Labrador salmon tag washes ashore in England

Derek Montague
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NunatuKavut Community Council issued tag in 2012

Adie Butler, from the Isle of Wight in England, holds the NunatuKavut Community Council’s Labrador salmon tag that he found during a beach cleanup.

Communities that live along the Atlantic Ocean have many stories to tell about things that randomly wash up on shore. Sometimes people put a message in a bottle and see where the ocean current will take it. Other times, a person may drop something into the water, only to have it end up in a whole new continent.

On Saturday, May 10, a volunteer beach cleanup crew from the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom, stumbled across an object that originated along the coast of Labrador.

The object was an orange plastic tag, which read “NCCFOODFISH2012” followed by the number “0104082.”

Adie Butler, a cleanup volunteer from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, was intrigued when he saw the object. Since it was clearly etched with a serial number, Butler wondered if he could trace the origins of the tag.

“It’s always interesting when you find something like this that’s traceable, to try and find out what it’s about and where it comes from,” said Butler.

“This one had a good description on it, and a serial number on the back, I thought there was a good chance in tracing it and seeing what it was and what it was for.”

The Isle of Wight, located to the south of England’s mainland, relies a lot on these beaches to attract tourists, who drive the local economy. But the beautiful shoreline has been getting its fair share of garbage washing up from the ocean. So Butler and others decided to start the volunteer cleanup crew to tackle the problem.

“The Isle of Wight is a real touristy destination. Most of the employment and the jobs on the island are tourist based,” said Butler.

“During the winter when I’m out collecting fossils in the rain and cold, I just notice the accumulation of litter that’s getting bigger and bigger. Most of the things you get down there are plastic bottles and, for some bizarre reason, shoes are quite common.”

When Butler sat down to try and trace the tag, he Google searched “NCCFOODFISH2012” but came up with nothing. But he then typed his search into Google Images and Bingo, up popped a picture that explained where the tag come from.

The picture showed NunatuKavut Community Council president Todd Russell holding up a bunch of orange salmon tags, the same colour as the object found on the Isle of Wight.

The picture was a The Labradorian online article headlined “Setting nets and precedents,” published in July 2012. The story describes the aboriginal group’s extension of the communal fishery into the Upper Lake Melville area that summer.

Butler than contacted The Labradorian to announce this amazing find.

The NCC allots salmon tags to its members for the communal fishery each year. When somebody catches a salmon, they put the tag through the fish’s gills in order to keep track of the number of salmon harvested.

When it’s time to prepare the fish for a meal, the tag is usually cut off and disposed of. Any tags that go unused are returned to the NCC. So how did this tag make its way from Labrador to England?

According to the NCC, the tag that was found at the Isle of Wight was designated to Harvey Brown, who lives in the coastal town of St. Lewis, back in 2012.

When contacted by The Labradorian, Brown theorized that a seagull must have taken it into the water. When he prepares his salmon, Brown usually cuts off the head, with the tab still attached. He then throws the fish head into the garbage or into his garden. A seagull could have easily gone after the salmon head for a meal.

“I didn’t lose any tags,” said Brown. “It could have been one that was already used … it probably got out from the dump … a bird might of took it, I don’t know how it might have gotten in the water.”

In an incredible coincidence, this isn’t the first time the Brown family had something of theirs travel across the ocean. In the early 90s, Brown’s son Trevor put a message in a bottle and let it drift out to sea.

Two years later they were contacted by the Rorik family in Norway, who found the bottled message while helping to clean wildlife after an oil spill.

“They were picking up birds, cleaning the birds. There was a tanker that lost oil over there … the young feller picked up the bottle with the note in it. We’ve been in touch off and on ever since,” said Brown.

“I don’t know it seems like they pick up all of our garbage over there.”

NCC President Todd Russell was astounded when he heard that a NunatuKavut salmon tag found its way across the Atlantic.

“It seems the tags are starting to follow the same migration path as the salmon,” joked Russell.

“That’s an extraordinary distance for, basically, a plastic tag to travel.”

Russell now ponders how often people overlook pieces of history along beaches and never think of figuring out what it is and where it came from.

“What’s interesting is somebody actually takes the time to associate that with our organization and a particular person back in Labrador. Most people wouldn’t even think to do that,” said Russell.

“How many times do you walk down a beach and see some debris and you just brush it to the side with your foot.”

After successfully tracing one piece of washed up garbage, Adie Butler is also keener on finding objects that may have story to tell.

“Since I found this, I did actually dash back down to the beach, where we put about 10 bin bags of rubbish. I was actually going to grab the 10 bin bags back, take them home and see if anything else was traceable. But when I got down there, the rubbish was gone.”

Organizations: NCC, Google

Geographic location: Isle of Wight, Labrador, England Atlantic Ocean United Kingdom Cowes Upper Lake Melville Norway

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Recent comments

  • Harvey Brown
    May 14, 2014 - 14:13

    The world is a lot smaller than you may think. This is amazing to see a small discarded plastic tag go across the atlantic ocean