Valve shut off leads to salmon deaths at Sitka hatchery
SITKA, Alaska (AP) — A possible act of vandalism at a Sitka hatchery resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 young coho salmon, officials said.
A valve for a hose leading to a large fresh water tank was found to be shut off last week at the hatchery at the Sitka Sound Science Center, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported Thursday.
The valve shut-off caused the water level to fall to a critical stage in a tank that contained about 16,000 salmon. Most of the fish survived after being slowly crushed together without the circulation of fresh water.
“We thought it was going to be much worse than it was,” said Lisa Busch, the center’s executive director. “Why would someone do this, though?”
Staff members first believed the valve might have been turned off by accident, Busch said.
“Originally, we thought it may have been a family visiting and a kid did it,” Busch said. “But it takes some strength to turn the valve.”
The loss of the young salmon resulted in about $1,100 in damages, said Angie Bowers, the center’s aquaculture director.
The center is installing surveillance cameras and taking steps to secure the water valves against tampering, officials said.
The fish in the tank have been at the hatchery for nearly 20 months, Bowers said. They were scheduled to be released soon to begin an 18-month ocean journey.
“Our hatchery is really used as a training facility,” Busch said. “But the fish that we produce get put into the common property fishery, and it’s caught by charter, by subsistence, by commercial. It’s caught by everybody, and we have pretty good numbers on the commercial fleet with how much we contribute.”
Under hatchery’s current permit, it can produce 250,000 coho salmon, 3 million pinks and 3 million chum each year.
Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, http://www.sitkasentinel.com/