Reedville, VA

Omega Protein's fishing contractor reports second dead fish cleanup in Virginia waters

Watchful Eye

This week, Omega Protein’s fishing contractor, Ocean Harvesters, was faced with its second dead fish cleanup within a month.

Omega Protein is a company based in Reedville that produces products made from menhaden. Ocean Harvesters holds a contract to catch the menhaden.

On Monday, July 25, an Ocean Harvesters’ fishing vessel was about 1 mile offshore of Kiptopeke State Park in Cape Charles, the companies explained. The crew was attempting to bring a net of menhaden aboard the boat when the captain noticed that there were red drum in the net.

When a commercial fishing operation nets an unintended species, it’s known as bycatch. It’s company policy, according to the statement, to immediately release a harvest with bycatch, and that’s what the captain instructed the crew to do.

“The crew observed that many fish swam away [after the release], but the captain acknowledged that many fish likely died during the incident,” the statement said.

“We quickly developed a strategy for retrieving any fish floating in the water or washing ashore in the area. By early morning today [Tuesday, July 26], additional fishing vessels and crewmembers from our fleet were on site and working to remove any fish floating in the water,” the statement added.

The companies also called in a third-party emergency response crew to help remove dead fish that washed ashore.

“We acknowledge the impact and inconvenience Monday’s incident may have on the Eastern Shore community and will continue to focus our collective efforts on the situation until it is remedied. We anticipate that most fish will have been removed by nightfall. However, our fishing vessels will anchor offshore overnight to monitor the situation at sunrise. Should more fish appear in the morning, our fishermen will be there to continue the cleanup," the July 26 statement also said.

The companies called the red drum incident "a rare event" and added, "we have no record of an incident of this kind occurring in the recent past."

They attribute "the most likely explanation" as being a situation in which a school of red drum swam beneath a school of menhaden, making them unobservable to the spotter pilot who notifies the fishing boat when and where there are schools of menhaden.

Thousands of dead fish in Silver Beach

Earlier this month, Ocean Harvesters was responsible for thousands of dead fish washing ashore in Silver Beach, also located on the Eastern Shore.

This incident was a fish spill that resulted from a net that tore while a fishing crew was working in that area on July 5, reported 13 NewsNow.

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