Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is investigating an alleged dumping incident in Deep Bay after a large mass of herring was found discarded on the seafloor beside the public dock.
“I wanted to get a closer look so I dove down and kind of saw more of the extent of what had been dumped. It was really disappointing. I can’t say exactly how many herring were there, I am not really sure but it was about a 30 by 30 foot area,” said Rebecca Benjamin-Carey, campaigner for Conservancy Hornby Island.
She said she went to Deep Bay on March 19 after the organization received an anonymous email saying a commercial herring boat dumped its load by the dock, after having the fish refused by a packer vessel. “It’s not anywhere inconspicuous — it is actually quite obvious where it is,” she said.
The DFO said it does not have any specific details about the issue and the investigation is ongoing.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to managing Pacific herring fisheries to ensure that there are enough herring to spawn and sustain the stock into the future and support the species’ role in the ecosystem,” said Alexandra Coutts, communications advisor for the DFO, in an email to Oceanside News.
She said commercial fishers are prohibited from dumping any catch that has been caught in accordance with the Fisheries Act from their vessel.
“The fish that we found — I opened them up and there were roe sacks still in them,” Benjamin-Carey said. “If they had gone on living would have been much more valuable to the ecosystem and they would continue to support the wildlife out there.”
Conservancy Hornby Island advocates for a moratorium on commercial herring fishing. Benjamin-Carey said the organization wants to see government implement a $100 million program to buy back fishing licenses and quotas and train fishermen in either different industries or new fisheries.
“We are not against the fisherman. This program would actually help them, so it is kind of like a win-win for everybody,” she said.
She said herring fishing is unsustainable and a lot of the fish is wasted. “That was the most disturbing part of this is, along with all the waste that is actually even processed from the fishery, it’s also just getting dumped in the bay,” she said.
The herring fishery in the Strait of Georgia closed last week. Benjamin-Carey speculated that the herring could have been turned down by the packing ship because they were not valuable, or it was too late in the season.
“I think the packing ship should have accepted it and it should have at least gone to the processing facility or been used for what it was being fished for,” she said.“ [The dumping] begs the question of how often does that happen? Because a lot of the times they do their transfers when they are out fishing, it’s not always at the dock.”
The DFO said anyone with information on contraventions to the Fisheries Act can call the toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.