Salmon Tag's 7,700-mile Journal
by Ben Miller
How did an electronic tag placed in a salmon at a hatchery in Washington end up in the stomach of a bird found 7,700 miles away in New Zealand?
Local scientists say they're scratching their heads.
At the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle, scientists said a juvenile steelhead at the Ringold Hatchery in Franklin County, north of Pasco, was tagged in September 2004 and released into the Columbia River in April 2005.
The fish's tag indicated the steelhead passed through the Bonneville Dam in May 2005. Two years later, the tag was found in the stomach of a muttonbird (formerly known as the sooty shearwater) in New Zealand.
"The most likely scenario is that the young salmon was caught and consumed by an adult sooty shearwater at the mouth of the Columbia River sometime in the summer of 2005. The tag then remained in the bird's stomach for over 16 months until it was regurgitated to feed young chicks early in 2007," explained John Ferguson, director of the NWFSC's Fish Ecology Division.
Scientists said they'll work with colleagues in New Zealand and conduct research to find out if any more salmon tags have been taken there by sooty shearwater birds feeding on the Columbia River.
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