An estimated 200,000 coho salmon fry died last week after a generator and pump systems failed at the Kalama Falls Hatchery. The deaths could have a big impact on the Kalama fishery in two or three years.
The salmon fry suffocated March 9 after a generator failed during a test, destroying one pump and damaging two others. The pump failures in turn reduced the flow of fresh water to the hatchery’s incubation room, said Cindy Le Fleur, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It was an out-of-the-blue kind of thing,” hatchery manager Sam Gibbons said.
Le Fleur estimated that the hatchery lost about two-thirds of its 2014 late coho fry, which measured about an inch long.
“We don’t have a firm estimate yet, because some of the fish that survived are in a delicate condition and we don’t want to disturb them to count the survivors,” she said.
Those fish would have been released in about a year, to return as adults two to three years later.
Gibbons said it’s too early to know if the lost coho can be replaced by fish from other hatcheries. WDFW’s options may be affected by policies that limit transfer of fish between watersheds to prevent the spread of diseases.
Le Fleur said approximately 1.1 million fall chinook and 500,000 spring chinook fry have been moved to state hatcheries on the Lewis River as a safeguard, while WDFW personnel work to repair the damaged pumps.
The pump problem doesn’t affect operation of holding tanks where older fish are kept.
“We hope to have things back in operation at the Kalama Falls Hatchery by the end of this week,” she said.
Built in 1959, the Kalama Falls Hatchery raises spring and fall chinook, late coho and summer and winter steelhead