Featured mission: Returning kokanee salmon to Lake Sammamish
Left to right: Perry Falcone, Kokanee Recovery Manager with King County Water and Land Resources Division, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Snoqualmie Tribe Council member Bill Sweet Photo King County/LightHawk
In October 2019, LightHawk flew Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon to an Orcas Island hatchery. They were transferred by biologists to protect them from potentially hazardous conditions in Lake Sammamish – including high temperatures, low oxygen levels, disease, and voracious non-native predators – that contributed to a sudden decline in the kokanee population.
Sammamish kokanee population is one of only two kokanee populations in the Puget Sound region. The species is important for the natural habitat and their survival is important for the history of the region. After efforts by local partners, the population has begun to rebound and saw the return of more than 2,000 adult kokanee salmon to the lake this year, a number larger than has been seen in the past five years combined.
Kokanee eggs transported on LightHawk flight. Photo: King County/LightHawk
We recently had the opportunity to complete the circle and return the last of the eggs from the original salmon back to Lake Sammamish. Flying the kokanee eggs reduces risk and increases viability of the eggs. The flight carried the final group of offspring of Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon that had been transported to the hatchery two years ago.
LightHawk volunteer pilot
Hunter Handsfield transported the salmon eggs from the hatchery to King County International Airport (Boeing Field) where he was met by biologists who will release the salmon in egg boxes or raise them to juveniles at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's hatchery in Issaquah for later release. The majority of the eggs will end up as juvenile kokanee in Lake Sammamish, helping restore the kokanee salmon population in Lake Sammamish.
Together with the offspring that have been released previously, this flight's delivery of kokanee salmon eggs will help boost the population in Lake Sammamish and begin to restore
Volunteer pilot meetup in Arizona
In early March, a group of LightHawk staff, volunteer pilots and partners gathered in Tucson, Arizona. They were treated to a presentation by Dr. Francisco Zamora of the Sonoran Institute about that organization's 10-plus year partnership with LightHawk for flights over the Colorado River Delta. They also heard from Dr. Emily Burns of Sky Island Alliance about their work documenting border wall construction and its impact on wildlife corridors and LightHawk's help in conducting monitoring flights in areas that would otherwise not be accessible.
Flying across the border into Mexico during the second day of the volunteer pilot meetup. Photo by Wayne McClelland/LightHawk
Volunteer pilots Wayne McClelland and Bill Rush provided a detailed discussion on the requirements of conducting cross-border missions in general aviation flights. The next day, they conducted a flight across the border to provide an orientation for other pilots who are interested in helping with those kinds of flights in the future.
Several volunteer pilots at the meetup
commented about how much they enjoyed being able to gather, in-person, with their colleagues again. They enjoyed learning from fellow pilots about flying across the border to conduct missions in Mexico. We were thrilled to be able to gather with this group of pilots and we're thankful for their continued support of LightHawk and their willingness to fly the important missions our partners request.
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LightHawk Photo of the Month
An abandoned boat photographed during a test flight with new LightHawk partner Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Future flights will aid their bonefish spawning research by helping document aggregations (big schools of fish balled up). Photo by Robert Decker/LightHawk
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