This month KFSK reported on a new hatchery remote release site for chum salmon in Thomas Bay near Petersburg, moved there to thwart humpback whales eating the young salmon when they’re released. A researcher from Sitka gave a presentation on that topic in Petersburg Thursday, April 13. Ellen Chenoweth is pursuing her Ph. D. through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She’s based at the Sitka Sound Science Center and works with University of Alaska Southeast professor Jan Straley. Chenoweth’s work is funded by the Alaska Seagrant Program and the National Science Foundation . Joe Viechnicki spoke with Chenoweth about her research and what she’s observed.
Chenoweth says her research will also help hatcheries determine what strategies might be most cost effective for avoiding predation on the young salmon. Another part of the ongoing project that another student is pursuing looks at chemical signatures in a whale’s skin to determine how big a role hatchery salmon play in a whale’s diet. Chenoweth is done with the data collection for her part of the research and plans to defend her findings later this year.