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‘Gutted’: pollution suspected in mass fish die-off at Coquitlam creek

WATCH: Thousands of fish killed in Coquitlam hatchery

Conservationists in Coquitlam are reeling on Thursday, in the wake of a mass die-off of young fish at Hoy-Scott Creek, with pollution suspected.

“Gutted — gutted was the feeling at what I saw,” said Hoy-Scott Watershed Society president Robbin Whachell.

“We’re estimating 80 per cent. We’re allowed to raise 5,000 and we aren’t certain of the health of those that are remaining.”

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Maureen Wiebe lives in the area, and said she first noticed the dead fish on Wednesday afternoon while walking along the creek.

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

“I saw like 10 or 20. I though, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I walked further up the creek, they’re all laying there dead,” she said.

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“I was very upset. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh.'”

WATCH: Vandals kill 700,000 fish at Powell River hatchery

Vandals kill 700,000 fish at Powell River hatchery
Vandals kill 700,000 fish at Powell River hatchery

Wiebe said she went home to phone the incident in, and when she came back, she ran into one of the watershed volunteers and told him.

He went and checked the hatchery itself and realized the extent of the die-off.

“He was upset, I was upset. Somewhere along the way somebody dumped something into the creek and it has ruined the hatchery for now. I guess they have to start from day one,” she said.

“He had tears in his eyes.”

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Wiebe said many people in the neighbourhood believe the contamination was the result of water dumped from a nearby residential pool that is being worked on.

READ MORE: Jet boats devastating Pitt River salmon spawning grounds, says lodge operator

Whachell said the city is investigating the cause of the contamination and has taken water samples, but that chlorine is possible.

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“I was on location here for two hours; I could taste chemical on my tongue; I could smell something. To me, the only comparison I have is bleach,” she said.

WATCH: Thousands of dead fish wash ashore at Alberta lake

Thousands of dead fish wash ashore at Alberta lake
Thousands of dead fish wash ashore at Alberta lake
“Everything [my colleague] saw in the creek that was living is dead — crawfish, lamprey, trout and the coho fry.”

The City of Coquitlam says it hopes to have its water samples back by next week. But it said it may never know what the pollutant was, as it appears to have dissipated from the creek.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is also conducting an assessment.

READ MORE: Thousands of dead fish wash ashore at central Alberta lake

Whachell said she is hopeful that a large number of smolts that were released into the creek earlier this month had already made it downstream and survived.

But she said the hatchery has essentially lost next year’s entire release due to the die-off at the hatchery.

“I hope it’s human ignorance and not intentional,” she said.

“People just don’t think. The storm drains are there and a lot of people don’t understand. Like, you see the yellow fish [painted] by the storm drain, but what does that mean?”
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