The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) reported on Monday that a single fish in the wrong place at the wrong time resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 Chinook pre-smolts at Rock Creek Hatchery.
No, it wasn’t a case of some super-predator breaking into the raceways to gobble up all those young salmon. Instead, officials said that the fish somehow wedged itself into an intake pipe and cut off freshwater from coming into the raceway.
“A fish carcass clogged an intake pipe at Rock Creek Hatchery, shutting off the flow of water to a raceway, killing 400,000 spring Chinook pre-smolts. These fish were to be released directly from the hatchery into the North Umpqua River next spring,” the DFW said in a press release. “Dan Meyer, Rock Creek Hatchery manager said the water flow didn’t drop low enough to trigger an alarm. An alert employee discovered the problem within an hour but with the water temperature in the raceway at about 68 degrees and no fresh water coming in, it was too late to salvage any live fish.”
Meyer added that normally, fish or debris cannot plug up the intake pipe, but a power outage several months ago may have created the perfect opening for a fish to get through.
“We have a new intake and a new emergency valve we can open. If power to the screens is out, water to the hatchery is severed, and the emergency valve will get water to fish. It was opened for short time during a power outage a few months ago when the emergency generator failed, and we think the carcass may have gotten into the water line then,” Meyer explained.
Rock Creek Hatchery sits across from the North Umpqua River and raises hundreds of thousands of Chinook, steelhead, and rainbow trout. Although anglers may not see the impact of this year’s fish kill soon, Officials say that fishermen will notice the loss beginning in 2017 and continuing through to 2019. The bulk of the impact will be felt in 2018. DFW officials added they will be looking into options to prevent similar events from happening in the future.
Image courtesy Tess McBride, US Fish and Wildlife Service