Virus Makes Big Dent in Steelhead Hatchery Output


    Officials say a waterborne fish virus was discovered in the Bogachiel Hatchery near Forks and will require the destruction of a quarter-million fertilized eggs.

    A routine check uncovered a virus — Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) — in returning adult steelhead spawners. The IHN virus can be fatal to salmon and trout. A total of about 250,000 eggs taken from those fish will be destroyed because the virus is so contagious, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fish program manager Ron Warren.

    IHN is the same virus that caused enormous losses at the Blue Creek Hatchery on the Cowlitz. That outbreak was eventually resolved by providing an ozone treatment system at the hatchery. The suspected eggs must all be destroyed.

    “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 to destroy the eggs. It’s unfortunate, but we must take a precautionary approach.”

    To partially make up for the loss, the Makah Tribe will transfer about 130,000 healthy eggs from its Hoko Falls Hatchery to the WDFW Bogachiel facility for rearing and release. Those eggs are genetically similar to the fish raised at the Bogachiel Hatchery.

    “These eggs will help make up for some of the production loss and provide for future fisheries in the basin,” Warren said. “We appreciate the Makah Tribe stepping up and providing us these winter steelhead eggs.”

    Juvenile steelhead at Bogachiel have been tested and are free of IHN. The virus has no known cure and can be fatal to infected fish but cannot be passed on to humans.