Staff at the Douglas Island Pink and Chum Inc.’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery are ready for another summer season — even if it will be a little different than past years.
According to DIPAC executive director Katie Harms, the indoor public spaces of the Ladd Macaulay Visitor Center will remain closed for the summer, including the rearing facility, touch tanks, aquariums and bear and bald eagle displays. The facility closed for public visits in the spring of 2020 as part of COVID-19 prevention.
“We hope to open in the fall,” Harms said.
She said that in December the board of directors decided to keep the doors shut for the summer so that cruise ship and travel package companies could plan around the closure and avoid having to process potential refunds.
Harms said people are welcome to visit all outside viewing areas, including the 450-foot fish ladder, the viewing window and to interact with the exterior signage.
According to DIPAC’s website, on-site “educational signage details the life cycle of Pacific Salmon and Alaska hatchery operations.” The signs explain the differences between the five species of Pacific Salmon. Informational posters located on the windows of the hatchery provide additional information.
The city’s sport fishing pier located next to the facility remains open and provides direct access to salmon returning to the hatchery. Nearby benches offer plentiful opportunities to see bald eagles. Seals often gather in the area as the salmon return.
In December, a landslide damaged a pipeline carrying freshwater from the Salmon Creek reservoir to the hatchery, severing its freshwater source and necessitating the destruction of some fish.
At the time, the Empire reported that all chinook pre-smolt, the majority of coho pre-smolt and all rainbow trout were destroyed to preserve water for the hatchery. Pre-smolt is a salmon in a developmental stage before smolt, which is the stage before adulthood.
In a phone interview last week, Harms said that there had been no significant additional losses stemming from the incident.
“We had some losses. But, the overall crisis averted,” she said.
Harms said that the facility maintained chum salmon production despite the incident and that staff had released those fish to the sea.
Season off to a slow start
Harms said it’s too early to make predictions about this year’s salmon return. But, the fish were slow to appear this summer.
According to a June 24 harvest update posted on DIPAC’s website, “chum catch numbers appear to be well below forecast for Lynn Canal and Taku Inlet after the first opener of the season. There have been a handful of trollers fishing homeshore the past week with a slow start to the season.”
A new update will be available on Thursday, July 1.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.