700,000 young salmon killed after vandals damage Powell River hatchery

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Vandals kill 700,000 fish at Powell River hatchery
WATCH: Vandals kill 700,000 fish at Powell River hatchery – Jan 10, 2019

A Sunshine Coast conservation group is reeling after vandals damaged a salmon hatchery, leading to the deaths of nearly three-quarters of a million chum salmon.

Ed Oldfield, president of the Powell River Salmon Society, told Global News that someone entered the grounds of the Duck Lake hatchery during Dec. 28 to 31, and interfered with key equipment.

“[They] altered nine of the valves that control flow to the water tanks,” he said. “They also took out stand pipes that went into the fish tanks. So it altered the water flow and caused a lack of water and oxygen for the fish, and we lost about 90 per cent of our chum fish.”

“It’s in the neighbourhood of 700,000 fish.”

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The Powell River Salmon Society is a registered non-profit that contracts with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to help increase the stock of wild salmon. It operates four sites, including the Duck Lake facility.

Staff transferring healthy salmon from a hatchery tank in Spring, 2018.
Staff transferring healthy salmon from a hatchery tank in Spring, 2018. Powell River Salmon Society

Oldfield said the organization has no idea who damaged its equipment or why, but he doesn’t believe someone would have intentionally killed the young fish, which had only reached the alevin stage of development.

He said the matter has been referred to police.

“We seized some evidence from the scene as well as have spoken to a witness and we’re following up on those leads,” said Sunshine Coast RCMP spokesperson Const. Chris Bakker.

In the wake of the vandalism, Oldfield said the society is reviewing how to increase security and has consulted with a contractor on fencing and possible security cameras.

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Oldfield said as heartbreaking as the loss is, it won’t completely devastate the river’s fish stocks because the hatchery only harvests about 20 to 25 per cent of eggs every year. He added that 75 per cent of fish still spawn naturally.

He said the real impact will be felt four years from now, when this year’s young crop of fish would have been set to return.

“Our staff at the hatchery is very good at salmon enhancement and increasing salmon numbers, so hopefully we can work some magic and get something done in four years,” he said.

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