Two accidents at Sitka hatcheries kill 1 million fry

Sitka, Alaska (AP) July 2010

Accidents at two Sitka hatcheries over the weekend have killed more than 1 million juvenile salmon.

Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association lost 950,000 chinook juveniles at its Medvejie hatchery on July 2 when a water valve was mistakenly turned off, according to The Daily Sitka Sentinel.

The crew was cleaning a salmon pit and shifting from one fresh water source to another when a valve was inadvertently closed, said Steve Reifenstuhl, NSRAA’s general manager. The salmon hatched last year and would have been released next spring.

“It was a terrible incident, very disturbing to the staff,” he said.

NRSAA produces about 4 million chinook eggs a year.

At the Sheldon Jackson College hatchery, staff July 5 discovered that an alarm system failed to indicate that the water level in the rearing tanks had fallen, resulting in the deaths of 115,000 chinook and 115,000 coho.

An intake that pulls water from the Indian River often clogs when it rains hard, said Jim Seeland, board vice chairman for the Sitka Sound Science Center, which operates the hatchery. An alarm was supposed to place phone calls to hatchery staff when water levels drop.

The staff didn’t know when the level fell, but Seeland said he believes “the water had to be off for a long time.”

Staff managed to save about 5,000 fish.

The hatchery released 10 million chum and 1 million pink salmon in the spring.