Blue Fish News – April 11, 2022

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: Requests for partnership support from community youth organizations keep coming in, and that makes us happy. Four new invasive species videos are now up on our YouTube channel, and many more public awareness initiatives continue to be rolled out. Our leadership on the Great Lakes Fish Health Network has resulted in two experts from Queens University and the Canadian Environmental Law Association being assigned to study the judicial ramifications of Fish Consumption Advisories, which should prove quite helpful in our advisory role on a proposed National Marine Conserved Area for the east basin of Lake Ontario. So more-or-less, just another typical month at Blue Fish Canada HQ.

In the April 11, 2022 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we begin with an initial exploration of what a National Marine Conserved Area could mean for the east basin of Lake Ontario, including a new Blue Fish Radio episode with a highly regarded scientist living on Wolfe Island. As always, we include links and summaries to the latest fishing, fish health, habitat and other news you need to know. Our closing Special Guest Feature offers conclusions reached by the Canadian Environmental Law Association regarding the judicial strength of Indigenous Conserved and Protected Areas.

This Week’s Feature – Lake Ontario’s fisheries and a New National Marine Conserved Area

It should come as no surprise to those who follow the Blue Fish News that a National Marine Conserved Area (NMCA) is now being proposed for the east basin of Lake Ontario, an area that would include the Bay of Quinte located in Prince Edward County. The organization leading the charge is Nature Canada. Should it be approved, the NMCA would become the third such NMCA established in Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, the other two being Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area near Thunder Bay, and Fathom Five National Marine Park on Lake Huron. All of these are under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada. For today, let’s explore what we know about why this new NMCA candidate is being proposed, and what it could mean for fish health and fishing.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) coordinates fisheries research, controls the invasive sea lamprey, and facilitates cooperative fishery management among the state, provincial, tribal, and federal agencies. According to the GLFC the value of the Great Lakes fisheries overall is approximately $8,750,000,000 CAD. Of this total, approximately $250,000,000 consists of commercial fishing. Together, these fisheries represent the most valuable freshwater fisheries in the world.

The GLFC estimates that $8,500,000,000 is what recreational anglers and tribal and First Nations fishers spend annually to go fishing on the Great Lakes. What we don’t know is the value of the fish being captured, released or harvested by these anglers and fishers. The value of commercial catches are relatively simple to assess since commercial catches are reported and their market values can be easily determined. This is not the case with indigenous and recreational fisheries since neither are required to report their catches. We can’t even be certain how many of the 1.4 million licensed Ontario recreational anglers fish the great lakes since licenses provide province-wide access. And let’s not forget Ontarians under 18 and over 65 who fish recreationally without a license.

Knowing the true value of Great Lakes Fisheries by combining the $8,750,000,000 value reported by the GLFC with the yet unknown value of all fishes captured by indigenous fishers and recreational anglers would most certainly provide far greater social, economic and political emphasis to safeguard these fisheries. And, what I mean by safeguard applies to both the fishes and access to these fishes by not only indigenous fishers who already possess such rights, or licensed commercial fishers, but by recreational anglers who make up the vast majority of those who fish the Great Lakes.

Some of Lake Ontario’s main fish species include Chinook, Coho and Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow, Brown and Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Muskie, Channel Catfish and Common Carp. The largest salmon ever caught by an angler in Lake Ontario is 21.4 kg. and the largest Lake Trout weighed 23.5 kg. Channel Catfish can way as much as 20 kg. and Common Carp as much as 25 kg. Although currently protected, Lake Sturgeon on Lake Ontario can weigh as much as 150 kg. The next largest fish species in Lake Ontario are Muskie weighing as much as 30 kg. The point being, any one of these fish represents significant value when compared with wild caught fish for sale in supermarkets, and much much more in terms of what anglers are willing to pay to catch-and-release trophy fish.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2015 recreational fishing survey data, about 2/3 of an estimated 170 million fish caught annually in Canada are released by approximately 3.5 million licensed recreational anglers between the ages of 18 and 65. If you were to add to this fish caught by kids under 18 and retired folks, the numbers of anglers and fish caught most certainly would go up.

It’s clear that the relationship between the different people, their communities, and the health of Great Lakes fisheries is both historic and significant. This applies to all the Great Lakes, but probably to Lake Ontario the most. Why, because even though Lake Ontario is the smallest of all the Great Lakes, it’s the only Great Lake where the fishing overall is improving. More, Lake Ontario is also the home waters of over 9-million of the 34-million people who reside in the Great Lakes basin.

Unfortunately, Lake Ontario is also the “sink hole” for all the Great Lakes in that everything flows through Lake Ontario. According to the University of Wisconsin’s Sea Grant Institute, Lake Ontario is the most polluted out of the five Great Lakes. For the fishes it means they are subjected to all the chemicals, plastics, waste and other pollutants that end up in Lake Ontario before being shuttled down the St. Lawrence River and dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. International shipping and other sources have also introduced over 185 various invasive species into the lake that further stress native fishes. The outcome of these environmental and health impacts are fishes that are Experiencing sub-par lives in terms of stress, reproduction, habitat, food security, disease, endocrine disruption, and lifespan. The health of People and other life forms that depend on Lake Ontario’s fishes are also being impacted.

Almost all fishes in Lake Ontario are now, have been, or should have assigned fish consumption advisories (FCAs). These FCAs are science-based precautions that warn consumers of which fishes should be avoided or consumed in a limited amount due to bioaccumulated toxins.

Many of these toxins can be traced back to four “Areas of concern” (AOCs) in Lake Ontario’s Canadian waters. These include Hamilton Harbor, Toronto and region, Port Hope Harbor, and the Bay of Quinte. The toxins came about mainly from prior industrial practices, and while are often sighted as the reason for assigning FCAs, they aren’t always the source of the problem.

There are many other contaminants that are now flowing through the Great Lakes. They can be traced back to countless sources that continue to release toxins in the manufacturing of hundreds of everyday products made with highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS. Also being mixed into the Great Lakes are thousands of other chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chloride (road salt), rubber compounds from tires, heavy metals, human and animal waste, and micro-plastics. All of these substances impact fishes regardless of where they reside downstream in the Great Lakes. Thus, successful remediation of an AOC does not necessarily result in waters that are toxic free.

So some may ask, how can an NMCA improve the health of Lake Ontario fishes located within the perimeter of an NMCA, and what would this mean for fishing? According to Dr. Barrie Gilbert, A key advisor to Nature Canada, the NGO leading the push to have the east basin of Lake Ontario designated as Canada’s third NMCA in its Great Lakes waters, fishes found within an NMCA are more likely to be studied by scientists and that’s a good thing. The NMCA itself may have other non-fish related reasons for being established, such as to preserve historic shipwrecks, to protect vital fish habitat such as spawning beds or shoreline wetlands, to attract visitors to the area, and to highlight the important socio-economic and cultural role fishes serve nearby communities. However, when it comes to fishing it’s Dr. Gilbert’s opinion the NMCA being proposed has nothing to do with reducing fishing pressure. In fact, it’s his opinion that the true potential of Lake Ontario to provide people with high quality seafood is nowhere near close to being tapped, and that an NMCA would increase public awareness of this truly bountiful fishing resource. To learn more about what Dr. Barrie Gilbert has to say about the introduction of an NMCA in the Canadian waters located in Lake Ontario’s East Basin, link below to listen to The Blue Fish Radio Show:

There’s so much more to explore and discuss about this proposal. A scientific review still needs to be performed, local and traditional knowledge collected, and meaningful consultations with stakeholders conducted. Lessons learned and best practices also need to be gathered from those involved and affected by the two other NMCAs on Canada’s waters on the Great Lakes. The “Committee of Advisors” to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has already made their views known about NMCAs in general, and will no doubt have more to contribute to the discussion, as will Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Natural Resources. Time pressures aren’t an issue at this point, but Canada’s meeting its 30% protection goals by 2030 isn’t that far down the road, so Parks Canada will soon be feeling the heat. Reconciliation is also a priority, and it’s through these sorts of collaborative initiatives that people of all backgrounds are brought together in a spirit of cooperation, mutual recognition, and shared responsibility.

Blue Fish Canada started digging in on the topic of NMCAs some time back. We’ve also been monitoring the movement towards Indigenous Conserved and Protected Areas. Fishers and anglers all share similar values when it comes to safeguarding fish health and sustainable fishing. This includes adoption of conservation measures when called for by evidence-based science. All this to say, implementing any new restrictions on fishing would need to be well justified given the important social, economic and cultural significance fishes and fishing represent. What is needed are improvements to fish habitat, a strategy that would end the need for FCAs, improved harvesting insights and cooperation, and continual advancements in sustainable fishing tactics that both safeguard fish stocks and improve fish welfare. So, let the discussions begin.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Multi-Species Madness 2022 – REGISTER NOW / CFN
The Canadian Fishing Network Fish Off is proud to announce that we are collaborating with Angler’s Atlas and co-hosting Multi-Species Madness 2022. The tournament is a Provincial based individual tournament. Manitoba – July 1-10, 2022, Ontario – July 23 – August 1, 2022, Saskatchewan – August 27 – September 5, 2022, Alberta – TBD.

FREE Alberta Fishing Education Program / ACA
Want to break into fishing this summer or expand your fishing horizons? This course offers a comprehensive fishing education experience, all from the comfort of your home!

My Wild Alberta Ice Safety Tips / ACA
Although many of us are eager to find a spot on the water and get the summer fishing season started, ice is thinning across the province. Be particularly careful at this time of year if you are planning to drop a fishing line or two.

To save Alberta’s bull trout, is it time to stop fishing for them? / Outdoor Canada
The bull trout is Alberta’s provincial fish emblem. As one of nature’s masterpieces, a species whose ecology is totally tied to the streams that drain from the Rocky Mountain’s eastern slopes, it deserves to be. But it’s also now classified as a species at risk. That’s why it was so inspiring to discover that at least one small population had recovered from past abuse.

DFO shuts down herring and mackerel fisheries on the East Coast / CBC
The news comes after decades of declining stocks.

Herring fishery collapsing on Canada’s Pacific coast / Watershed Sentinel
The herring fishery on the West coast of North America has collapsed after decades of overfishing and mismanagement.

Wood Lake kokanee limit drops, could be closed / Castanet
The province of British Columbia is reducing the daily kokanee harvest limit in Wood Lake from five to three fish per angler.


Salmon fry return to Victoria’s Bowker Creek for first time in nearly a century / CBC News
Thanks to the efforts of volunteer streamkeepers, salmon fry have been sighted in Victoria’s Bowker Creek for the first time in nearly 100 years.

Second step of trout spawning restoration project continues thanks to thick ice / Watersheds Canada
Cold winter nights in January made conditions perfect for the further restoration of a historic trout spawning bed on Diamond Lake in the Madawaska Valley. The Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund donated critical funds to restore the trout spawning bed. The project was possible because of Diamond Lake property owners and volunteers, Madawaska Fish and Game Club, Watersheds Canada, Bathurst Burgess Drummond and Elmsley Fire/Rescue Station, Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) Pembroke, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) – Zone F. Learn how the community came together to restore this spawning bed!

The Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Fishery Commission today applauded the Canadian government for including full funding to implement the 1954 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, a treaty between the two nations. Under the treaty, Canada and the United States agree to fund the Commission consistent with a funding formula. For several years, Canada had been under funding the Commission; such underfunding has undermined Great Lakes science, cross-border cooperation, and control of the invasive, destructive sea lamprey. With today’s Canadian budget, the two nations are now funding the Commission at the agreed-to level with the goal of protecting and improving the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery.

Fish can do math, researchers say / Earth Sky
Researchers at the University of Bonn announced on April 1, 2022, that they’ve taught fish to do math. Their study involved cichlids (a popular, colorful aquarium fish) and stingrays (mostly found in oceans). The new research showed that both fish species were able to perform simple addition and subtraction of the number 1, in the number range up to 5.

Sea lice are becoming more resistant to pesticides. Salmon are suffering / Narwhal
B.C.’s salmon farmers, already losing an uphill battle to win the support of British Columbians and federal politicians, are falling victim to a much tinier nemesis: sea lice. A new paper shows that sea lice are becoming resistant to pesticides used by the salmon aquaculture industry.

Supersized Goldfish Could Become Superinvaders / Scientific American
Just west of Toronto last summer, startled biologists counted more than 20,000 goldfish in a single urban stormwater pond the size of two basketball courts. And the fish, probably descended from dumped pets, were not only thriving numerically—some had grown into three-pound behemoths.

Fourth-graders say goodbye to salmon for Salmon in the Classroom / Kitsap Sun
The program is celebrating its 45th year of teaching elementary school students in the Central Kitsap School District about the salmon lifecycle.

The pandemic that closed the U.S./Canadian border to people may have opened it to the invasive sea lamprey / Great Lakes Echo
In recent years, U.S. and Canadian crews jointly treat lakes and streams to kill the invaders, which can feed on and destroy 100 million pounds of Great Lakes fish each year. But the pandemic border crossing crackdown meant that treatment programs were much harder to complete.

Yukon River residents ask the feds to take over salmon management from the state / KYUK
“What we’re experiencing now is not working. We need something different,” Bruce Ervin of Fairbanks said while testifying at the Federal Subsistence Board meeting.

White House seeks course change in salmon recovery / Post Register
The Biden administration reiterated Monday its determination to change course on the decades-long, $17 billion effort to recover wild salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers. Administration officials said they were asked by the tribes to better fund salmon recovery; to give tribes and states a larger role in the effort; and to expand anadromous fish recovery to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers, where large hydroelectric dams drove fish to extinction in the mid 1900s.

P.E.I. dairy farm fined $50k for 2020 fish kill / CBC News
The operators of the farm responsible for a fish kill in Prince Edward Island in 2020 have pleaded guilty to an offense under the Fisheries Act and have been fined $50,000.

Researchers return from open-ocean Pacific salmon study / CTV
After spending more than a month at sea studying Pacific salmon, scientists and crew aboard the Sir John Franklin Coast Guard vessel returned to Victoria last week. The ship was one of four participating in the 2022 International Year of the Salmon Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition, which was the largest-ever research expedition to study salmon and their ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean.

As salmon die on the high seas, scientists suspect climate change / Washington Post
A research expedition involving American, Canadian and Russian scientists is trying to understand salmon booms and busts in the ‘black box’ of the high seas.


Five reasons to love (and protect) freshwater mussels / Revelator
These aquatic heroes do so much to keep freshwater ecosystems healthy — and we’re killing them off at a record pace.

Week-long sewage spill a health, environmental danger, expert says / Winnipeg Free Press
Nearly 52 million litres of diluted sewage spilled into Winnipeg waters over the past week, raising concerns about human health and the environment.

Scientists take rare look under Great Lakes’ frozen surfaces / Associated Press
More than a dozen crews from U.S. and Canadian universities and government agencies ventured onto the frozen Great Lakes to gather samples and data. The field studies over the past few weeks — a collective effort known as the “Winter Grab” — were intended to boost knowledge of what happens in the five lakes when they’re covered partially or completely with ice.

Visually stunning investigation into the Elliot Creek landslide / Hakai
No one saw the massive landslide in a remote British Columbia valley in late 2020, but it was detected by seismic instruments as far away as Australia. In a few seconds, 50 million tonnes of rock—roughly equal in weight to 150 Empire State Buildings—dropped from a sheer mountainside. Then it hit Elliot Lake. The resulting “hazard cascade”—a landslide followed by a 70-meter-high tsunami and a raging debris flow—was a rare event that has attracted the attention of researchers around the world. It has also turned out to be a lingering cultural catastrophe for the local Homalco First Nation.

The Anemone in the Coal Mine / Hakai Magazine
Native to salt marshes on North America’s Atlantic coast, starlet sea anemones aren’t much bigger than a grain of rice. They look like “a tube with a bunch of spaghetti at the top,”. The starlet sea anemone shows just how extensive the effects of common pollutants can be.

Ducks Unlimited Canada releases comprehensive report to guide future restoration efforts in the Fraser River Estuary / Ducks Unlimited Canada
Factors influencing the persistence of created tidal marshes is focus of new DUC-led study.

Regulations targeting ships are ‘reducing invasive species in Great Lakes / Sault Ste. Marie News
A new McGill study shows that a bi-national regulation targeting ships entering the Great Lakes since the mid-2000s has been remarkably effective in reducing a large proportion of the invasive species in the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.

Putting the Deep Sea on Display / Hakai
Aquarists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have spent years learning how to keep deep-sea animals alive in captivity for a new exhibit. In doing so, they’ve gleaned insights about life in the abyss and our connection to it.

Changing Oceanographic Conditions and Environmental Justice Concerns in the Northeast Shelf Two / NOAA
New reports show the Northeast continental shelf marine ecosystems are experiencing notable ocean warming and changes in oceanography. The reports include new indicators that evaluate environmental justice concerns.

Invading sea lions take over B.C. fish farm / CBC News
Hungry, hungry sea lions broke into a salmon farm near Tofino, British Columbia, and helped themselves to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Over two dozen sea lions have breached the salmon pen barriers, and finding methods for keeping future sea lion invasions at bay remains an ongoing challenge.

Single-day record of Bigg’s killer whales spotted in Salish Sea / Daily Chronicle
Whale watchers in western Washington and British Columbia spotted a new single-day record of at least 72 Bigg’s killer whales throughout the Salish Sea.


North Island First Nations tell DFO they will control fisheries in traditional waters / Vancouver Island Free Daily
GNN councilor Darryl Coon said it is time for GNN’s chief and council to take the “monumental step to take back what’s rightfully ours, the waters of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territories. He confirmed that this means they will control the licensing of the finfish industry within all of their traditional territories.

Alliance against open-net fish farms calls for feds to follow through on phasing out commitment / Castlegar News
First Nations and fishing organizations renew the call for feds to move away from the current fish farm structure.

Why BC’s Site C dam ‘mega trial’ isn’t happening right now / Narwhal
Does the $16 billion Site C dam project infringe on Treaty 8 Rights? That was set to be the key question in a BC Supreme Court “mega trial” due to begin last month. Instead, West Moberly First Nations and public utility BC Hydro have pressed pause to negotiate. Site C, a project shrouded in secrecy that’s ballooned in cost to become the most expensive hydro project in Canada’s history, is being pushed forward by the BC government despite lingering concerns about the stability of the dam and other geotechnical issues.

First Nations step up pressure to phase out fish farms / Business in Vancouver
First Nations opposed to salmon farming in B.C. are stepping up pressure on the federal government to live up to its promise to phase out open-net salmon farms in B.C.


North American Model of Wildlife Conservation / Keep Canada Fishing
Keep Canada Fishing has partnered with Shimano Canada to dive into Canada’s fishing legacy. The series will look at the history of conservation in North America — it’s successes and failures — and how the future of fishing could be at peril. To start, the series goes over the North American Model of Conservation.


Lake Ontario East Basin Proposed Protections and Dr Barrie Gilbert / Blue Fish Radio
Dr. Barrie Gilbert is a world renowned expert on animal behavior and advisor to Nature Canada, the NGO championing a new National Marine Conserved Area for Lake Ontario’s East Basin. On this episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show Barrie explains that the NMCA would bring additional needed scientific research to the area, improve safeguards for fish habitat, and shine a light on the vastly under-utilized and bountiful fisheries in the area.


Link to the film “The Last Guide” on CBC GEM
This documentary celebrates the life of local legend Frank Kuiack, Algonquin Park’s last fishing guide. Blue Fish Radio was pleased to be able to provide  supporting audio content from a conversation editor Lawrence Gunther had with Frank several years prior to his passing.

Watch this video on the invisible migration! / SkeenaWild
Every spring, hundreds of millions of tiny wild salmon smolts begin an incredible journey. These young fish swim as far as 600 km down the Skeena River to the sanctuary of the Skeena’s saltwater estuary.

Why the Boreal Forest Matters for Salmon / SkeenaWild
We’re all connected. From the trees of the Boreal Forest to the rivers that hold populations of salmon that feed bears, birds, and humans alike. SkeenaWild Board Trustee, Dr. Jack Stanford, explains how keeping the boreal & its watersheds intact matters for all of us.


Fishing for compliments: Optimizing creel analysis with complimentary data
Listen to the recording of the March 31, 2022 seminar about protocols used to estimate angler activity and fish harvest. These haven’t changed much over the last 20 years. Efforts to modernize protocols and optimize the analysis of creel data across our inland and Great lakes has led to new opportunities. But first, we need to ask, why are we conducting creels in the first place?

Scientists and Local Champions:

Become a Volunteer Water Steward / ISAP
The Invasive Species Awareness Program is gearing up for our second season of the Water Steward Program, a volunteer-oriented initiative which focuses on educating boaters on AIS prevention! This is a “train-the-trainer” program, where volunteers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to teach others how to Clean, Drain, and Dry a watercraft, in addition to organizing important “boater engagement events” at local boat launches. If you are a passionate conservationist living or recreating within the Durham, Haliburton, Kawartha, and Pine Ridge regions of Ontario, and would like to help prevent the spread of AIS, please volunteer.

Coming Up:

The 10th annual Ocean Tracking Network Symposium will take place November 7-10, 2022 / OCN
Ocean Tracking Network is excited to once again bring together researchers from around the world to collaborate, develop strategies and seek new opportunities to understand the movements of aquatic animals in changing environments. The event will be held in-person in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with select sessions streamed live for a virtual audience.

Special Guest Feature – Establishing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas: The Jurisdictional Spectrum / CELA

A blog exploring the legal perspectives on Indigenous Conserved and Protected Areas can be found on the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s website. The author reaches the following conclusion:

“There is no one model for the formation, management, and governance of IPCAs precisely because they must be rooted in Indigenous laws and systems of governance. However, it is always important for the Crown to commit to meaningfully working with Indigenous authorities to recognize and support the implementation of IPCAs over the long term. Given the importance of advancing reconciliation and the severity of Canada’s biodiversity crisis, it is in all of our interests to demand that they do so.”

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