NOAA’s Little Port Walter Marine Research Station is located on a small estuarine bay on southern Baranof Island, adjacent to Sashin Creek and near the open Gulf of Alaska – an ideal location for conducting research on a broad range of freshwater and marine species. In fact, it’s Alaska’s oldest year-round biological research station, operating since the 1930’s. While scientists have studied several species at the station, Chinook salmon has been their primary focus since the late 1970’s. Initially scientists examined (among other things) how various aquaculture rearing practices affected the size, oceanic distribution, and survival of different Chinook salmon stocks. They were hoping to improve Chinook salmon population enhancement programs in Alaska and increase their contributions to commercial fisheries. More recently we are using data spanning 40 years collected from Chinook reared at the station to help us learn more about how environmental variation affects salmon marine survival.
Our research, relies on identifying Chinook from Little Port Walter that are caught in fisheries and accurately estimating the number of fish that survive to adulthood. To track our salmon, we mark them using two methods that are commonly used in hatcheries throughout the Pacific Northwest.