News Release

Hatchery water flow drop causes endangered salmon deaths: Cause of malfunction under investigation

July 30, 2009

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Water flow dropped precipitously in one area of Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in East Orland, Maine, Tuesday night, causing the death of 142 endangered Atlantic salmon from Pleasant River stock, according to Maine Fisheries Complex Manager Paul Santavy.

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line-height: 150%“We still have an ample supply of brood fish to produce juveniles to stock in the Pleasant River,” Santavy said. “These adult broodstock were a backup to younger broodstock. We planned to release them into Hobart Stream this autumn as part of a research project.” The fish were 5 years old and produced juvenile fish for the past three years.

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line-height: 150%Hatchery staff found the dead fish at 8 a.m. Wednesday and immediately restored water flow for the remaining fish. According to monitors that record data every two to three minutes, the problem began at 4:15 a.m. when water flow to the Pleasant River module abruptly dropped from 200 gallons a minute to 100 gallons a minute, leaving the fish without enough oxygen to survive.

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line-height: 150% “We suspect an obstruction of some material or air in the line caused the failure,” Santavy said. “Our engineers are examining the equipment and the system to find the cause and determine how to keep this from happening again.”

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line-height: 150%Santavy responded to an alarm at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday when a valve regulating water to the hatchery failed. The backup system functioned as designed, he said, and the hatchery did not lose water for the fish. The valve failure appears to be an unrelated situation, although staff will continue to investigate.

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line-height: 150%Craig Brook hatchery raises endangered Atlantic salmon in six river-specific modules, one each for the Pleasant, Machias, East Machias, Dennys, Narraguagus and Sheepscot rivers. More than a million juvenile salmon from Craig Brook hatchery are stocked in these rivers and their tributary streams each spring in an effort to recover wild salmon facing extinction in the Gulf of Maine.

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line-height: 150%Santavy said that unfortunately fish deaths in hatcheries occasionally occur from disease or equipment failure. Late last year, 50 percent of the Penobscot River salmon eggs at Craig Brook hatchery inexplicably died. Typical mortality is 10 to 15 percent for eggs. Fortunately, Green Lake National Fish Hatchery in Ellsworth raises a backup supply of Penobscot River salmon eggs and was able to make up for the loss. Fish health experts from three laboratories were unable to determine the cause of death.

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line-height: 150% For more information about the Maine Fisheries Program, see http://www.fws.gov/northeast/mainefisheries

0The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and a trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov.

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