Thursday, June 29, 2006

State Fish Hatchery Reopens

HATCH - A state fish hatchery that's been closed for four years is open again and producing fish for the state's anglers.

And safeguards have been added to the hatchery to prevent whirling disease from closing it again.

Located four miles southwest of Hatch, the Mammoth Creek State Fish Hatchery was closed in spring 2002 after whirling disease was discovered in the hatchery. (Whirling disease is caused by the parasite Myxobolus cerebralis. The parasite can cause deformities, or even death, in the fish that it infects. Whirling disease does not affect humans, however, and fish that are infected with whirling disease are safe to eat).

Over the past two years, the hatchery has undergone major renovations and construction to prevent the parasite from entering the hatchery again. Metal buildings now cover the outside fish rearing ponds and a new water filtration building has been added.

Production could increase to 600,000 fish in 2007

The Mammoth Creek hatchery will contribute close to 250,000 fish to Utah's lakes and streams in 2006, with 20,000 of those fish going into Panguitch Lake, which was recently treated to remove Utah chubs.

The hatchery should be back to full production by 2007, producing between 400,000 to 600,000 fish. Most of those fish will be stocked in southwestern Utah, but splake raised at the hatchery will be placed in waters across the state. (Splake are a cross between a brook trout and a lake trout).

Because of an ongoing biosecurity risk, the hatchery will remain closed to the public except for limited, prescheduled school tours. The hatchery still offers a kiosk that explains how the hatchery operates, however, and a picnic area and a restroom are available to those who want to visit the area and enjoy the beauty of Mammoth Creek Canyon.

State-of-the-art hatchery

After whirling disease was discovered in the hatchery in spring 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey performed water dye-tracer studies in fall 2002 and fall 2003. The USGS concluded that the hatchery's spring source was being contaminated by water from the adjacent Mammoth Creek drainage.

After the discovery was made, a new state-of-the-art water filtration plant was built to purify the water and prevent whirling disease from entering the hatchery again. The filtration plant consists of a two-stage system that incorporates drum filters and ultra-violet reactors, much like the ones used in water treatment plants across the country.

In addition to helping insure whirling disease doesn't enter the hatchery, treating the water also reduces the risk of bacterial and viral pathogens entering the hatchery that can infect hatchery fish.

The new metal buildings that enclose all of the outside fish rearing ponds and raceways act as a secondary line of defense, helping prevent possible contamination of the hatchery by environmental factors and helping keep birds and mammals from preying on the hatchery's fish.