May 14, 2014 in City

Hatchery break-in releases 25,000 steelhead

Associated Press
 

SEATTLE – Someone released an estimated 25,000 juvenile steelhead during an overnight break-in at a fish hatchery east of Seattle – and some are wondering if a disgruntled angler might be to blame.

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife announced last month that it would not release hatchery steelhead into any Puget Sound rivers but one this spring, after a conservation group sued over the hatchery program.

While many anglers are happy to catch hatchery-raised steelhead, the Duvall-based Wild Fish Conservancy argued in U.S. District Court that the hatchery fish program had not been approved by federal officials under the Endangered Species Act, and that the hatchery fish hinder the recovery of wild steelhead.

The break-in at the Tokul Creek hatchery in eastern King County was discovered Tuesday morning, said Kelly Cunningham, a deputy assistant director at Fish and Wildlife. The ponds there were behind chain-link fence, barbed wire and a locked gate.

Someone cut the gate’s chains and pulled screens in a pond holding about 50,000 fish, he said. The screens had been blocking the fish from reaching Tokul Creek, a Snoqualmie River tributary.

Cunningham declined to speculate on a motive, but said, “It’s no secret that it’s a highly polarized issue.”

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