On the morning of Friday, Oct. 5, Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Division staff at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery in Beulah, Mich., arrived for work to find 5,700 coho salmon dead in one of the maturation ponds at the Upper Weir. While under investigation, all signs indicate the loss was from a late Thursday night vandalism act, as it appears the fish were forcibly crowded into a small area which blocked water flow through the screens and created conditions in which the dissolved oxygen concentrations became lethal.
“This is the first time in 45 years where we have had this type of incident at this facility,” said Gary Whelan, DNR fish production manager. “It could have put our entire coho salmon program in serious jeopardy. The loss of this program would cost the state economy millions of dollars in revenue. We were exceptionally fortunate to have an above average coho salmon spawning run this year and will still have enough adults to fully meet our coho salmon egg take needs.”
All of the dead coho salmon, which included 5,130 adult and 570 small jacks (yearlings), were salvaged by the American-Canadian Fisheries Inc., the contractor for the surplus salmon carcasses from DNR salmon weirs that are used in the fish meal industry. Additional security measures have been put in place to protect the remaining fish at this key egg take facility.
“We would appreciate any information on this incident to assist us with our investigation. This information can be provided to any conservation officer or to the RAP hotline at 1-800-292-7800,” said Edward Eisch, Northern Lower Peninsula fish production manager.