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Dead fish along Eastern Shore caused by net tear on menhaden vessel, VMRC says

The net tear caused several thousand fish to spill into the water near Silver Beach, Virginia.

CAPE CHARLES, Va. — Author's note: The video above is about the seafood business in Hampton Roads. It aired on June 8.

A fishing net tear on board a vessel on Tuesday morning resulted in dead fish washing along the Eastern Shore, according to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).

The net tear happened around 11 a.m. Tuesday on a menhaden fishing vessel owned by Ocean Harvesters, a company closely tied with seafood company Omega Protein.

The tear caused several thousand fish to spill into the water near Silver Beach, Virginia. By Wednesday morning, people reported dead fish along the shore, carried by winds and tides.

The spill comes less than a year after Omega Protein spilled more than 400,000 dead menhaden fish into Hampton Roads waters, something the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) criticized as an "environmental failure."

RELATED: VMRC: 400,000 dead fish spill into Hampton Roads waters

Fish spills happen when large nets are used to scoop up large schools of menhaden, according to the CBF. Anytime the nets tear, though, they result in major fish spills.

Credit: Photo: Christi Medice
A picture shared by Christi Medice, who lives in Silver Beach, Virginia.

Of the 14 reported spills between 2018 and 2022, only two occurred in the Chesapeake Bay and the remaining happened while fishing in the ocean, according to VMRC.

After the spill on Tuesday, VMRC law enforcement and staff from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were in the area to assess the situation. Ocean Harvesters moved equipment to the area to begin removing any fish from the beaches, VMRC said.

Anyone who finds large quantities of dead fish floating or dead on the beach is asked to contact VMRC dispatchers at 757-247-2265 or 757-247-2266.

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