Over 10,000 fish killed near Kiptopeke during menhaden fishing incident

Watchful Eye

Ocean Harvesters, the fishing operation for Omega Protein, estimates that over 10,000 fish were killed as a result of its July 25 fish spill offshore near Kiptopeke, VA, a document shared by Delegate Tim Anderson reveals.

On that Monday in July, Ocean Harvesters’ R/V Fleeton was attempting to haul menhaden onto the boat when the captain noticed that there were red drum in the net as well. Hoping to allow those fish to swim away, he called for the catch to be released. However, the next day dead fish started washing ashore.

Ocean Harvesters deployed eight boats to conduct a water-based cleanup, and called in a contractor to clean the beaches, the document notes.

Red drum are a protected species, and the dead fish collected from the waters were taken back to the plant in Reedville where Omega Protein is based. Staff from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission sampled the specimens at the facility on July 27. They collected information, including length, sex, and age. The length information was used to estimate individual weights from length weight keys, the document explains.

However, the “final estimates” that were reported were provided by Ocean Harvesters, which proffered that the fish spill included 10,000 menhaden weighing 6,700 pounds and 275 red drum weighing 12,000 pounds.

In the Facebook post where Anderson shared the document, he described the fish as “recklessly killed.” He also places blame on the fishing operation being “too close to the shore.”

According to a joint statement from Omega Protein and Ocean Harvesters, the fishing vessel was only about 1 mile offshore when the incident occurred.

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