600 pounds of live fish gone from Sunburst Trout Farms

Sunburst Trout Farms, a hatchery located 12 miles outside of Canton, has been robbed of 600 pounds of trout, according to co-owner Sally Eason.

The loss was detected this morning, Thursday, Sept. 30, when Eason’s crew went to “clear the raceway” (read, harvest the trout) for the day’s orders, Eason says. “We always know the count of what’s in what raceway,” says Eason, whose high-quality trout products like filets and roe are routinely sourced by local chefs and have have been featured in the pages of Gourmet Magazine.

Eason says the first clue that the business had been robbed was discovered yesterday morning. Making his usual rounds of the property, Eason’s husband found some large nets, some trout heads and entrails lying on the grass next to the water, she says. Figuring someone had jumped the fence, netted a couple of trout and cleaned them on the spot before making off with their bounty, the Easons dismissed the evidence. The extent of the loss was not realized until today, when Eason says the production manager got into the water and discovered that the entire harvest, save perhaps two dozen trout, had been stolen.

How does someone make off with the equivalent of three heavyweight-boxers of wriggling fish? Especially when the property is fenced, gated and locked? “Good question,” says Eason. “You could not possibly carry them from the raceways over the fence or gate. … I have so many questions, my head is whirring. It’s too intense. I haven’t felt anything like this since the fire; it’s reminiscent of that feeling.”

Eason is referencing a 2006 incident when a deliberately set fire ravaged her trout production facility. That August, thieves liberated almost 400 pounds of roe from the facility’s freezers, eggs that weren’t high-quality enough for distribution as caviar that Eason had saved to start a cosmetics line. The thieves allegedly piled the caviar into a truck, torching any remaining evidence on the way out — but first stopped to put some treasured photos of Eason’s father and Sunburst founder Dick Jennings out of harm’s way.

The police found this to be a little, well, fishy, and questioned the Easons extensively about the incident, before clearing them of all suspicion after finding them to be woefully — and quite unfortunately — underinsured.

Though unlikely, it’s entirely possible that the same criminal has targeted Sunburst once again, says Eason.

“The person who [started] the fire was never caught, and those people obviously had an inside track, too. I can’t imagine there would be a connection, but weirder things have happened, I guess,” says Eason.

She adds that the only evidence left behind, save the missing trout and nets, is a makeshift scoop that someone constructed out of a vinegar bottle for the purpose of scooping feed and throwing it to the fish to entice them to the surface — it seems the suspects knew what they were doing.

Eason says she’s contacted all local fishmongers and informed them of the theft, just in case the suspects are looking for a nearby place to unload several hundred pounds of fish.

Anyone with information connected to this incident is asked to call Sunburst Trout Farms at 648-3010.


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20 thoughts on “600 pounds of live fish gone from Sunburst Trout Farms

  1. unkjwea

    This sounds like one of their competitors, a former employee, or a customer. Average Joe Blow wouldn’t have a clue for how to accomplish this.

    Aside from Captain Renault’s approach in Casablanca when he says, “Round up the usual suspects”, they (the police) should request information from users of the products to determine who is filling in the gap while Sunbust Trout Farms is out of commission. They should question all other trout farms in the area to learn if they’ve come into an windfall and look at whether former employee’s of Sunburst or confidants have recently opened a business. They should also look at existing customers who have previously purchased large amounts of trout, examine their purchase history and see if they fail to make purchases for a couple of weeks or months, maybe they or one of their employees did this.

    By the way, I missed where the reporter gave the estimated “value” of the 600 pounds. Are we talking hundreds or thousands of dollars?

  2. Stewart David

    Hey Marissa,

    She didn’t go out to feed the fish, she went out to “harvest” them. That means kill them. I saw Ms. Eason on TV say that she felt “violated.” How do you think the fish would have felt when she chops their heads off? Now that’s what I call a violation.

    Numerous scientific reports from around the world confirm that fish feel pain. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to those of mammals; the researchers concluded that “fish do have the capacity for pain perception and suffering.”

    The argument that fish don’t feel pain because they are different than us is an argument of convenience. The same has been said about people who are “different.”

  3. stewart, i never mentioned a single thing about the ethical dilemmas facing harvesting fish. while i can respect your opinion on the matter, what i think must be considered is this woman’s livelihood because to me that is more important than the issue of ‘do fish feel pain.’

  4. Stewart David

    Hi Marissa,

    Obviously you have empathy for her, and I understand that. I was simply offering another point of view and a correction. She wasn’t going out to feed the fish, she was going out to kill them.

    The livelood of slaveowners was why many opposed abolition.

    Does a culinary preference to eat corpses outweigh another individual’s interest in not becoming one? Does might make right?

  5. yeah…i can’t compare slavery to eating fish. sorry, that is just not in the same school (get it? a school of fish??) of thought.

    but you’re preaching to the wrong crowd here…i love me some finned-food.

  6. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @ Stewart David: Does a culinary preference to eat corpses outweigh another individual’s interest in not becoming one? Does might make right?

    “Each of us at the table will eventually be part of the meal.”
    /Gary Snyder

  7. Stewart David

    Sure thing, Betty. So that means you’d support someone’s right to raise people to kill and eat them? Interesting perspective.

    Marissa, that’s funny. But really, isn’t all discrimination based on the same mindset? Here’s a quote to ponder:

    “The denial of rights to other animals by humans (speciesism) is analogous to the denial of rights to lesbians and gay men by heterosexuals (heterosexism). Both these forms of oppression derive from a prejudiced and chauvinistic mentality which devalues ‘difference’ and ‘otherness.’ Likewise, animals deserve rights for much the same reason that lesbians and gay men deserve rights. All human and non-human animals have a shared capacity for feelings. This recognition gives society the moral obligation to confer the right to be spared physical and psychological suffering on all animals, irrespective of their species, race, sex, class, disability or sexual orientation.”
    Peter Tatchell, cofounder of ACT-UP London and OutRage

  8. Stewart David

    “It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.”

    Peter Singer

  9. Piffy!

    anyone wonder if this was maybe some angry animal rights activists? They are known to force their morals on others in this sort of destructive way. What say you, Stewart? Do you think this action might have been a justifiable protest against the ‘fish industry’?

  10. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @ Stewart David (Tatchell): This recognition gives society the moral obligation to confer the right to be spared physical and psychological suffering on all animals, irrespective of their species, race, sex, class, disability or sexual orientation.

    Question: How many cells does a living organism (plant or animal) need to have in order to have “the right to be spared”? How far up the food chain?

  11. Stewart David


    I doubt it was the Animal Liberation Front, because it sounds like whoever took the fish killed them. And it sounds like it would have been difficult to move them and keep them alive. But if it was the ALF, and the fish are alive somewhere, that would be fine by me.

    Betty, it’s all about where you draw the line. We all decide for ourselves, or we follow the law of the land. Where I draw the line is that I don’t eat anyone who had a face, a mother, or a bowel movement.

    Most states specifically exempt “standard agricultural practices” from their cruelty statutes, no matter how violent and depraved the procedure. Animals routinely have their body parts (genitals, toes, ears, tails, horns, etc.) mutilated or severed while they are fully conscious, and no pain relief is provided. Most animals are crammed indoors and inside enclosures so tight they can’t turn around. Or, in the case of chickens, spread a wing. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act doesn’t apply to birds, who represent 98% of the animals slaughtered for food. And it’s seldom enforced for other animals. Countless animals are hacked apart while fully conscious or scalded alive.

    Most consumers support factory farms and slaughterhouses with their food dollars, which provides a sense that it must not be all that bad. Yet history if full of outrageous social injustices: evil can, indeed, be the norm. If you think I’m exaggerating, take a peek behind the closed doors that hide the institutionalized cruelty of food production by visiting http://www.meat.org. If you treated a dog or cat this way, you’d go to jail.

    This is my last post, I usually stay away from these forums. I only chimed in because I found it so interesting that Marissa felt such empathy for Ms. Eason. If someone goes out to feed their horse, and the horse was missing, I’d feel empathy. If they went out to kill the horse, I’d feel differently.

  12. JWTJr

    I bet the fish is on ice somewhere.

    Stewart, Why should I deny the digestive enzymes in my stomach that are specific to digesting meat? Does the wolf? The Lion? Other fish? How are humans different? When did the memo come out granting us such a new and radical obligation to completely change our diet?

  13. Stewart David


    I usually don’t respond to people who won’t identify themselves, since some are so vitriolic. But you asked a good question. How are humans different?

    Wolfs, lions, and other carnivores do, indeed, have digestive enzymes specific to digesting meat. Humans do not. If we did, we’d eat meat raw, like all carnivores. And we’d eat an entire animal, from toe to tail. Don’t give this a try unless you are in close proximity to a hospital.

    Humans can eat meat without getting sick immediately if it is cooked. It then causes slow deaths (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.)

    If you care to learn more, check out
    “The Comparative Anatomy of Eating”, by Milton R. Mills, M.D.

  14. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @ Stewart David: JWTJr, I usually don’t respond to people who won’t identify themselves….

    Well, who is JWTjr to whom you are responding? Please tell us his identity.

  15. Betty Cloer Wallace

    I think we’ve lost the jist of this thread and run amuk into grandstanding a range of other issues.

    So, back to the thread.

    Fish were stolen. Lots of them. Someone’s livelihood was violated. That’s a crime. Now what?

  16. JWTJr

    Stewart, we will have to agree to disagree. I’m sure I’m not going to change your mind and after all the research I’ve done, I’m not changing mine.

    Betty is right, this thread is about stolen fish.

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