By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
An estimated 1,800 pounds of hagfish were killed, said owner Rodney Kim, owner of Olympic Coast Seafoods' hagfish tanks on a private pier north of The Landing mall at 115 E. Railroad Ave.
City crews turned off power to mall and the storage tanks for several hours while Port Angeles Fire Department crews extinguished the electrical fire.
Kim estimated the value of the dead fish at about $6,000.
“It's quite a bit to lose in one shot,” said Andy Inscore, an employee who was among those working at the business and checking the damage Thursday.
Inscore and co-worker B.J. Son said the hagfish, also called slime eels, likely died by suffocation while the power was off.
For comparison, Inscore said between 300 and 400 fish are typically lost when loads are transferred to or from a fishing boat.
Kim said Thursday the dead fish represent about one-third of the animals that were being kept there, adding that a relatively small amount of fish were there at the time.
Kim could not say what he might do to recover the cost.
“This is the first time [for] this situation, so I don't know,” he said.
The hagfish are offloaded at the Olympic Coast Seafood storage tanks, where they are prepped for a 5,000-mile trip to South Korea, where the fish are considered a delicacy.
Sarah Cronauer, widow of Paul Cronauer, whose estate owns The Landing mall, said Thursday the fire did not damage any other areas of the mall.
“The fire was totally contained to the [battery] storage area. We were up and running for business again that afternoon,” she said.
The fire started in a room built around banks of batteries that stored excess power to the building during low power usage and fed it back into the building during high-usage times. No specific cause of the fire nor a damage estimate was available Thursday.
At Olympic Coast Seafoods, the loss of power prevented fresh seawater and air from being pumped into the holding tanks, Inscore said.
Fresh seawater is circulated to keep the fish from getting stressed and producing thick, viscous slime that can suffocate them if enough is excreted.
Hagfish living in the wild produce the slime for which they're named to help escape from predators.
When the water pumps shut down that also lowered the water levels in the storage tanks, likely crushing some fish under their own weight, Inscore added.
Son said more could die of stress in the coming days.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.