Medicine Hat area angler warns about litter after catching fish choked by plastic

By James Wood -- CHAT TV Medicine Hat
November 1, 2017 - 5:44pm

MEDICINE HAT - Adam Turnbull wants to see less litter in the South Saskatchewan River.

Turnbull had a close look at the impact of human garbage on the river wildlife this past Saturday. He regularly fishes off the riverbank in Strathcona Park in Medicine Hat, and on the weekend, he reeled in a pike which had been disfigured by a piece of plastic tightly wound around it’s body.

According to Turnbull, the fish had fought normally on the way in, and he noticed what appeared to be a large wound on it’s body. While he initially thought it had been attacked by another fish, he soon found the wrapper from an energy drink had gotten caught on the pike’s body.

After documenting the injury, he cut off the wrapper with a pair of scissors, placing the fish back in the water. It swam away “like a dart” according to Turnbull.

“I was honestly blown away that a fish could even survive like that,” said Turnbull.

“I was also pretty sad that a human put this fish in trouble, when realistically it never could do that same to us, or realize what it was getting itself into when it went into the wrapper.”

Turnbull said he had called a biologist to see if the fish would survive after the injury, and was told the location of the injury wouldn’t kill the animal. He also said the pike was likely a local fish.

CHAT Television reached out to Lesley Peterson, a biologist with Trout Unlimited in Calgary. Peterson speculates the fish likely swam through the plastic when it was a smaller size, which constricted the growth in the middle of the body. “Any time you have garbage in the water, it has potential to cause a negative effect on the ecosystem,” she said. Peterson adds the plastic could have had impact on its daily lives, including impacting its swimming ability. “It certainly could leave them more vulnerable to predation or limit their ability to forage as well,” she said.

After Turnbull encountered the injured animal, he shared his experience on his personal Facebook page, where it has since garnered more than 12,000 shares. Turnbull is happy with the attention, and indicated he wants people to be mindful of the impact they have on the environment.

“If you look at the size of the wrapper, it’s so small,” said Turnbull.

“You may think that your tiny little piece of plastic may blow away, and bio degrade, but it not. it’s going to affect something, like killing some grass or killing an animal. Something so small can be avoided so easily.”

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