An Alberta man who turned a fishing surprise into a cautionary tale on social media says he wants people to realize that even small pieces of litter can have a massive impact on the environment.
Adam Turnbull, a 28-year-old cabinet maker and avid fisherman in Medicine Hat, Alta., had been fishing in Strathcona Park over the weekend when he hooked a Northern Pike. Upon seeing it, he initially thought the fish had gotten a chunk bitten out of it by another.
Upon closer inspection, Turnbull found it had actually gotten a Powerade wrapper stuck on its body. The piece of plastic had constricted part of the fish while the rest of it continued to grow.
Turnbull told HuffPost Canada he cut the wrapper off using a small pair of fishing scissors, revealing the fish's red and raw midsection.
After taking photos, he placed the fish back in the water, where it kicked free and swam away.
Examples of animals getting hurt by plastic debris aren't uncommon, but Turnbull said this encounter was an eye-opener.
"It just pounded into my head a little bit more to clean up after myself," he said. "I'm usually really good about that, I tend to pick up any garbage that I see [lying] on the shoreline but I mean it's just kind of heartbreaking to see that."
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Turnbull shared the photos with a few fishing groups on social media to see if anyone else had seen something similar.
He said some members asked him to post the photos on his personal page, so they could share them. Before he knew it, the post had gone viral, garnering more than 13,000 shares as of Tuesday evening.
"Pick up your garbage," he wrote in the post. "This is a Powerade wrapper which takes up no room in your pocket until you get to a garbage can."
Turnbull said he was surprised by how much the post had blown up, but is happy with the awareness it has spread.
He added that people probably didn't think long about tossing something as small as a wrapper away, but that a fish could end up living with it for years.
Turnbull said he was told by a biologist that the fish was lucky the plastic had gotten stuck where it did because it hadn't blocked off its stomach — which would have made digestion harder if not impossible.
If it had gotten stuck a little higher, the pike likely wouldn't have survived.
"Without that wrapper, he'll be able to thrive now is what I've been told. That makes me super happy," he said.
"I just want to drive it home. Don't throw your wrappers on the ground. Especially something that small that you could throw in your pocket and it's not going to take up any room."
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