Fishy Business: Overturned Truck Spills 100,000 Salmon in Puzzling Accident


You may have read accidents that seem to be a bit strange, this is one of those stories. A semi-trailer overturned on a mountain highway in Oregon last Friday while taking a sharp corner. This truck’s kraken-up resulted in 100,000 Chinook Salmon spilling.

Officials said, “A tanker truck flipped in Northeast Oregon Friday, spilling over 100,000 salmon. The majority of the salmon landed in nearby creeks and survived to swim another day.”

According to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife release on Tuesday, the 53-foot truck that was carrying fish from the Lookingglass Hatchery in the state tipped over as it navigated a sharp turn.

The driver was able to escape with only minor injuries. Members of the Nez Perce Tribe, the Union County Sheriff’s Office, and members of a local egg hatchery assisted in the cleanup.

We’re glad that the truck driver was not seriously injured, although he may have come away with a bad haddock. He must be a dab hand at managing a big rig, especially since he was, apparently, the sole operator of the truck and trailer.

The hatchery that produced the fish raises salmon to be harvested in tribal waters and public waterways, to supplement native populations on the Imnaha River. The spilled fish represents only 20% of the intended fish, so while the accident is concerning, it does not pose a serious threat to the Imnaha River’s population. Staff at the hatchery have asked for time to decide if they can make up the loss, saying that they need to think about it.

More than 25,000 of the 102,000 Chinook spring smolts (young salmon) spilled out from the truck did not survive. About 77,000 of those smolts made it safely into Lookingglass Creek. This is a tributary to the Grande Ronde River.

It may lead to some great sporting opportunities. Serendipity doesn’t come any better than this. One cod may choose to forgo the bounty and pursue more traditional sports. After all, taking advantage of this spill could bring out the wrath of other hardcore anglers. As of this writing, the Oregon Department of Fish and Game has not yet announced any increase in intake limits in the Grande Ronde River to take advantage of the spill.

It’s unlikely that this spill could result in any augmented breeding population of Chinook salmon in the Grande Ronde River, as the freshwater-saltwater-freshwater cycle of salmon begins with their hatching in suitable waters and relying on specific water chemistry to find their way back when it’s time for them to breed; fish released as smolts probably won’t have that instinct triggered.