Nova Scotia

Don't eat dead or dying herring washing up off Digby, warns CFIA

It's not clear what's killing the thousands of herring that have washed ashore in Digby and Annapolis counties.

It's not clear what's killing the thousands of fish that have washed ashore along the Bay of Fundy

The dead fish have been turning up since November. (Submitted by Joan Comeau)

Don't eat dead or dying herring washing up near Digby, N.S., warns the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In late November, thousands of herring began washing up on some beaches on along the Bay of Fundy near Digby.

Local resident Charles Thibodeau said he knows a few people who have been collecting the dying fish and eating them. 

"Some are just barely flippin' and people are gathering them up and eating the things," he told CBC's Information Morning.

"I know of two personally. I can imagine there's quite a few because herring is a good fish to eat and these ones on the beach are about seven or eight inches long and they look pretty good for the frying pan."

The CFIA is warning people not to eat those fish since it's not clear how they died.

"Dead or dying herring found on shore should not be collected, consumed or used by the public for any reason, as a variety of factors could affect the food safety of fish, such as toxins, diseases or environmental contaminants," the agency said in a statement. 

Dead fish and other aquatic creatures were discovered washed up on a beach in Plympton, Digby County on Boxing Day. (Eric Hewey)

Cause of herring deaths unknown

Despite a variety of tests performed on the fish, it's not clear what is causing the phenomenon. 

"Based on the testing that we've done to date, we haven't determined any indications of infections or infectious agents," said Doug Wentzell, regional director general for DFO on Wednesday. 

Wentzell said there is also no evidence to indicate toxins are responsible. 

On Boxing Day scores of dead herring, starfish, lobster, bar clams, crabs and scallops blanketed a beach below Savary Park in Plympton, N.S, adding to the mystery. Plympton is about 20 kilometres south of Digby. 

Earlier this month, DFO also tweeted a warning to people not to eat the dead or dying fish washing ashore. 

"Consumers should only purchase from licensed harvesters/sellers."

With files from Natalie Dobbin