Monday, July 15, 2013

Pump Fails, Killing 200,000 Fish at Elwha Hatchery

Last week a pump feeding water into the Lower Elwha Klallam tribes hatchery on the Elwha River failed, killing about 200,000 juvenile coho and steelhead. The fish, which were largely spawned from returning wild fish, were intended for release next spring.

The hatchery program has been at the center of the lawsuit filed jointly by the Wild Fish Conservancy, Wild Steelhead Coaltion, The Conservation Angler and the FFF Steelhead Committee, and while we would rather not have seen a catastrophic failure in the hatchery at the Elwha, this incident highlights an important lesson on the risk posed by hatcheries in the Elwha. Instead of spawning in the wild, above the dams in miles of newly accessible, high-quality habitat, these fish were brought into captivity, their offspring reared in an artificial environment to "protect" them during the next few years as dam removal releases high sediment loads into the lower Elwha. Ultimately though, domestication of wild fish for conservation purposes will always fail, reducing the fitness, diversity and vitality of wild stocks, or in this case through immediately observable catastrophe in the hatchery environment.

More information from KUOW's earthfix: 

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