Around two million pink salmon carcasses could be dumped into the ocean off Alaska because large numbers of fish at the Valdez hatchery have overwhelmed processors.

The Solomon Gulch hatchery, operated by the non-profit Valdez Fisheries Development Association, releases 120 million pink salmon fry into the ocean each spring and expects most fish not to return 18 months later. The hatchery expected around 9.9 million to return this summer. Instead, around 20 million pink salmon are estimated to have returned, reported The Associated Press.

Processors have struggled to cope with the glut of fish, which are losing their colour and quality as they remain in waters around the hatchery.

State officials have issued an emergency rule allowing some salmon to be stripped of their valuable roe before being dumped in the sea. This process is normally illegal, but in this case the officials felt it was prudent to allow fisherman and processors to get some value from the fish before dumping the carcasses.

“This is hardly how we do business on an ongoing basis,” David Bedford, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Fish and Game, was quoted by AP as saying. “But it’s a bumper crop of fish that we didn’t expect to show up. We relaxed the restrictions to avoid Lord knows how many salmon washing up on the local beaches.”