Hatchery Releases Millions of Ill Salmon to the Wildby Hal Bernton
The Seattle Times, April 4, 2002
A federal hatchery along the Columbia River in Washington state made an emergency release of 4.9 million young fall chinook salmon last week because of a disease outbreak that threatened to kill them.
The Spring Creek National Hatchery, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, released the young salmon Friday, and in recent days the salmon have been moving through a bypass system at Bonneville Dam. This has raised concerns that the hatchery salmon might contaminate the fish-passage equipment at the dam, which could spread the disease to other stocks of young hatchery and wild salmon moving down the Columbia River. The hatchery is located 62 miles east of Vancouver.
"We're being ultra conservative and doing everything we can to minimize the risks,'' said Matt Rabe, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The fish are infected by a disease caused by a protozoan known by the initials ICK. It's a fairly common hatchery ailment, but the Spring Creek hatchery managers were unable to control the outbreak. Rather then hold the fish until their normal release date and risk a major die-off in cramped, infected raceways, hatchery managers opted for the early release, according to an April 1 Corps of Engineers memorandum.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials could not be reached yesterday evening. The majority of the sick fish are being sent through a bypass system on the Bonneville Dam. Later this week, as the last of the sick fish move past the dam, biologists are considering whether to disinfect the fish-passage equipment as a precautionary measure.
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