In 2020, NSFR&D began a salmon acoustic tagging project in eastern Norton Sound. Understanding salmon movement is important in ensuring sustainable salmon harvest levels. The last salmon tagging study that was conducted in eastern Norton Sound took place in the 1970s and relied on recovering tagged fish. Using acoustic tags allows information from tagged fish to be logged by acoustic receivers deployed throughout the region and then collected at the end of the season, providing a more accessible dataset.
NSFR&D and ADFG crews are tagging Chum and Coho salmon out of Unalakleet and Shaktoolik. Gill nets are used to catch salmon, which are then transferred to a holding tank on the boat. Each fish is examined to make sure it is healthy, and then sampled and affixed with an acoustic tag. The tagging process generally takes less than three minutes! Fish are then allowed to recover in the holding tank before being returned to the ocean away from sampling nets to complete their migration with minimal chance of immediate recapture.
The acoustic tagging project will provide valuable data about salmon migration patterns in Norton Sound and will indicate some of the rivers that tagged salmon are spawning in. It will help us ensure that harvest levels in eastern Norton Sound are sustainable and equitable and that there will be salmon for generations to come.