Oily discharge from aquaculture support vessel contaminates lobsters in Hermitage harbour

Many seafood buyers in Newfoundland and Labrador store live lobsters in crates like the ones pictured here until it's time to move them to market. Some 8,000 pounds of lobster being stored in the harbour in Hermitage by Ocean Choice International was contaminated by a discharge of oily bilge water from a nearby vessel.  (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)

A discharge of oily bilge water from an aquaculture support vessel docked in Hermitage has resulted in the contamination of live lobster that was being stored in crates in the harbour.

CBC News has learned that 8,000 pounds (3,628 kilograms) of lobster that had been purchased from local harvesters is no longer fit for the market following the release into the harbour Monday evening of between 15 and 20 litres of engine oil from a 21-metre vessel called Mabury.

The Mabury supports aquaculture operations by a company called Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture spokesman Joel Richardson blamed the discharge on a malfunctioning bilge pump. He said crew members noticed an oily sheen on the water and immediately shut down the pump and deployed spill containment equipment.

At the time, the vessel was docked at the community's main wharf, which is adjacent to the company's salmon processing plant in Hermitage.

Richardson said various regulatory agencies were notified of the spill and the situation has been contained. The vessel has been relocated from the wharf and is no longer leaking oil, he added.

Ocean Choice International was storing a large quantity of live lobsters in crates near the Mabury. The company says the lobster has been removed from the water but didn't explain how it was discarded.

"Cooke notified us in a timely manner," OCI spokesperson Cara Pike wrote in an email to CBC News.

When asked when Cooke will compensate OCI for the lost lobster, Richardson said, "I expect both parties have notified our insurance providers, so we're going through the appropriate steps with that."

Richardson described the spill as an "unfortunate incident."

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