The Tisbury shellfish department, of which I am a seasonal employee, maintains a bait barrel next to the fillet table at the Lagoon Pond boat launch ramp for fishermen to discard fish carcasses. Fish waste discarded off the dock fosters bacterial growth, degrading water quality, and supports the crabs that feed on scallops and quahaugs.

The barrel cover is plainly labeled: fish only, no trash. The shellfish department regularly transports this bait barrel to the outer Vineyard Haven harbor to dump its contents.

On Monday, Sept. 18, the barrel was dumped overboard and food and lure wrappers, and empty Heineken beer cans came tumbling out. The trash had been hidden under a number of fish carcasses. We fished most of it, including a six-pack plastic ring (death for sea creatures), out of the water.

The Tisbury Department of Public Works maintains a trash container in the launch ramp parking lot. There is simply no excuse for this.

In addition, the Lagoon bait barrel, as well as a barrel at the Lake Street ramp in Tashmoo which I emptied Saturday, contained whole false albacore, one of the four eligible species in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. Because the false albacore has no table value, the derby sets a 25-inch minimum size to weigh in a fish and limits derby participants to three fish entries over the five-week contest.

Some consider false albacore, so-called trash fish, only suitable for lobster bait. But those who are familiar with the albie’s speed and strength hold this fish in much higher regard.

The notion that a dead albie will still be used for pot bait is not accurate. Depending on weather and other circumstances fish left in the bait barrels may not be picked out by lobster fishermen.

Check the online derby standings at If an albie is not close to being a contender please do your best to release it while it is still alive. These magnificent fish deserve a better fate than to be dumped dead into the bait barrel for me to dump.

Nelson Sigelman

Vineyard Haven