OLYMPIA – Up to 2.75 million fall chinook fry are headed to the Minter Creek Hatchery in Pierce County in an effort to replace salmon lost during a Dec. 14 power outage at the facility.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) received approval Friday from NOAA Fisheries – the agency that oversees federally listed salmon – to use excess chinook from six other hatcheries for release from Minter Creek and Tumwater Falls next May and June.
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said several tribal co-managers have already agreed to the transfer, as required by NOAA-Fisheries.
“This won’t fully replace the salmon lost last week, but it will allow us to put a significant number of fish into these waters next year,” Susewind said. “I want to thank our tribal co-managers and federal partners for helping to make this happen.”
WDFW estimates 5.7 million fall chinook fry and 507,000 spring chinook fry were lost when a windstorm knocked out power to the Minter Creek Hatchery earlier this month. The facility’s backup generator also failed to start, cutting power to the pump that supplies water to incubators where the fry were held.
“Losing those fish was a painful setback for state and tribal fishers, for the communities that depend on fishing, and for southern resident orcas that feed on chinook,” Susewind said.
The half-million spring chinook lost at Minter Creek were part of the state’s early efforts to increase production of chinook to feed the dwindling population of southern resident orcas. The department is, however, increasing chinook production at other hatcheries to help with that effort.
“Increasing hatchery chinook production is a top priority for the department and we take any setback seriously,” Susewind said. “I’ve instructed staff to hire a contractor to determine what went wrong and help us identify steps we can take to prevent such a loss in the future.”