The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) recently launched a new Healthy Great Lakes program to engage a broad network of individuals and organizations in shaping, implementing, and making use of laws and policies that protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. Lawrence Gunther, President of Blue Fish Canada, was invited to be part of the organizing committee.
The goals of the 18-month initiative include:
- elimination or reduction of toxic pollutants;
- encouraging green infrastructure adoption;
- improving water conservation and efficiency;
- protecting and restoring water quantity by responding to water diversion proposals;
- ensuring government action is distributed equitably across Ontario’s Great Lakes Basin watersheds, both geographically and in addressing needs of disadvantaged communities;
- engaging with First Nation and Métis communities in discussions of opportunities for action; and
- engaged Great Lakes citizenry that makes use of available legal tools and holds government to account for the public trust.
On May 17 the organizing committee held the “People’s Great Lake Summit” involving over 40 stakeholders representing water activists, first Nations people and fishers. The Objective of the Summit was to:
- Connect – an opportunity for individuals to meet together in person and identify potential collaborations
- Share – an opportunity to share ideas, priorities, and plans
During the May 17 Summit, Lawrence Gunther led on proposing and anchoring discussions on fish health.
Discussion items included increasing research/awareness of research on the impact of blue-green algae, plastics, sewage, invasive species, funding cuts, etc. on fish, anglers, water users and residents. More specifically: awareness of impact of blue green algae on angler safety and fish health; traditional angler fishing rights and aquatic protection zones – balance interests; fish consumption guideline research and transparency – can we trust the research; online database/Great Lakes Portal; and, online database – collaborative between multiple groups.
A second gathering is now being planned for fall of 2017. Blue Fish Canada has been identified to lead on the topic of fish health at the next summit and beyond. Consultations are now underway to ensure issues are represented thoroughly and accurately.
For more about the initiative please visit www.cela.ca/peoples-great-lakes-summit
Day two of the 24th River Symposium, organized by Blue Fish Canada in partnership with the University of Ottawa and The St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Research, featured 18 exhibiters and two key note addresses provided by Lawrence Gunther, President of Blue Fish Canada.
The Symposium took place at the Ontario Power Generation Centre located in Cornwall ON.
Over 250 students, members of the public, researchers and government officials were in attendance.
“Lawrence’s presentation was the highlight of our visit –he is definitely a great and engaging environmentalist”.
*A teacher from Glengarry District High School
“Lawrence’s presentation was excellent!”
*A science teacher from Vankleek Hill
The following links to a report in Cornwall’s Standard Freeholder-
On May 31 2017 Blue Fish Canada, in partnership with the University of Ottawa and The St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Research, presented the 24th Annual River Symposium in Cornwall On. Approximately 100 researchers and stakeholders participated in a series of presentations and discussions.
Lawrence Gunther, President, Blue Fish Canada, organized and chaired the morning session that included: five presentations, a panel discussion, and feedback from the Director of Environmental Affairs for the near-by Akwesasne First Nations community. Morning presentations focused on fish health and fishing. More specifically, commercial, indigenous and recreational fishing, the people who take part in these practices, and stable and healthy fish stocks.
Speakers / panelists included:
The take-away from the morning presentations served to underscore the linkage between sustainable fisheries and human health, traditional and cultural practices, and the socio-economic welfare of large and diverse groups of people. It’s also clear that those who engage in the capture of fish are actively seeking the knowledge required to demonstrate their respect and responsibility for the long-term future of fish populations, and are concerned with the health of the fish stocks they pursue.
Without doubt, opportunities such as the Symposium to bring together stakeholders to exchange local and indigenous knowledge and to learn of science-based best practices are essential to developing comprehensive and effective sustainable fish management strategies. Broad support for the adoption and implementation of science-based best practices also entails researchers having the opportunity to hear from those countless “citizen scientists” who spend significant time on the water. Achieving synergies from science and local and indigenous knowledge is dependent on: community engagement; public education; the exchange of traditional and indigenous knowledge; sharing best practices; conducting fisheries research; developing, implementing and enforcing science based regulations; and, understanding and mitigating impacts on fish habitat and health.
- Ensuring the future of fish and fishing requires understanding the relationship between stable and healthy fish stocks, and the social, cultural and economic sustainability of the various diverse populations and communities-of-interest that rely on fish;
- More frequent and wider opportunities for stakeholders to gather and share their knowledge would benefit fish populations and those concerned with their sustainability;
- On-going research of negative and positive influences on fish health and habitat, and the development and trialing of potential solutions intended to improve the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, is imperative to the management of such resources;
- Government policies and regulations are essential to ensuring healthy fish stocks and their link to the socio-economic, cultural and traditional future of groups of both indigenous and non-indigenous people.
A Blue Fish Radio Exploration of Actions and Responsibilities
Who’s Doing What?
It is possible to selectively harvest wild fish from our oceans in a way that’s sustainable. Relevant science, programs and regulations are already being implemented. However, we all have a role to play. Our individual cooperation is essential, doable and relatively effortless. Learn how you too can be part of the solution.
You can ask a dozen people about what they think of the present state of our seafood fisheries and receive just as many different answers. Confusion stems mainly from the steady wave of reports head-lined by media predicting the end of wild fish stocks throughout the world due to excessive commercial fishing. At the same time, there are plenty of examples of currently sustainable harvesting practices and still more industry players who are working hard to turn things around. You seldom hear of these successes though, as they just don’t seem to warrant the same level of media hype as the doom-and-gloom stories.
Canada and the U.S. have begun applying precautionary science-based fish management principals in forming and implementing fishery management regulations with steadily increasing success. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but research used to determine which harvesting strategies are sustainable and those that are not, and more accurate fish population assessments, are helping the two countries to reverse their downward slides.
Global positioning technology is allowing for identified areas of high importance to marine life development to be subject to tighter management controls. Non-profits that have an interest in ocean sustainability are partnering with those in the seafood industry assessed as doing it right to have their products labelled as sustainable. Lots of stakeholders are buying into the principal of sustainability. It’s now up to the rest of us to get on board.
The Marine Stewardship Council is one of many non-profits busy identifying and working with commercial fisheries around the world to recognize those doing it right. Certified Sustainable means a commercial fisher’s wild fish stock harvesting practices will not threaten the long term viability of the fish stock itself. The MSC is also working with those more marginal fisheries by providing knowledge needed to earn the Marine Stewardship Council’s endorsement.
In this Blue Fish Radio episode Jay Lugar from the MSC explains how they have already applied their MSC label to 2/3 of Canada’s commercial fisheries.
Oceana Canada has a slightly less optimistic perspective on how far Canada has progressed. Their most recent 2016 report states only 24% of Canada’s wild marine fish stocks are at healthy levels. Oceana focusses its energies on scientifically documenting pointing out those fisheries that are performing badly. Hey, someone has to keep everyone on their toes and in this episode of Blue Fish Radio Oceana Canada’s Executive Director, Josh Laughren points out the heavy lifting that still needs doing.
SeaChoice, run out of the Suzuki foundation, is another organization dedicated to working with fisheries to improve sustainability. They differ from the Marine Stewardship Council in that their funding comes from an independent and unrelated source, so they don’t mind spending their time focussing on those fisheries that are causing the lion’s share of the problems.
In this Blue Fish Radio episode with Kurtis Hayne, SeaChoice is first to admit massive re-thinks on how we harvest certain wild stocks are crucial to getting it right.
The Safina Centre has made it their mandate to scientifically assess which seafood harvesting practices and technologies need to go, which can be improved, and which are working just fine.
In this Blue Fish episode with Elizabeth Brown from the Safina Centre, we learn more about their work and how it underpins much of the rest of the sustainability certification efforts undertaken by organizations applying sustainable labels to seafood products.
Aquaculture is increasingly held up as an alternative to our continuing to harvest wild fish stocks. Maybe someday it will, but there are still many hurdles to overcome. One solution non-industry experts are pointing to is closed containment fish farming.
In this episode of Blue fish Radio  we speak with Jo Mrozewski to learn more about one such example, the Kuterra Salmon Farm on Vancouver Island.
Others are counting on the proliferation of marine protection areas or MPAs. What such designations actually mean varies widely. Yes, it’s a defined area of ocean, but what human activity can continue to take place within the zone ranges widely from a no-go zone for everyone, to a complete or partial boycott on commercial, and in some cases, sport fishing, to allowing tourism related activities only. What we are learning is that the nature of each prohibition needs to makes sense and be supported for each area, as without such support the MPA serves in name only.
In this Blue Fish Radio episode Dr. Chris Harvey Clarke discusses the strengths, weaknesses and the role MPA’s play in promoting healthy and sustainable fish stocks.
Another solution borrows from the ground-swell interest by the public in purchasing their vegetables from local growers fresh and direct. Emerging community supported fisheries reward those commercial seafood harvesters who are willing to take the time to do it right. Fishers who have a vested interest in seeing the resource continue, and who are small enough that when they return to port they can sell most if not all of their catch to pre-determined local buyers and members of the public who have committed to buy equal shares with the knowledge that it was caught the right way.
Blue Fish speaks with Dr. Joshua Stoll who has made it his mission to document and share what it takes to establish community supported fishery initiatives.
If you don’t live nearby a bustling fishing port, than rest assured that the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program is on the job educating restaurants and their seafood chefs on how to select seafood that was harvested in a sustainable way. The goal is that by putting pressure on suppliers, they in turn will start demanding that their producers, the fishers, will begin harvesting seafood in ways that can be certified as sustainable.
It’s a supply-and-demand economics 101 approach to fixing the problem that Claire Li from the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program explains in this episode of Blue Fish Radio as producing solid results.
One of the first organizations in North America to empower citizens to make sustainable choices is the Monterey Aquarium in northern California. The sea-side town of Monterey was once dominated by fishing boats and processing plants, but with the collapse of many of their area wild fish stocks, the town turned to tourism for its survival. One couldn’t ask for a more suitable and idyllic location for a public aquarium that now sees well over a million visitors come through its doors every year. One of the Aquarium’s programs is the distribution of small wallet-sized reference cards that list the sorts of wild fish commonly found and harvested in the Pacific, and then indicating with a series of three coloured lights which fish stocks are in danger, red, which stocks are of concern, yellow, and which stocks can be consumed guilt free, green.
While the Monterey’s SeaFood Watch program may be centred on Pacific fisheries, in this episode of Blue Fish Radio Ken Peterson explains how it’s applicable to all of North American consumers given that fish taken from the Pacific are transported to buyers throughout the continent.
Others, like the Aquarium Du Quebec explain in this Blue Fish Radio episode how they have modified the Seafood Watch approach to better suit their own region’s unique fisheries. They aren’t the only one who has adopted a “watch” program to better reflect their regionally harvested unique sea life.
On the enforcement side, Alan Risenhoover of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports in this episode of Blue Fish Radio on the fruits of their hard work to develop and implement the scientific measuring sticks used in determining what stocks are still in decline and which are recovering. Applying as scientific approach to fish stock management, and putting an end to political interference on how stocks are managed, is proving effective as one species after another is taken off the list of distressed wild fish stocks.
In order to accurately track who is catching what and where, new tools for monitoring and tracing needed to be established. Systems that start with the vessel doing the harvesting, and then tracks each step along the way until the seafood is consumed. Such ship-to-plate traceability means accountability and bringing to an end the illegal harvesting of seafood.
It’s what Michele Kuruc, VP of ocean policy for the World Wildlife Fund, reports to be working hard to accomplish in this Blue Fish Radio episode, and it’s got the support of the U.S. government.
Not allowing ships to dock at our ports that won’t or can’t prove where their seafood was captured is just one new stick in the government’s tool chest. On-board remote cameras are another. Laurie Bryant from the NOAA reports on their “Fish Watch” program and its beneficial results in this episode of Blue Fish Radio.
Bringing to an end the outdated and unsustainable commercial harvesting practices and greed that still plague large portions of the commercial fishing industry that is taking place outside the territorial waters of Canada and the U.S. is imperative if we are to sustain the earth’s growing population. Achieving sustainable commercial fishing throughout the world hinges on all of us having greater awareness of the efforts being taken by the many different stakeholders. More importantly, if the oceans’ wild fish stocks and the ways they are being harvested are to return to sustainable levels, all of us need to begin to exercise responsible choices. The tools needed to make such choices are now available. It’s now up to each of us to incorporate these tools into our decision making processes when purchasing or consuming seafood.
My passion for the outdoors started quite early and, despite being registered blind at age eight, grows stronger each year. Though visual memories have long since faded, the smells, sounds and feel of peddling my bike along gravel roads with a fishing pole in hand, or heading out to the bush after school with my beagle, seem no less real.
All youth deserve to experience days with clouds and tree tops overhead instead of ceilings, to be hemmed in by bush and shorelines instead of walls, and to traverse forest trails and gravel river beds instead of sidewalks. To spend a day getting dirty and wet, cold and smelly, and to return home exhausted but happy. In short, to gain awareness of our connection to the sea and sun, water and earth, that together, make up the only planet we know that sustains life.
Blue Fish is dedicated to sharing sound local knowledge and the latest in proven science to convey information essential to the sustainable capture and selective harvest of wild food. Using technology, social media and direct engagement, Blue Fish reaches both seasoned outdoor enthusiasts and those looking to carry forward or begin new outdoor traditions.
I encourage you to visit the Blue Fish site to learn of our latest accomplishments and plans for 2017. I also want to thank you for your supporting Blue Fish for what many consider to be truly unique programming.
The profound beauty and remarkable bounty nature has provided unreservedly only now have become conditional. Your charitable donations make it possible for Blue Fish to discern and convey how these conditions can best be met and incorporated into our interactions with nature.
It’s my wish for you and yours many many worry-free adventures in the great outdoors — now and in future.
In partnership with the City of Ottawa, Blue Fish Canada is distributing shoreline clean-up kits that include a garbage bag and disposable gloves contained within a biodegradable wrapper. The kits are slim, light and fit easily into any size tackle bag or glove box. Get your free kit and be prepared to tackle unsightly messes!
Contact Blue Fish Canada today to arrange to receive a kit, or to have kits sent to your organization.
Short audio format Blue Fish Canada Stewardship Fishing Tips are produced by Blue Fish Radio with support from Eukanuba pet foods. Each 2-minute tip explains how listeners can ensure the future of fish and fishing.
The following 20 Blue Fish Canada Stewardship Tips can be rebroadcast at no cost. Let us know if you would like to rebroadcast the tips by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Fish Canada Stewardship Tips:
BFC-Tip 1 — Fertilizers: What you can do as a shoreline property owner and citizen to reduce the amount of phosphates and nitrogen’s entering our water.
BFC-Tip 2 — Catch and Release: Tips for ensuring the safe release of caught fish.
BFC-Tip 3 — Fish Slime: The importance of avoiding the removal of slime from fish.
BFC-Tip 4 — Fishing down Deep: Why certain fish should not be fished at depths below 30 feet if you intend to release them afterwards.
BFC-Tip 5 — Harvesting: Which fish to keep for a meal, and which need to go back.
BFC-Tip 6 — Invasive: How to stop the spread of invasive life forms into new bodies of water.
BFC-Tip 7 — Oil and Gas: Making sure we handle oil and gas so it doesn’t impact our water and fish.
BFC-Tip 8 — Photography: Taking photos sustainably of memorable moments and trophy fish.
BFC-Tip 9 — Regulations: Knowing the regulations that govern our recreational fisheries and when to apply reason.
BFC-Tip 10 — Research: Anglers play an important role in citizen-based science.
BFC-Tip 11 — Big Boat Little Boat: Kayaks are great, but we still need to get out and back safely.
BFC-Tip 12 — Dogs on Boats: Keeping our four-legged friends safe aboard our boats.
BFC-Tip 13 — Catch, Release or Keep: More tips on harvesting sustainably.
BFC-Tip 14 — Mentoring the Next Generation: Passing on knowledge on how to fish sustainably.
BFC-Tip 15 — Catch your Limit, Limit Your Catch: We have harvest limits but sometimes we need to know when it’s time to limit our harvest.
BFC-Tip 16 — Disposing Old Fishing Line: Fishing line can result in death for wild critters if not disposed of properly.
BFC-Tip 17 — Lifestyles Flow Downstream: Understanding that all we do impacts all life that lives downstream.
BFC-Tip 18 — Live Bait: Ensuring our live bait doesn’t become the cause of the next invasion or disease outbreak.
BFC-Tip 19 — Right Size Tackle: Matching the size of rod, reel and line for the job is an important part of fishing sustainably.
BFC-Tip 20 — Pack it in, Pack it Out: Boy Scouts have it right when they teach kids to leave things the way they found them or better.
Blue Fish Radio (www.bluefishradio.com) Broadcast Weekly to over 100,000 Listeners. A weekly 30-minute podcast featuring Lawrence Gunther (www.lawrencegunther.com) Interviewing amazing people who are working hard to ensure the future of fish and fishing. Join the over 100,000 weekly Blue Fish Radio listeners for the latest news and tips on sustainable fishing.
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As the president of Blue Fish Canada, a federally incorporated registered charity focused on ensuring the future of fish and fishing, it’s with great pleasure and considerable pride that I’m able to announce the documentary I researched, wrote and hosted, “What Lies Below” has been selected to compete in the Canadian feature film category at the 2016 Planet in Focus Film Festival. Even better, the documentary has been chosen as the closing film for the festival on Oct. 23 at the Rogers Hot Docs Theater in Toronto, and will be part of the International Eco Hero Awards ceremony honoring Alexandra Cousteau.
What Lies Below presents ten significant fish habitat and sustainability stories and the concerns, fears, hopes and actions of the people I met and fished with who live by and from the water. In making this documentary, my goal was to explore issues facing Canada’s waters and wild fish stocks, and what people are doing to ensure the future of these important resources. In the words of the Executive Producer, Alex Sliman, CEO of Cinelande Inc, “It’s through Lawrence’s ability to perceive without the use of his sight that the rest of us will learn the truth about what’s really happening beneath the surface of our rivers, lakes and oceans”.
A special sneak-peek screening of the documentary is being organized by the Fresh Water Alliance as part of the 2016 Living Water Rally in Vancouver. More screenings are being organized across Canada.
The launch of “What Lies Below” represents a culmination of thousands of volunteer hours, the investment of considerable private resources, and a commitment by all those who worked and took part in its filming to ensure the future of fish and fishing. Profits from the documentary will go to Blue Fish Canada, to support programs to train people to fish sustainably and safeguard their aquatic resources.
It’s now up to all of us to get the message out that we all have a part to play. Sharing and liking the news of the launch through social media is one such action. Another is directly supporting Blue Fish Canada by making a donation.
Make an online tax deductible donation to Blue Fish Canada.
I thank you in advance for taking the time to consider how you might provide your support. Given the camouflaging properties of water, it’s far to easy to allow our rivers, lakes and oceans to be used as convenient waste receptacles, and to harvest fish unsustainably. Blue Fish Canada is working hard to educate people how to engage with our water and fish resources in ways that will allow humanity to establish a symbiotic relationship with our aquatic ecosystems, both now and in the future.
TOP TEN TIPS:
- Use the right strength tackles so returned fish aren’t overly tired
- Don’t over harvest and don’t keep the larger breeders
- Be careful fueling engines to avoid polluting water.
- Recycle old fishing line so it doesn’t tangle and kill wildlife
- Clean-up shoreline waste and garbage.
- Take measures to stop Nitrates or Phosphates from entering the water
- Minimize time fish spend out of the water, and avoid removing a fish’s protective slime.
- Use barbless or non-offset circle hooks, and environmentally safe artificial baits.
- Be careful not to transport invasive fish and plants, or to spread disease
- Support fish health research by reporting tagged fish
Nitrates and phosphates added to the water can lead to excessive growth of algae and algal blooms. Decomposing algae causes oxygen depletion and fish kills. Avoid using fertilizers mid-summer or when the ground is frozen. Maintain a natural buffer zone between your lawn and the shoreline. Have your septic system inspected annually.
Invasive fish and Disease:
Don’t Dump your Minnows. Invasive species of baitfish can overwhelm native fish species, or can spread disease. Purchase bait from dealers selling certified disease-free bait. Dump unused bait on dry land. Use baitfish only in waters where their use is permitted
Invasive plants can often outgrow, replace, and destroy native plants. Be sure to remove seeds and plant matter from boots, waders and gear. Clean your boat and trailer thoroughly before transporting it to another body of water. Verify that any plant you buy is not invasive. Don’t release aquarium fish or plants into the wild.
Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t leave used fishing line behind as it can tangle and kill wildlife. If you see garbage, clean it up.
Oil and Gas:
Keep engines and containers in good working condition and be careful when transferring new or used oil or gas. Have sorbent materials available should a spill occur. Label all containers appropriately.
A lip hooked fish stands a better chance of survival. Using single, barbless hooks or circle hooks are easier on fish. Non-lead weights or jigs are better for the environment, as are biodegradable soft plastic baits. Needle-nose plyers and hook cutters are essential.
Playing Your Fish:
Fighting a fish to exhaustion will decrease its chance of surviving. Use properly sized tackle to land fish quickly. Revive your fish in the water after being unhooked. When water temperatures are high, avoid exposing fish to air.
Be ready. Have your camera handy and accessible before you land your fish. Keep your fish in the water and only lift it out when ready to take the photograph.
Wet your net before netting your fish, and always handle fish with wet hands. Don’t lay fish on carpet or grass and try not to let your clothing wipe important slime from the fish’s body leaving it open to infection. Fish that flop about on streamside rocks or the bottom of a boat harm themselves and expend undue energy. Keep a fish’s head in the water during the hook removal process. Never grab a fish by the eyes or gills. Avoid squeezing fish around the belly or hanging fish vertically as this can damage internal organs. Fish that seem unlikely to survive should be harvested.
Harvest fish from populations that can support a reduction in their numbers, from ecosystems that are thriving, and in sizes that ensure larger breeders carry on. Removing small numbers of mid-sized fish can ensure the remaining fish have sufficient food to reach full size.
Anglers who report recaptures of tagged fish provide data that is vital to determining fish health. Report tagged fish including where and when the fish was caught, the tag number, and the size and weight of the fish. Return tagged fish to the water so the research might continue.
Regulations and Conservation:
Purchase your fishing license yearly so data on numbers of fishers can be collected, and to support fish research and conservation. Go on line and know the fishing regulations for the species of fish and area your fishing. Verify whether the fish you plan to harvest are safe to eat and in what amount. Finally, report toxic spills, fish kill-offs, and the illegal behaviours of others.
This Guide was made possible with the generous support of Oziles Marina, the Petrie Island Fishermen’s Association, and the Canadian National Sportsman Show.