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    NNSL Photo/Graphic

    From left, fisheries officers Steve Schmidt and Brian Round stand with 232 char discovered abandoned on the banks of the Sylvia Grinnell River, near the falls, on August 13. - photo courtesy of DFO -

    Dead fish piling up in Iqaluit

    Herb Mathisen
    Northern News Services
    Published Monday, August 25, 2008

    IQALUIT - The banks of the Sylvia Grinnell River in Iqaluit is a popular destination for Iqalummiut seeking to partake in their hobby of choice: fishing.

    But fishing enthusiasts might find the rocky shore crowded lately with all the snagged char thrown carelessly ashore.

    On Wednesday, Aug. 13, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) received a phone call from a member of the public reporting hundreds of char wasted at the Sylvia Grinnell River waterfalls.

    Officers answered the call and found 232 char strewn among the rocks by the falls.

    That number has since doubled.

    "DFO staff have collected over 500 char since this incident was first reported," said Stefan Romberg, acting area director for the Eastern Arctic Area office of the DFO, on Tuesday.

    "These were only fish that we found," he added. "There are other fish that we can see that have been thrown back into the river."

    There are no suspects and, other than the initial report, officials have not heard from witnesses.

    Romberg suspects nets had not been used to catch the char, which are migrating back into the Sylvia Grinnell at this time of the year.

    "These are all fish that have been snagged," he said.

    Currently, fisheries officers are doing two patrols a day at the river, making sure sport fishers have licences and are not taking more than they are allowed. Non-beneficiaries are entitled to take one char at the Sylvia Grinnell River and surrounding areas in a 24-hour period. They presently fall under the Northwest Territories Fishing Regulations.

    Inuit beneficiaries, on the other hand, are permitted to fish as much as they need to harvest.

    Romberg said the DFO has been working with the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Organization as well as the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board to try to curb the wasting of fish.

    There was also wasted char around the river last year, he said. Romberg said he was not sure what the potential impacts would be to the char population, with the significant number of discarded fish.

    "That's one thing that I'm trying to work with our science people," he said. "What is the impact? It is a concern to us."

    Once department officials are done with the char, they are given away among the community.

    "We document all char that DFO collects and then they are given away to people if they want them or they are used to feed dogs."