Thank you to everyone who signed up for the Survive the Sound challenge, an interactive online game where individuals are invited to follow their favorite fish character as it migrates through Puget Sound.
The competition, which is being organized by one of our great conservation partners Long Live the Kings, is underway and we wanted to update you on the progress of our Aquarium team and our fish Pierre 59 as it makes the perilous trek to the ocean.
At just over the halfway point of our five-day challenge, Pierre 59 is still swimming strong! Pierre began the journey in the Nisqually River near Olympia and has migrated all the way to a point near Whidbey Island. We are also excited to report that the Aquarium’s Survive the Sound team currently sits in fifth place out of more than 1,000 teams! If you entered a fish into the challenge you can track your entry at the Survive the Sound homepage.
As you can see by the map above, Pierre 59 has undertaken quite an epic journey. Steelhead, like all species of salmon, begin their lifecycle in fresh water before migrating out to open ocean. Adult salmon lay their eggs in streams and rivers and once they hatch they begin the gradual journey out of the Salish Sea.
Juvenile salmon face many challenges like finding food and vegetation cover, avoiding predators, accessing clean and cold water, as well as avoiding human-made obstacles like dams. Not every juvenile salmon makes it to the open ocean, but every one that does helps ensure the species' survival!
Amazingly, recent studies have shown that in the open ocean environment salmon use the magnetic field of the Earth to guide their migration. They use this form of “fishy GPS” to help them navigate from their freshwater spawning grounds, out to the open ocean and back.
As a migrating salmon approaches its home stream, it uses its sense of smell to find the familiar smell of the stream it lived in as a juvenile. This migration back to their home is a result of “home stream imprinting” that occurred as the juvenile salmon grew in its home stream and began its migration to the ocean.
The Pacific Northwest is home to six different salmon species. Pierre 59 is a member of the critically endangered steelhead population. Steelhead spend more time in freshwater than other salmon species and tend to be much larger than other salmon when they migrate through Puget Sound.
Come learn more about salmon!
If you would like to learn more about salmon come visit us at the Aquarium or mark your calendars to visit us this fall at our Cedar River Salmon Journey. Our volunteers and staff would love to share more about this iconic Northwest species and how we can all do our part to help ensure they thrive for many generations to come!