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6.2 million young chinook salmon dead after Pierce County power outage

Up to 6.2 million chinook salmon fry died when a windstorm cut power to a Pierce County hatchery.
Credit: Jeff T. Green
A chinook salmon (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

Last weekend's windstorm knocked out power across Western Washington, including at the Minter Creek Hatchery in Pierce County. 

That's where up to 6.2 million chinook salmon fry died when the facility's backup generator failed. The fry, which are young salmon, were in incubators operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

The WDFW tried pumping water into the incubators through other methods, "but were largely unsuccessful," according to hatchery division manager Eric Kinne. 

“This is a devastating loss,” Kinne said. “The department is conducting an analysis to determine the root cause of what went wrong so that we can improve procedures at Minter Creek and our other hatcheries to help ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The White River chinook salmon were being raised as food for the endangered South Resident killer whales, of which only 74 remain. The resident orcas only eat chinook, unlike transient pods which eat other mammals. 

Kinne reports other fish at the hatchery survived, including roughly 4.2 million chum salmon and 2 million coho salmon.

An inventory of the fish lost includes:

  • 4.2 million Deschutes fall chinook fry
  • 1.5 million Minter Creek fall chinook fry
  • 507,000 White River spring chinook fry

The WDFW operates 80 hatcheries across Washington and raises approximately 68 million chinook annually.

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