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Power outage causes death of 6.2 million chinook salmon fry at state-run hatchery

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This February 2018 file video details how for hundreds of thousands of years, wild ocean salmon have been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Now, their existence is under threat, along with the communities they support.
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This February 2018 file video details how for hundreds of thousands of years, wild ocean salmon have been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Now, their existence is under threat, along with the communities they support.

More than 6.2 million chinook salmon fry died last week when strong winds caused a power outage at a state hatchery, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The fish were kept in incubators at the Minter Creek Hatchery in Gig Harbor, and some were being raised to help provide more food for endangered orcas in the region.

“This is a devastating loss,” said Eric Kinne, a hatchery division manager.

During the windstorm, the hatchery’s backup generator also failed, which meant the pump that supplies water to the incubators stopped working.

Employees said they tried to get the generator working, and, when that failed, they tried to get water into the incubators using other methods, but it was unsuccessful.

Among the dead fish were 4.2 million Deschutes fall chinook fry, 1.5 million Minter Creek fall chinook fry and 507,000 White River spring chinook fry.

The White River chinook were meant for orcas. The Deschutes and Minter Creek chinook were supposed to support state fisheries.

The chinook were scheduled for release in May or June.

Another 6.2 million fish at the hatchery, including chum salmon and coho salmon, survived the power outage.

Kinne said the department is analyzing what happened during the power outage to ensure it doesn’t happen again. He also said other fisheries might replace some of the fry lost at the Gig Harbor facility.

The department operates 8- hatcheries across Washington and raises about 68 million chinook each year.

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