The discovery of a waterborne fish virus is forcing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to destroy all the steelhead eggs collected this winter at the Bogachiel Hatchery.
The department is planning a public meeting Saturday in Forks to discuss plans to destroy about 250,000 eggs and other moves to contain the spread of the virus. The meeting is set for 10 a.m. to noon at the Forks Sportsman’s Club, 243 Sportsman’s Club Road, Forks.
The virus, Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis, was discovered in returning adult winter-run steelhead at the Bogachiel Hatchery. Eggs taken from those fish at the hatchery will be destroyed because they could also have the infectious virus, said Ron Warren, regional fish program manager.
Warren said the 250,000 is the entire take for the hatchery this year.
“There is no reliable test that will tell us if the eggs are infected,” Warren said. “To ensure we don’t increase risks to wild fish in the Bogachiel River or spread the pathogen to other watersheds, we have decided to destroy the eggs. It’s unfortunate, but we must take a precautionary approach.”
The department developed the response plan after meeting with the tribes and other natural resource management agencies.
To partially make up for the loss, about 130,000 winter steelhead eggs from the Makah Tribe’s Hoko Falls Hatchery will be transferred to the Bogachiel Hatchery for rearing and release, said Warren. Those steelhead eggs are genetically similar to the fish raised at the Bogachiel Hatchery.
“We are checking the Makah fish to make sure they don’t have (the virus) to make sure the progeny don’t have the virus,” Warren said.
Receiving these eggs at this time guarantees continued production at the Bogachiel Hatchery, said Warren.
Juvenile steelhead at the Bogachiel Hatchery have been tested and are free of the virus, said Warren.
The department also is taking two others steps in dealing with the situation, Warren said:
- The Quileute Tribe is taking some some of the summer-run fish from the Bogachiel hatchery as a precaution in case some of the juveniles show signs of the virus later. “That way we won’t have to destroy all the summer-run fish,” Warren said.
- The agency also is going to destroy the 30 adults collected by the Olympic Guide Association. The eggs would have been taken to the Sol Duc Hatchery. Those fish would have been released in Snyder Creek. Some of the adults were showing signs of the virus, Warren said.
“We need to take these conservative actions to protect the fish we have, the hatchery and the wild fish in the system,” Warren said.
Destroying the eggs will mean fewer fish will be released next spring, despite the help from the Makah Tribe.
“They will be released in just over a year from now. Their return a few years from now will be reduced, but not as drastically if there were no replacements, i.e. the fish and eggs we’re receiving from the Makah tribe,” Warren said.
There is no known cure for the virus and it can be fatal to infected fish, but cannot be passed on to humans. The virus affects wild and hatchery fish, including salmon and trout species, and is regularly detected in the Columbia River basin. The virus is spread from fish to fish.
“What’s unnerving, we don’t know where the transmission occurs for fish returning to the Quillyute, Bogachiel, Sol Duc system. We haven’t seen it in the system since 1991.
“Where do the fish pick that virus up? Is it in the marine environment, is it in the freshwater/tidewater area, are they getting it from other fish? We just don’t know,” Warren said.