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Vandalism results in death of 700,000 salmon at BC hatchery

Vandals broke into the Duck Lake hatchery in late December and caused damage that the manager says will take years to recover from.

This time, it wasn’t graffiti or broken windows, it was the death of 700,000 fish.

Shane Dobler, hatchery manager for Powell River Salmon Society (PRSS), says the vandals turned off valves and removed pipes, cutting water to incubation tanks filled with newly hatched chum salmon.

<who>Photo Credit: Powell River Salmon Society

According to Dobler, 90% of the tiny fish were deprived of oxygen and died, while the rest only survived because they had been moved to different tanks that still had water flow.

He believes the vandalism was “a random act of foolishness.”

The deaths mean a lot less fish in the ocean for this particular cycle and Dobler predicts the effects to become very evident in four years.

However, he said the PRSS is very efficient at rearing salmon and expects volunteers to rebuild chum returns to acceptable levels by 2023.

In 2018, 180 volunteers logged 13,000 hours with the society.

According to Powell River RCMP, the vandalism happened at some point between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31, but few other details about the break-in have been released.

"I don’t believe anybody went out to kill fish that day," said Dobler.

"But if you are smoking and driving through the forest on a hot day and you throw your cigarette out the window, I’m sure you didn’t mean to light a fire, either."

The society will be holding a fundraising drive as it works to improve security at its hatcheries and augment its salmon preservation fund.

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