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Bellingham
Sunday, April 5, 2020

MISSING: Fairhaven pond fish

Illustration by Erasmus Baxter.

On April 4, fish from the Fairhaven pond were stolen during the annual pond drainage and maintenance process. The students who stole the fish were worried the fish wouldn’t survive.

Sophomore Chloe Madara was in Fairhaven during the incident, although she didn’t see everything from the beginning.

Her friends saw water draining out of the pond and began scooping out fish into plastic containers because they saw them flopping around in the mud, Madara said.

“[Later on], me and a few of my other friends borrowed some aquarium equipment from someone so we could try and make sure [the fish] would be okay while they were in the recycling containers,” Madara said.

Madara also said other people took fish home in various containers.

The fish her friends took were returned to the pond, Madara said, and everyone else she knows returned the fish in their possession as well. She does not know where the missing fish have gone since then, as there are significantly less fish in the pond now.

Lead gardener Heidi Zeretzke oversees landscaping and maintenance for Western’s campus. Standard maintenance and drainage procedure in the Fairhaven complex involves an annual cleaning, she said.

“The fish were not in danger. We do this every year and we knew what we we’re doing. It should be a learning lesson for those involved that you need to talk to somebody first.”

Heidi Zeretzke, lead gardener for Western

“We’ve never had an issue before with anybody complaining or taking it upon themselves to remove the fish,” Zeretzke said.

During annual cleaning, the fish in the pond are removed and stored safely in a container. Once the pond is cleaned out, the fish are placed back where they belong.

Resident advisers and resident directors began the process of disciplinary action, and the resident director wrote a report on the incident.

Although the students intentions were in the right place, it’s not the job of any student to take university procedures into their own hands and take control of the situation, Zeretzke said.

“They’re taking state property that’s not theirs, and that’s not okay. And not all the fish have been returned,” Zeretzke said.

Zeretzke’s advice for future concerns any students may have regarding Western’s maintenance policies are to ask before taking action.

“The fish were not in danger. We do this every year and we knew what we we’re doing. It should be a learning lesson for those involved that you need to talk to somebody first,” Zeretzke said.

Consequences regarding disciplinary action are handled by the resident directors but not directly by the maintenance staff. Any questions regarding university policies and how they’re handled must be directed to the right department to make sure accurate measures are taken and no further harm is done, Zeretzke said.

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