While the late and stormy spring may have delayed the start of the open water season, it meant more time for Blue Fish Canada volunteers to promote sustainable outdoor traditions. The following are 2017 Blue Fish Canada activity highlights.
Talking computers are just one of many innovations for the blind that allow Blue Fish Canada’s blind President Lawrence Gunther to lead and represent the charity. Articles published in 2017 include:
- “Review of the Algonquin land claim” (spring “Fish Hunt and Ride”);
- An op-ed piece co-authored with the Suzuki Foundation on fish health in the Rideau Canal; and,
- “6 Ways that Canadian Anglers and Hunters are Helping Wildlife Populations” (March “Outdoor Canada”).
Of course, rain snow or sun never prevents a new episode of Blue Fish Radio from being produced – 162 episodes to date with an average weekly audience of 100,000.
Episodes focus on what people are doing across Canada to protect water quality, ensure fish health, and to make sure there are fish around for future generations to catch.
To further promote sustainable fishing, bi-weekly “Sustainable Fish Friday” 1-minute tips are heard and shared by thousands over social media. Additionally, over-20 “Blue Fish Canada Stewardship Tips” continue to be aired as public service announcements over streaming web broadcasts. We continue to distribute at no charge print and on-line stewardship guides and shoreline clean-up kits.
Six years of hard work on creating the documentary What Lies Below came to fruition. Over 18 festivals around the world have now featured the 79-minute film. Numerous published reviews and interviews can be found on line. Both CBC and AMI TV are now licensed to broadcast the doc, which premiered on CBC’s Documentary Channel Sept 6. All revenues generated by this documentary are going to Blue Fish Canada. Our 2018 plans include distributing an educational program to high schools and post-secondary institutions developed using the 11 stories told in the documentary.
Behind the scenes Blue fish Canada is working closely with numerous research facilities and water activist organizations to promote water quality and fish health. Last May, in partnership with the University of Ottawa and the St. Lawrence River Institute, we organized and chaired a half-day River Symposium including six presentations to over-90 researchers and policy makers in attendance. Ensuring fish have access to suitable habitat also includes leading discussions on fish health in venues such as the Great Lake Network and the People’s Great Lakes Summit series.
Canada is far from being a land of doom-and-gloom. We have much to take pride in and celebrate. It’s therefore with considerable excitement that we celebrate the launch of a new video series Lake2Plate.
The video features Lawrence, his guide dog Moby, and a celebrity chef fishing and preparing shore-side feasts featuring sustainably and selectively harvested fish and wild forage. It’s a true celebration of the traditional shore lunch intended to inspire others to reconnect with nature.
In the spirit of carrying forward the tradition of blind people serving as story tellers, Lawrence always makes time to speak to fish and game clubs, conservation groups and at outdoor shows. Exhibiting at outdoor shows remains a priority for Blue Fish Canada, and 2018 will witness a fresh new look to our exhibit space and offerings, including a new skill-testing stewardship quiz and prizes.
The following quote from Lawrence Gunther published in a recent Huffington Post article sums-up the mission of Blue Fish Canada nicely:
“I started Blue Fish Canada to encourage people to find themselves a pond, river, lake or bay where they can catch a fish for dinner once in a while, and to then take responsibility for ensuring nothing bad happens to their fishing whole that could stop their great grandchildren from doing the same.”
Getting others interested in fishing sustainably is a focus of Blue Fish Canada, including organizing annual events such as: Girl Guides Go Fishing.
A shore fishing experience for 50-70 Girl Guides ranging in age from 5-16.
Yes, it’s important to make sure our water and fish are properly managed. At the same time, Blue Fish Canada is working hard to pass on the knowledge and inspiration to encourage others to carry forward the tradition of fishing. It’s up to all of us to re-engage others in this century-old practice. One we can undertake with pride knowing the resource is being managed using science and the best traditional and indigenous knowledge available.
Most especially, Blue Fish Canada is creating opportunities for children to connect with shorelines. It’s here where kids experience the abundance and diversity of life that inhabits these narrow transition strips between land and water. Life that represents more than the sum of the two parts, but a true synergy of these two vastly different terrestrial and aquatic worlds.
Please donate to Blue Fish Canada today so we can continue to provide people of all age’s access to resources so they can fish confidently knowing the tradition is sustainable for future generations.
We look forward to your on-going support, and thank all of you for helping to make 2017 a year we can be proud of.
In honour of World River Day, Blue Fish Canada’s president Lawrence Gunther took part in the official ceremony to twin the Ottawa and Potomac Rivers. The twinning recognizes the many shared attributes and challenges these two national rivers have in common.
Both rivers flow through their respective nations’ capital cities, both are significant in size, both played historic roles in the founding of their nations’ capitals, and finally, both rivers are being attended to by strong and effective River Keeper organizations.
As Meredith Brown, Ottawa’s RiverKeeper pointed out, both rivers share many of the same challenges impacting swimability, fishability and drinkability. More than 1-million people drink from the Ottawa and over 6-million from the Potomac, and yet untreated sewage and untold numbers of chemicals enter these rivers routinely. Fish kill incidents still occur, and advisories warning against swimming are not uncommon.
Rivers flowing through the capitals of nations should represent all what these two great countries represent to their citizens and the rest of the world – responsible development and usage, and a commitment to the future of fish health and fishing. Attention all anglers, your assistance is required.
Blue Fish Canada is working hard to ensure the water quality of Canada’s rivers, lakes and oceans are able to sustain fish health and our tradition of fishing. We represent your voice at numerous water quality meetings, and strive to provide a continuous source of information to anglers on how they might more effectively serve as stewards of their local fisheries. Donate today to help us with this important work, and volunteer for your local river and water Keeper organizations.
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.
Every year volunteers from Blue Fish Canada work hard to take young people fishing. One of our favorites is the Girl Guide shore fishing event.
With over 50 girls ranging in age from 5 to 16, we had our hands full of worms and fish, but the girls were great! They all caught at least one fish each and most now r skilled at fish identification, putting on their own worms, and releasing the fish.
We kept one of each species caught in a Frabill 5-gal aerated livewell so we could do a more detailed exploration at the end with the girls taking part in the Q/A.
This year AMI TV captured the event for TV.
Link here to watch the 5-minute broadcast: http://www.ami.ca/category/atw-weekend-edition/media/fishing-girl-guides
The following multi-part news coverage includes three components intended to inform the public about the impacts on fish health of toxins in Canada’s water, and includes:
Link here to hear Lawrence Gunther’s segment on Live in Studio 5 across Canada;
Listen to episode 133 of Blue Fish Radio to hear Lawrence Gunther’s interview with Alaya BOISVERT from the David Suzuki Foundation;
Read the following op-ed Alaya BOISVERT and Lawrence Gunther penned which was published throughout Canada.
Rideau Canal toxins raise questions about our environmental wellbeing
May 19, 2017 | Last Updated: May 20, 2017 10:53 AM EDT
By ALAYA BOISVERT And LAWRENCE GUNTHER
It’s easy to understand why outdoor enthusiasts around the world regard Canada as a premier eco-tourism destination. What Canadian hasn’t enjoyed angling, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, canoeing, mountain biking or taking a dip in one of hundreds of thousands of lakes that spot the country?
So much of the love for this nation, shared by locals and tourists alike, revolves around getting out on the land or water to connect with nature.
Despite its natural beauty, Canada is not the pristine environment we often imagine. When compared with other industrialized countries, Canada consistently ranks poorly. We place 15th out of 17 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on a range of environmental indicators, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s 2016 assessment.
The recent discovery of toxins in the Rideau Canal is a stark reminder of a systemic and pervasive problem facing Canada.
The Rideau Canal is a signature of historic nautical ingenuity and contemporary urban recreation. It’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, widely cherished by those lucky enough to live nearby and millions of tourists who visit the capital year-round. However, at one time manufacturing facilities peppered the canal’s banks. Although these industries have closed, their toxic legacy remains.
After repairs to the canal churned up harmful industrial chemicals in November 2016, Parks Canada finally decided to take the first step to address this known, yet unreported, issue. It ordered tests along several kilometres of the canal to assess contaminant levels in the sediment. The Ontario government is also taking action to test toxicity levels of the various sport fish that inhabit the canal to determine whether they are safe to eat.
Local skaters and anglers are concerned by this news and the black eye it represents for their scenic tourist attraction. They are not alone in their worries about the impacts of pollution.
Environmental degradation and toxic contaminants can be found throughout the country. High concentrations of nitrogen dioxide pollution stretch from southeast to northern Alberta. Forty-three Great Lakes polluted sites were identified by the U.S. and Canada as Areas of Concern. Canada’s own Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory lists 23,078 toxic hotspots across Canada, and that doesn’t include those caused by Crown corporations, private individuals or that fall under the jurisdiction of other levels of government.
The Rideau Canal’s story raises a number of questions: Shouldn’t we leave our children a country better off than we inherited? Shouldn’t future generations be assured they won’t get sick from the food they eat, the water they drink or the air they breathe? Shouldn’t we all be able to count on the places we live, work and play being safe from harmful toxins?
The toxic contaminants found in the Rideau Canal, at the foot of Canada’s Parliament, represent a test case citizens across Canada will be watching closely.
The City of Ottawa has already demonstrated leadership by recognizing the environmental rights of its residents, as have 150 other municipalities in Canada.
It’s time for the federal government to acknowledge that a healthy environment is not a luxury. It’s a necessity for the long-term prosperity and preservation of our country and, more importantly, a human right. It’s time for the federal government to pass an environmental bill of rights to respect, protect and fulfill everyone in Canada’s right to a healthy environment.
Alaya Boisvert is manager of government relations with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot project. Blue Dot is a national movement calling for legal protections of the right to a healthy environment.
Ottawa resident Lawrence Gunther is the host of Blue Fish Radio, a weekly podcast exploring the future of fish and fishing, and the president of Blue Fish Canada, a charity dedicated to water quality and sustainable recreational fishing.
Hi everyone, you never know who you are going to meet, and the six degrees of separation that connect us all to each other. I wanted to share the following extraordinary sequence of events as I think it demonstrates just how small the world really is.
The other day I interviewed an older gentleman for an episode of Blue fish Radio. I met him at a double-screening of my documentary What Lies Below at a theater in Windsor for UN World Water Day. The screening was organized by the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup and included 200 high school students and another full house later that evening. The person I met attended with his son and grandson, and wrote me several days later with his story of growing up in northern Saskatchewan in Uranium City with his 11 brothers and sisters and father who worked as a miner in one of the uranium mines. His father died at age 48 from cancer.
His daughter later heard our interview and contacted me. She had never heard half the stories her father told during our interview. She also wanted to help get the word out about the film and what we are doing with Blue fish Canada. Turns out she’s a columnist with the Huffington Post.
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.