Herring fishing industry representatives said a dumping incident in Deep Bay does not represent common fishing practice and claimed the quantity of discarded fish was exaggerated.
“Industry hired commercial divers to quantify the extent of the quantity disposed of,” reads a news release from Rob Morely, chair of the Herring Industry Advisory Board (HIAB). “While any fish being dumped is not tolerated, a claim of 45,000 fish being dumped is simply not true — the reality is about half a ton of fish, or less than 4,000 fish.”
Conservancy Hornby Island published a video showing the waste on the seafloor in Deep Bay Harbour on March 21 and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is currently investigating the incident.
Morley said HIAB fully supports the DFO investigation and he believes it is important for the public to know the actions of one does not represent the industry as a whole.
“It’s unfortunate that all it takes is this and we are all looked at as these evil rednecks that are out to kill every last herring,” said Josh Young, a gillnet representative on HIAB from Pender Harbour.
Conservancy Hornby Island said it received an anonymous email that said the dumping occurred after a packing vessel refused a load of herring, but Morely said the board is unaware of any packer refusing to buy fish.
“It is most likely that one or more gillnet fishers cleaned out a herring punt (skiff) and nets and instead of putting the small remaining catch onto a packer vessel, they disposed of the fish overboard,” he wrote.
Young said he does not know why the fishers would dispose of the herring the way they did.
“We are under the public eye all the time and it’s a struggle in all sorts of fisheries to keep going and it’s really disappointing that someone has done this, but also that the media has captured just that one side of the story and not really given us much of a chance to rebut,” he said.
The DFO said its investigation is ongoing and no further information has been released.