Search for vandals who caused 5,700 coho salmon deaths

Nearly 6,000 coho salmon have died at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery in Beulah and state officials say all signs point to a careless act of vandalism. The situation has not only prompted the fish hatchery to increase security at the facility but it's also sparked an investigation to find those responsible.

Northern Lower Peninsula fish production manager Edward Eisch says, ''Disgust and disappointment I would say, a lot of effort went into raising those fish and they were sacrificed to stupidity."

When Platte River State Fish Hatchery staff arrived at work the morning of Friday October 5th, they saw a disturbing sight, nearly 5,700 coho salmon, all dead.

Eisch says, "They saw down at the maturation pond, they could see bellies of the dead fish. It was sort of down toward the tail end of the race way, virtually the entire pond was dead."

So how did this happen? Eisch says all signs point to a late-night act of vandalism. He explains, "we believe they were trying to snag some fish out the pond, we found a couple of the very large travel hooks and heavy line. as it appears the fish were forcibly crowded into a small area which blocked water flow through the screens and created conditions in which the dissolved oxygen concentrations became lethal."

in 45 years, Eisch says they've never had this happen at the facility and it could have had horrible consequences. He says, "We would have potentially no fish to stock for spring of 2014, so that means all those guys who like chasing coho salmon would not be able to that year and that's literally and millions of dollars industry."

Fortunately this year there was an above average coho salmon spawning run, which means they still should be able to harvest plenty of eggs.

And although they dodged a bullet, they still have beefed up security and now they're actively searching for information on the incident. They're not releasing what new security measures are in place, because that could make the measures less effective.

If you do have any information you can call the RAP hotline at 1-(800)-292-7800.

The coho salmon carcasses were salvaged for use in the fish meal industry by a company called the American-Canadian Fisheries Inc.