An ocean transportation company says it has retrieved a tank trailer filled with liquefied fish after it was knocked into the water off Vancouver Island.
Billy Vaughn of Coastal Seatrucking says the silage was pumped into another tanker on Tuesday and the trailer was removed from the ocean near Campbell River, B.C.
Silage is a product made with dead fish broken down with acid and is commonly used in animal feed.
There is dispute about whether any product leaked from the tank.
Vaughn says “not a drop spilled into the ocean,” while a commercial diver says he swam through a pink cloud of biomatter while assessing the situation.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says heavy wave action on Monday caused the trailer to shift and roll off the deck of the landing craft, which is similar to a barge.
It says the Canadian Coast Guard attended the scene and no one was injured or required rescue.
The tank trailer came from Cypress Harbour, an aquaculture site owned by Cermaq Canada.
The department says the tank trailer remained afloat and was towed into Duncan Bay. The silage will be transferred to a land-based rendering facility, it says.
Photographer Tavish Campbell says he was out boating in the area when he came across the scene Monday.
“It’s a huge tanker trailer and it was half submerged with the oil boom around it,” he says.
Commercial diver James Lawson says he responded to a job posting seeking a diver to help in the recovery of something that had dropped overboard.
He says he didn’t expect the item to be so big, so when he arrived Monday, he did his own underwater assessment to determine if it was a safe job for one person.
Lawson says he decided it would require a bigger team and as he was swimming away, he says something was released from the tank.
“I swam through a released cloud of some kind of pink biomatter,” Lawson says.
Fearing a biohazard, he says he terminated the dive and asked for written confirmation about what was in the tank.
Lawson says a Cermaq employee pointed him to information about silage and told him it does not pose a safety concern.
The Department of Fisheries also says nothing spilled from the tank.
“It remained intact, afloat, and no spillage occurred,” it says in a statement released Tuesday.
The fish did not die from a disease mortality event, it says.
Under the department’s licensing conditions for fish farms, all facilities are required to collect, categorize, record, store and dispose of fish carcasses.
The licence requires procedures to be in place to prevent any contents from leaking into the surrounding waters while storing and transferring carcasses, it says.
“DFO is looking into this incident to ensure licence conditions have been followed,” it says in the statement.
By Amy Smart in Vancouver, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2019.