Social distancing and stay home orders halt field research on salmon migration

Social distancing and stay at home orders have put a halt on critical scientific fieldwork, such as studying juvenile salmon migration in Western Washington.

Long Live The Kings is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to recover the wild salmon population. One of its projects that is suffering is its Zooplankton monitoring program. Juvenile salmon feed heavily on zooplankton in Puget Sound and researchers say the gap in data will make it impossible to understand the health of our young fish this year and next year.

"We don't know what's going on or what they're experiencing and our ability to predict how many salmon will return as adults and how healthy they are when they go to the ocean is severely compromised," said Iris Kemp, Senior Project Manager with Long Live The Kings.

Kemp, however, says the current situation has presented a unique opportunity to study how current changes in human behavior is impacting the ecosystem.

"The orca sound hydrophone network is currently operational and there are some moorings and buoys that collect data that don't involve humans, aside from maintenance. We can look at opportunistically the impacts that reduced vessel traffic is having. Using those networks, that's an opportunity we haven't had otherwise," said Kemp.