Originally Published by CBC, April 30, 2015
Video captured by a drone flown over a popular ice fishing area in Rothesay, N.B., has revealed the mess left behind on the Kennebecasis River.
A harsh winter of back-to-back snowstorms saw many of the 125 ice fishing shacks at Renforth Wharf frozen into place, leaving the owners unable to remove the structures before the ice started breaking up.
Now, the debris has started drifting into shore, upsetting some area residents like Bill Silliphant.
“Well if it lays on the beach, yeah it bothers me, because we go down to the beach and this will make a hell of a mess on the beach,” he said.
Silliphant, who has lived in the area for about seven years, says he has seen “bits and pieces” left over from the ice fishing season before, but never this much.
‘Very disappointed in the rubbish’
Rothesay Mayor Bill Bishop says he is “very disappointed in the rubbish that was left” and is looking into what the town can do to prevent the annual mess in the future.
“Unfortunately the water is under the [provincial] Department of Environment, so Rothesay really doesn’t have as much clout as we would like,” said Bishop.
“We’ve contacted them and I think another year they will be more diligent, or diligent in making sure the shacks are removed.”
Department of Environment spokeswoman Jennifer Graham says all of the shacks were supposed to be removed by March 15, under the Clean Environment Act.
“For the most part, people clean up after themselves and respect the environment. But every year there are a few who don’t,” Graham said in an emailed statement.
“We understand the severe winter conditions and significant ice build-up this year posed some problems for ice fishers in removing their structures. As such, there is more debris this year than in other years.”
She says those who don’t comply could face penalties. But proving who owns the broken up shacks could prove difficult.
Although the Clean Environment Act requires owners to post their name and address clearly on the outside of their shelters, the mayor says not everyone does.
Graham says the department is focused instead on raising awareness by working with the public and the local fishing associations.
Fishing association doing its best
Gary Gower, the president of the Renforth Ice Fishing Association, says he and others have been trying their best to clean up the site, estimating they have spent hundreds of hours doing so.
Gower says they plan to deal with the floating debris, but need to wait for the weather to improve so they can use boats to drag out what they can.
He had previously estimated almost three-quarters of the 125 shacks were frozen into the ice.
Due to several heavy snowfalls, volunteers didn’t get the ice cleared fast enough and the weight of the snow pushed the ice below the surface of the water.
So when holes were drilled for fishing, the water gushed up and flooded the shacks, freezing them into place.
Earlier this month, one shack was destroyed by fire and another one was damaged.
Fire officials originally thought people concerned about pollution from the spring thaw decided to torch the shacks to solve the problem.
But after speaking with local residents, they deemed the fires vandalism.