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Man faces millions in potential fines after pouring chemicals into hatchery tank, killing thousands of salmon: 'What would possess someone to do something like this?'

"This is unacceptable."

"This is unacceptable."

Photo Credit: iStock

A man in Oregon has been arrested for pouring bleach into a hatchery tank, killing 18,000 salmon that would have been released into the wild in June to live out their life cycle. 

According to the Guardian, the 20-year-old Oregon resident who broke into the hatchery admitted to police that he bought the bleach. People are reacting to this senseless act on Facebook because of the harm it will cause local communities and wildlife. 

The Winchester Bay Salmon Trout Enhancement Program, also known as Step, is one of 200 programs along Oregon's rivers that raise baby salmon in a controlled environment. 

These salmon were Chinook salmon, Oregon's state fish. Once released in the wild, they would have traveled to Alaska. They are hatched in freshwater and spend a year there before journeying to the ocean.

Programs like these are vital because human development has caused almost 40% of salmon to go extinct. The programs help provide food for endangered killer whales, which only eat fish and already don't have enough salmon to eat. 

While salmon is also a significant economic source for local Alaskan communities, there are debates about whether people should eat it anymore. People can eat other food, but the whales need it to survive. 

These salmon are also a way of life for the Indigenous people in Alaska, who have fished them for thousands of years, but there are no longer enough salmon for them to fish.

One Facebook user posted: "What would possess someone to do something like this?" 

Another Facebook user commented: "This is unacceptable. This person needs to be found and held accountable."

The man in question was arrested on charges of criminal trespass, second-degree burglary, and criminal mischief. 

Since these salmon are endangered, killing them carries a high penalty — up to $750 per fish. If he is fined for every fish, he could be fined more than $13 million. 

Sergeant Levi Harris of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said: "The killing of these fish is a real blow to the STEP Program Volunteers, ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), fishermen, and the community as a whole. In my 25 years as a game warden, this is one of the most senseless acts I have seen."

It is every person's responsibility to educate themselves on how to interact with nature and wildlife in a respectful manner in order to protect our ecosystems. In addition to not harming them, people can do their part to prevent things like plastic pollution from entering waterways and their habitats, including switching to reusable water bottles and ditching plastic grocery bags

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