Rain/Wind Probable Cause for Large Fish Kill in Gorst

GORST (May 25, 2006) — Gusty winds and associated rains Tuesday evening are believed to be the cause of a major fish kill at the Gorst Creek salmon rearing facility.

An estimated 1.6 million fall Chinook salmon fry were found dead at the Gorst Creek rearing ponds Wednesday morning, said Jay Zischke, Suquamish fisheries manager.

The eight-month-old fish, approximately 4 inches long, were scheduled to be released next week. Since the program began in 1982 returning adults from these releases provide fishing opportunity for Indian and non-Indian fishers alike. The significant mortality yesterday is expected to result in a much reduced return of Chinook to Sinclair Inlet in 2010, when this group of fish would be expected to return.

Heavy rain and winds are believed to have washed debris over the water intake screens at the hatchery, blocking the flow of water.

“The lack of fresh oxygenated water in a pond with this many fish, even for just a few hours, can be devastating,” Zischke said.

Fish pathologists ran tests on samples of the dead Chinook to make sure a virus or other disease was not responsible. Results are still pending, but the most likely cause remains the loss of adequate flow to the rearing ponds.

Crews from the Suquamish Fisheries Department responded early Wednesday morning and are continuing the cleanup effort. Once the dead fish are removed, technicians can better assess how many of the juvenile chinook survived.

The Gorst facility is a partnership between the Suquamish Tribe, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Bremerton and volunteer efforts by the Kitsap Poggie Club.


For more information: Rob Purser, Suquamish fisheries director, (360) 394-8436 or [email protected]; Jay Zischke, Suquamish fisheries manager, (360) 394-8444 or at [email protected]; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].