Kent County chapter petition on dead herring crisis signed by 43,828 people

Dead herring on beach in Digby, Nova Scotia, December 26. Photo by Eric Bruce Hewey.

The Council of Canadians Kent County chapter has launched a petition on the dead herring crisis that has now been signed by 43,828 people.

Kent County chapter activist Ann Pohl launched the petition calling on federal Fisheries minister Domenic LeBlanc, Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil and New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant to address the issue of herring die-offs.

The Canadian Press has reported, "Tens of thousands of dead herring keep washing ashore along Nova Scotia's western coastline, a mystery for biologists trying to figure out what is killing the small, silvery fish. Herring are known as a forage fish, which means their large schools play an important roll in feeding whales, seabirds, seals and larger fish, such as cod. Retired veterinary pathologist [Ted Leighton] has compiled more than 40 sightings of dead herring since late November, to shed light on an ecological puzzle that has stumped the scientific community. The herring deaths were cause enough for concern, Leighton said, but now that new species have surfaced dead on a beach in Digby County [including starfish, clams, lobsters and mussels]."

On Thursday a dead whale also washed up on Nova Scotia's western coastline.

Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported, "Scientists have yet to find a cause for the massive fish kill off southwestern Nova Scotia, but one federal official said he doesn't think there is a reason to be concerned based on testing so far. Kent Smedbol, manager of population ecology for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), said Friday that while the lack of an obvious cause is 'perplexing', he doesn't personally believe there is need for concern at this point. Smedbol said that to date scientists have not turned up evidence of disease, parasites or toxins, and nothing has 'stood out' in the physical examination of the fish and other marine life."

This morning, Pohl commented, "Other opaque and evasive comments were made [at this DFO media conference] while admitting they have no idea of the cause."

Pohl's petition says, "We petition Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Premier McNeil and Premier Gallant to call a joint public conference with concerned citizens and the media, to provide updates regarding the herring die-offs, and to indicate steps that will be taken immediately to improve transparency, collaboration, reporting, and resourcing between citizens and frontline DFO staff."

The petition highlights, "What is killing the herring? The potential sources are many, and include parasites, viral and bacterial pathogens, domestic pollution, fracking wastes, industrial dumping of highly toxic black liquor, radionuclide releases, agricultural sprays, forestry sprays, ocean warming, acidification, forage species reduction, ship bilge releases, a newly installed tidal energy turbine, and many other possibilities. Is it land-based, sea-based, or related to industrial activities somewhere around the Bay? Please join us in urging a new approach to the management of our ocean resources that actively involves the responsible authorities AND the public at large."

The petition specifically demands:
1- Immediately create a publicized open website where concerned citizens can post abnormal marine events in real time. The website must also provide continuing updates of test results as and when they are available, protocols followed, background information, etc.
2- A voice hot line is essential for the people in our rural areas who do not use computers regularly.
3- Water tests, exploratory dives and other crucial investigatory steps must not be ignored due to lack of personnel or funds. DFO needs proper resources. As well, in many instances, problems could be resolved by DFO working closely with volunteer retired professionals, divers and fishers.

To read Pohl's article What’s Happening to the Humble Herring?, please click here. To add your name to the petition, click here.