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Wasted fish found near holes in the ice
Department of Fisheries and Oceans finds piles of evidence of illegal activity

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some winter anglers are picking and choosing what to keep when pulling fish out of the hole, leaving the undesirables behind.

NNSL photo/graphic

Carla Neuman, conservation and protection officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Inuvik, shows some of the wasted fish they found at fishing holes around Inuvik. Last time officers visited the site, there were piles of whole fish, or fish left without eggs or livers. - Samantha Stokell/NNSL photo

Fish wastage is illegal and Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers have found piles of unused fish around the Mackenzie Delta. The wasted fish are usually whole pikes or burbots with only eggs and liver removed.

"People have gone out fishing and we receive complaints about wastage. They're usually fishing at the time or cabin owners. They don't want to be blamed for it," said Terry Stein, field supervisor for the conservation and protection division of Fisheries and Oceans. "We get complaints about wastage throughout the year, but the peak is in early winter because more people are fishing."

During a routine patrol in late November, Stein found two large piles of fish left behind by fishing holes on the river. Fishermen had rejected over 30 pike, while near an abandoned campfire, a pile of the same number of burbots had just the eggs and liver removed. Stein said those fish are rejected because they likely have a preference for coney or whitefish, also commonly found in the delta.

Wasting fish that are caught is illegal under fisheries regulations, and anyone found wasting fish suitable for human consumption could be charged. They would then have to attend court, where a judge would decide their fate.

Violations under the federal Fisheries Act carry with them possible sentences of up to $500,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both for first offence.

"When people come in and complain, they're upset because they could have used the fish or know someone who could, like an elder who can't get out," Stein said. "It's illegal and it does have an impact on the fish population."

Stein said in the past there have been cases where several hundred fish have been wasted over a season enough to fill up the beds of pick-up trucks. He hopes that, with education, fish won't be wasted over the remainder of the season this year.

If people catch a fish they don't want, Stein said it's difficult for them to release the fish back in the water because the eyes and gills usually freeze as soon as they're out of the water. If that's the case, people should still take the fish and give them to family or friends, or even dog mushers.

"Everyone has a role to ensure wastage is stopped," Stein said. "People can report to DFO or talk to people."

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