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No reason cod need to die

Fishing derby reveals unfortunate practice
Stewart Burnett is editor of Kivalliq News. Photo courtesy of Stewart Burnett

Before I start, a warning: this is all going to be a very southerner, pearl-clutching column. I don’t like to do that, but I like fish more, and what I saw last week disturbed me.

As I was watching fish brought to the measuring table and assessed during the Rankin Inlet fishing derby, I noticed one person bag up their fish, head toward the green garbage bin next to me, ask generally if this was the place to put them, and then dump the fish in the garbage.

Dumbfounded, I continued watching as several more people went directly from the measuring table with their cod to throwing them in the garbage.

I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt that maybe the bin was going to be sorted through after and the cod used for something. It was filled with other trash, so I recognized that would be an odd method for collecting them. I returned the next morning and saw the bins still full.

Through talking to people, I learned that fish are often disposed of during the derby for a couple of reasons: one is when fish go bad in the time between being caught and measured, as there could be a couple of days elapsed; the other reason is that cod caught in the bay, where many people were fishing, are said to not be fit for consumption because of the town’s sewage spilling into the area.

At a foundational level for both points, I hope people can agree that fish don’t deserve to die for a contest, and if they are dying purely for a contest, then there should be changes made to avoid that. I am not a conniosseur of fish derbies, but I understand that life loss is rather common during them, so it’s not an issue related exclusively to Rankin Inlet.

But though cod caught in the bay may not be fit for consumption, that doesn’t explain why it’s okay to kill them for a fishing derby.

I grew up on the ocean, fishing every and all summer, and I absolutely love fish. I have caught and eaten many fish from the west coast of Canada, and I have seen the effects of overfishing and lack of respect first hand.

So when I saw these cod being thrown out, I was truly heartbroken. Catching fish just to measure to try to win a contest is no reason to take a life. It shows a disregard for wildlife, the environment, the land, Mother Nature. Just because we can’t eat those fish doesn’t mean they deserve to die.

If changes to the derby in the future are possible to avoid this, that would surely make it a more humane event. Fishing is perhaps the best family time of all and it’s a fantastic thing that people are encouraged to fish here. If we could have that family time while avoiding undue loss of life, everyone would win.