Omega Spills 25,000 Menhaden 25,000 Dead Fish Wash Up on Hampton Beach

From the Virginian Pilot Online

HAMPTON
By Cindy Clayton
The Virginian-Pilot
August 4, 2010

Omega Protein is working to clean up thousands of  menhaden floating up in the waters off Hampton and onto the beaches in the Buckroe area.

About 75,000 fish spilled Monday from nets being used by the company’s vessel Kimberly about 4½ miles off Grandview Nature Preserve, said Ben Landry, a spokesman for Omega, which was operating the nets.

The company estimated that about 25,000 fish washed up along a five-mile stretch of shore in Hampton.

After the fish fell from the net, they sank to the bottom, which is common in a net accident, Landry said. Later on, they float to the water’s surface and are carried along by the tide.

“The captain indicated that he felt a tug or net tear while he was pumping the fish,” he said.

Officials from the company’s plant in Reedville are in Hampton investigating the cause of the spill, Landry said.

The beach is expected to be cleaned by the end of today, Landry said. A skimmer is gathering fish from the water at the direction of an aircraft. Crews have been contracted to pick up fish from the shore. Crews will return Thursday in case additional fish float up overnight.

“It’s our responsibility to clean it up and that’s exactly what we plan on doing,” Landry said.

Omega, based in Texas, processes the fish for its omega-3 fatty acids that are used in various products for humans and animals. The Reedville plant is located in the Northern Neck.

Omega reported the spill immediately to authorities, said Virginia Marine Resources Commission spokesman John Bull. He called the spill an accident that can happen when nets are being used.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s regrettable when it does,” Bull said.

There is no health hazard to anyone on the beach, he said.

“Dead fish stink, there’s no way around that. But dead fish washing up on shore is a natural thing, just not in these numbers.

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