Hot temperatures kill 5,400 trout in state hatchery

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Washington State’s record high temperatures and low water levels are causing yet another massive fish die off — this time at a state fish hatchery near Bellingham.

Fish hatcheries help counter the human impact on natural fish populations. People have had to rely on them more and more. But at a hatchery near Bellingham, more than 5,000 trout are dead. Some can still be seen dying. Only a few hundred trout survive.

“It’s always a kick to the stomach,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Hatchery Manager Kevin Clark. “I mean these are fish that we’ve cultured for over a year.”

Because the hatchery uses surface water from nearby Whatcom Lake, it’s coming in hotter than normal and then further bakes under the summer sun in cement ponds.

Regional hatchery manager Kevin Park said they tried shading with tarps, but it didn’t work. He says he may resort to shutting down this hatchery during summer and moving some of the operation to hatcheries that are fed with cooler well water.

The die off means nearby lakes in Whatcom County will not get the normal stock of trout. But the bigger question: Are higher temperatures, lower water levels and warmer water likely to be part of a new normal for not just fisheries but a myriad of other environmental issues?

Clark agrees with legions of conservation workers who say yes. read more…