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Summer is right around the corner! That means it’s finally time to go to your local lake or river or – even hop on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico – and have a relaxing fishing day. It’s always a great feeling when you catch a big fish and are able to take it home for dinner, but what do you do with all the waste that piles up while you clean your catch? Whether you work at a marina or a park that has fish cleaning buildings or just want to clean your fish at home, there are few things you should keep in mind when it comes to disposing of fish waste.

When cleaning all the fish you caught, you usually have leftover parts like heads, tails, scales, and internal organs – gross! It was once common to dump all the leftover fish parts back into the lake, river, or ocean from which you caught the fish. However, by dumping this fish waste back into the water we are depleting the oxygen and increasing the nutrient load – essentially overloading the ecosystem. This practice has now been banned to protect not just our bodies of water but also our health, as well as animals’ health.

If you are a marina owner that has fish cleaning buildings or simply just a fisherman cleaning his catch at home in a sink with pressurized water plumbed to it, you are going to need to treat the waste that is produced from that sink.

That being said, it is generally recommended to not use sinks that are connected to a septic system. Fish waste going down the drain to your septic tank raises the concern of damaging your system altogether. 

One solution is to insert fitted drain screens in your sink, however, even this doesn’t resolve the problem fully. Even with a drain screen, small scales and other debris from fish cleaning may still slip through to your septic tank.

With all of that being said, the safest and most efficient way to dispose of fish waste is by composting it. The first step is to mix the high-nitrogen fish waste with coarse, high-carbon dry materials like shavings, wood chips, leaves, branches or bark. The microorganisms in the pile feed on the waste and over time convert it into rich humus or soil. During this process, the microorganisms generate heat that reduces pathogens in the waste, eliminating odor, disease organisms and destroying weed seeds.

Here are some options to get started with composting fish remains:

  • Determine if there is a commercial composting operation available in your area – commercial composting is a large-scale composting operation that usually serves an entire city or region. This type of composting usually helps to divert more food waste from landfills as people are more likely to drop off their scraps rather than maintain their own compost pile. 
  • If you can’t find a commercial composting operation in your area or you don’t want to pay the fee for commercial composting, you can do it yourself at home by using an underground compost setup – composting underground removes the production of odor or attracts pests. To compost your fish remains underground, dig a hole about 18 inches deep. Fill the hole with 6 inches of scaps, and then cover the scraps with 12 inches of soil.
  • If you can’t do either of these options, you can try composting fish remains in an enclosed composter – to do this, you should always use a fully enclosed composter, like a plastic tumbler-style model. The fish remains can be added in moderation to these compost piles, and keeping them enclosed will prevent the intrusion of pests. The odor will be harder to mitigate, but it will be controlled to an extent.

Don’t let fish waste ruin your septic system this summer. Dispose of fish waste correctly – start composting today!

Crews Environmental is the leading company for septic services in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. We are available 24/7 for any emergency pump-out needs! Call us today at 239-347-0644 to schedule a same-day appointment!

We offer both residential and commercial septic services!

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