Conservationists are concerned after a large number of dead herring were found dumped in the water off Vancouver Island.
The group Conservancy Hornby Island said they received an anonymous tip on March 18 that a fishing boat had dumped thousands of dead herring at the public dock in Deep Bay, north of Nanaimo.
They sent a diver down to gather footage and found what looks to be thousands of fish on the ocean floor.
It is not yet known who is responsible, but the group said witnesses told them it was done after a packing vessel had refused the boat’s catch.
“Every single one counts,” Rebecca Benjamin-Carey, the videographer and campaigner with the conservancy group told Global News.
“Herring aren’t like salmon. They can spawn up to eight or nine times in their lifetime, and each time they lay about 20,000 eggs, so every single fish we saw — you multiply that times eight by 20,000, so the amount of fish that were sacrificed in that dump is disturbing, disgusting and really really disappointing.”
She said it looked like there was no attempt to hide the herring, which covered about a 30-feet-by-30-feet area of the ocean floor.
“Thousands of herring were just sitting at the bottom of the sea floor.”
The incident has critics of the herring fishery industry once again calling for a moratorium because of concerns about overfishing.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the dumping is illegal and it is investigating.
The conservancy group just held the fifth annual HerringFest, where they educate the public about the importance of herring and preserving their habitat.
Benjamin-Carey said herring are food for every species of wildlife that lives around Hornby Island.
“I did bring some of the fish up to see if they had their roe in them. And they did. A lot of the fish still had their roe sacks so it was confusing as to why they would be turned away off the packing ship.”
She added there used to be five viable herring spawn on the coast but now they are down to just one.