Blue Fish News – April 17, 2023

What’s new at Blue Fish Canada: Spring has certainly sprung and everyone everywhere is readying gear for the open water season. Thank goodness, it’s been a record cloudy winter and we all need sun. But, let’s not forget all the rest of the health benefits that go with fishing, and what we need to do to make sure our actions give back in ways that ensure fish and fishing will be around for generations to come. On that theme, our feature editorial continues to explore what it means to live in a “one health” relationship with nature, following on our mental health focus editorial released in the April 3rd issue of the Blue Fish News. More than ever, given all we now know about the impacts extreme weather is having on nature and losses in biodiversity, we need to stand together for nature.

Photo of editor Lawrence Gunther on the bow of his Ranger

This Week’s Feature – One Health and Recreational Angling

By L. Gunther

In the April 3, 2023, edition of the Blue Fish News, we covered the topic of mental health and recreational angling. Everything from benefits from spending time in nature, to adopting the appropriate mental state whether fishing with friends and family or competing at the highest levels. Today let’s explore the concept of “one health”, and why it’s an approach we all now need to adopt.

It’s my understanding that indigenous values are based in the one health philosophy of being in nature. An understanding that for every action there’s a response or consequence. I’m not an expert in traditional indigenous practices, but I have spent considerable time seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between indigenous people and nature’s capacity to provide to the health of their communities.

Much of my research has focussed on how indigenous communities emphasize the role of each member’s status as a net contributor to the overall health of the community, including the traditional roles of people like me who live without sight. It’s 40-years of exploration that has framed my perspective of our place within nature as being grounded in people working together to survive and thrive. On reflection, it’s a paradigm that is slowly losing relevance as evolving technology makes foraging that much more efficient, requiring fewer active foragers and less effort to accomplish the same goals. At the same time, ensuring that we strengthen our awareness and connection with the wellbeing of nature grows in importance along with our new-found powers.

One health recognizes the interconnectedness of the health of humans, animals, and the environment. With respect to spending time in the outdoors, given the increasing pressure nature is experiencing due to increased harvesting pressures, climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, it is more important than ever that we are aware of the impacts of our actions. After all, if nature suffers, how are we to continue to benefit from being in its midst?

At a more practical level, protecting ourselves when in nature includes preventing the transfer of zoonotic diseases. These are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Such transfer can occur by having direct contact with diseased fish, by consuming raw or undercooked diseased fish, and in some cases, through the water such fish inhabit. Just as importantly, we don’t want to be the ones who spread aquatic diseases from one water body to another. More environmental stressors brought about by our increased capacity to travel large distances.

Another aspect of the One Health approach concerns the responsible use of natural resources. Over-harvesting of fish, or unsafe fish handling practices when releasing fish, can all diminish fish populations over time if the combined extraction and mortality rate exceeds the ability of the fish to replenish their numbers, or what is now defined as unsustainable. North American conservationists recognized this threat over 150 years ago; recognition that formed the framework of today’s systems used to manage harvest pressures. Given our growing realisation of our global impacts on nature, conserving the health of an ecosystem includes more-than-ever the protection of species at risk, minimizing human impact on wildlife habitat, and enhancing and strengthening the resilience of habitat that has been negatively impacted by extreme weather or human activity.

I think the message is obvious to everyone who spends time in nature at this point. No one believes any more that our presence in nature is completely benign, or that Nature’s capacity to provide is infinite. This may have been the case up until relatively recently, but our ability to move about efficiently over long distances, and our adoption of numerous technical innovations, have now tipped the balance towards “short term gain” along with “long term pain.” It’s led to greater need to take measures to “leave no trace”, and to know when “enough is enough.

Nature is incapable of saying no, so it’s up to us to figure this out on nature’s behalf. It’s what conservationists refer to as the science-based precautionary principle. Since most of us aren’t scientists, we need to pay attention to what those who are doing the science are saying. Even still, healthy relationships aren’t built on a foundation of a thousand “no’s”.

An indigenous elder told me that the secret to surviving in a small space over long winters with someone you care about involves learning to read the signs. To anticipate their needs and desires without there having to explicitly state what these are. To spare the person from having to ask by taking action to address such needs before they become a source of friction. It’s a form of communications that goes well beyond spoken language.

Examples of species that have successfully evolved have a heightened awareness of the others in their community and the environment as a whole. The vast majority of the time is spent listening with their eyes, ears, and other senses, using language, play, songs, dance and story telling to convey deeper more complex lessons of morality, fertility and survival.

The assumption conveyed by some that animals were put on earth for our benefit, and that humans rule supreme is slowly being abandoned. Replacing this paradigm with something more realistic hasn’t been easy. Recreation, conservation, environmentalism, survivalism, indigenous values, and now sustainability, have all been promoted as the answer to our long-term survival. Learning from experience is crucial, but going back in time is likely not the answer.

Plenty of evidence exists of past civilizations that failed because they were unable to live in balance with nature. Those civilizations that did well, found other ways to ensure their needs never grew beyond what their environment could support, because if demand did outstrip supply, starvation often resulted. For those who never bothered imposing their own limits, many simply reverted to taking from their neighbours. Imperialism, inter-tribal conflict, wars, it’s all rooted in vanquishing ones perceived weaker opponent — bloody alternatives that society as a whole now hopes to move beyond.

So, if we can’t live outside of nature without impacting nature itself and threatening our own long-term survival, and if we don’t want to revert to pre-industrial times when we stayed within the borders of our respective territories until we couldn’t, then we need to discover a new way of existing in harmony with nature. Mitigating and adapting to climate change is forcing our hand, as are increasing anxiety levels among people. Signs of heightening stress within nature itself are also underscoring the need to evolve our systems and behaviors to align with our planets strengths and weaknesses.

One thing is certain, it’s in all our best interests to form responsible one-health connections with nature as we adapt and make sense of this new paradigm. Going back in time isn’t an option, despite what reality TV is portraying through ever-more hone-steading type programming might suggest. Growing populations and expectations also make it unsustainable for people to revert to a “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle. Already ample evidence exists of resulting territorial conflicts and biodiversity loss, especially when commercial trade in these same resources is included – technical innovations have already tipped the odds in favour of over-exploitation. But, does all this mean that nature can no longer provide?

What sustainable life on earth will need to include to support as many as nine billion people still is a work in progress. While these issues are being sorted out, finding new terms of engagement with nature needs to be reimagined at a personal and community level. But for certain, connecting with nature in healthy mutually sustainable ways is crucial if we are to slow down and ultimately end the practice of sacrificing nature to meet our own economic goals. Shuttering ourselves away from nature in built urban environments and treating the rest of the planet as our “piggy bank” isn’t sustainable.

We are told community, economy, health, are all base-level requirements essential for people to achieve feelings of safety and security. But, can we continue to excuse the behaviour of others by associating their actions with survival? Or, is they’re also a spiritual aspect that many of us now struggle with personally? What role does nature play in rekindling this spiritual aspect of who we are? More on that topic to come.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Catch-and-Release vs. Catch-and-Eat Bass Fishing / Field & Stream
So you’re telling me that people out there actually want to eat bass? Whether it’s a largemouth or smallmouth, I’ve always been surprised to hear fishing folks talk about eating bass. In my mind, micropterus salmoides are not food. However, after learning that I just might be in the minority in the fight for eating bass versus not eating bass, I see I need to explain myself—and let you know why I think you shouldn’t eat bass either.

Quebec Ice Fishermen Catch Giant Atlantic Halibut / Field & Stream
A group of Quebec fishermen recently made an incredible catch: On March 4, Denis Lavergne, Stéphane Rivard, and Jean-François Simard teamed up to land an absolutely gigantic Atlantic halibut while ice fishing—yes, ice fishing—the Saguenay Fjord. Recreational Atlantic halibut fishing is prohibited in Quebec. But in the winter of 2022, the provincial government instituted a program on the Saguenay Fjord that pairs anglers with government scientists. Under the program, anglers are allowed to fish for the species but must submit their catches to scientists, who record biological data from the fish. According to Simard, who is a wildlife technician for the Quebec government, the Saguenay Fjord is a one-of-a-kind fishery.

To save the Bow River’s trout, anglers stand to pay the price / Outdoor Canada
It’s not the first time anglers have felt they were in the crosshairs of fisheries biologist Michael Sullivan from Alberta’s Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas. In the mid-1990s, Sullivan led a walleye recovery plan that many anglers felt unfairly singled them out as the cause of the walleye decline. As with most fisheries, there is typically a cumulative effect leading to a population decline, but many felt Sullivan ignored other factors, resulting in some of the most restrictive angling regulations Alberta has ever seen. One of the most controversial parts of his plan was the institution of a limited-entry draw allowing anglers to keep a small number of walleye.

Now Sullivan is leading the charge to bring more restrictive fishing regulations to Alberta’s famed Bow River, and many anglers are predictably watching with a suspicious eye. While rainbow and brown trout are not native to the Bow River drainage, they provide an important fishery in terms of both recreation and economics, with anglers injecting approximately $24.5 million into the local economy each year. Nonetheless, a recent decline in rainbow numbers has Sullivan and his colleagues looking for a solution—and once again, anglers seem to be their primary target.

The fishing life: When it comes to wetting a line, this is what it’s all about / Outdoor Canada
The fishing life is resourcefulness. We anglers often overcome unfavourable weather, equipment breakdowns and all kinds of unexpected challenges to reach our destinations. We also strive to learn and improve. We read how-to articles, listen to the pros, build our tackle collections and study our fisheries.

The Best Walleye Fishery on the Planet / Field & Stream
At nearly 10,000 square miles, Lake Erie is the 11th largest lake in the world. And right now it arguably has the best walleye fishing in the world. Fisheries experts say Erie now holds over 100 million walleyes.

MP Taylor Bachrach joins calls to limit foreign ownership of commercial fishing licenses on West Coast / CFNR Network
A pair of NDP MPs are calling for Ottawa to end the transfer of commercial fishing licenses in Pacific waters to foreign owners. Canada does not currently limit the foreign ownership of commercial licenses and quotas, nor does it track citizenship when they change hands. According to the Union and the MPs, this displaces Canadian operations, damaging their economic viability, and domestic food security.

California salmon fishing slated to shut down this year due to low stock / NPR
Federal researchers expect a near-record-low stock of Chinook salmon, one of the largest and most highly prized fish in the Pacific Ocean. The measure, unseen in 14 years, would temporarily ban both commercial and recreational salmon fishing in the state. Much of the fishing off the coast of neighboring Oregon would also be canceled until 2024. Chinook salmon are the “largest and most highly prized” of all the salmon in the Pacific ocean, according to the council. But over the years, the species has become increasingly endangered as a result of drought, heat waves and agriculture. The decision to cancel the salmon fishing season is expected to take a toll on the $1.4 billion fishing industry, which supports 23,000 jobs in the state.


The fright of a lifetime: Accidentally encountering a great white shark in Canada / Canadian Geographic
Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark shares his experience coming face-to-face with one of the ocean’s top predators while scuba diving near Halifax, N.S.

Nature group wants Canada to strengthen reviews of genetically engineered animals / Salmon Arm Observer
Nature Canada wants engineered animals to stay out of the wild. Canada hasn’t had any accidents with the technology, but Nature Canada senior adviser Mark Butler said we need to prevent wild animals from being exposed to engineered cousins that could breed with them, prey on them or compete with them for food.

The sea lamprey control program is a highly coordinated effort between the United States and Canada. The program was established by the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries of 1954, a treaty between the two nations. Since 1958, the program has used the lampricide TFM to control sea lamprey in the Great Lakes. TFM was discovered in 1957 after more than 6,000 compounds were tested to uncover a selective sea lamprey control method. TFM is fully registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and with Health Canada as a safe and effective pesticide. Licensed and trained technicians apply TFM in streams to remove sea lamprey larvae. TFM does not pose a risk to human health or the environment when applied at concentrations necessary to control larval sea lampreys. It naturally breaks down in the environment and does not accumulate in the tissues of fish.

More evidence that releasing hatchery-reared native fish is harmful / Hatch Magazine
The impacts of rearing and stocking non-native fish into watersheds where they don’t belong are well understood: undue competition for limited resources, hybridization, predation — the list goes on. The impacts of rearing and stocking non-native fish into watersheds where they don’t belong are well understood: undue competition for limited resources, hybridization, predation — the list goes on. In the American West, we’ve seen how introduced brook trout outcompete native cutthroat trout and eventually take over; or how rainbow trout mingle with native cutthroat trout during the spring spawn and produce a fertile hybrid that slowly eats away at native fish genetics. But even attempts to boost fish native stocks by raising genetically “appropriate” native fish and then releasing them into watersheds where they are native might be causing harm to native fish born and reared in the wild.

New tool shows progress in fighting spread of invasive grass carp in Great Lakes / ScienceDaily
Using data collected during their efforts to remove invasive grass carp from Lake Erie and its tributaries, the aquatic ecologists and environmental statisticians developed a model that can be used to estimate the amount of any rare fish early in the invasion process.

Scientists break new record after finding world’s deepest fish / University of Western Australia
At a depth of more than eight kilometres underwater, a new record for the deepest fish ever filmed and the deepest fish ever caught has been set by scientists from The University of Western Australia and Japan.


$1.2B in, Teck has barely tackled pollution problems / Narwhal
As Teck Resources plans to distance itself from coal, government records show the mining giant remains a long way from solving the widespread contamination of local rivers and creeks — despite having already invested $1.2 billion in water treatment. Last year, selenium levels 267 times higher than what’s considered safe for aquatic life were detected in waters directly affected by Teck’s Elk Valley mines, according to an internal government meeting note obtained by The Narwhal through a freedom of information request. The mining giant’s water treatment facilities have been plagued by delays and unexpected water quality issues.

Toxins found in small fish-bearing waterbody near oilsands spill, energy regulator says / National Observer
Alberta’s energy regulator has confirmed hazardous chemicals are present in a small waterbody after two releases of tailings-contaminated wastewater from Imperial Oil’s Kearl oilsands mine.

As glaciers retreat, new streams for salmon / Discover Magazine
Ecologist Sandy Milner has traveled to Alaska for decades to study the development of streams flowing from melting glaciers. He’s seen insects move in, alders and willows spring up, and spawning fish arrive in thousands.

Things aren’t looking good’: How climate change, chemicals and invasive species are impacting Innisfil ice fishing / Innisfil Journal
Ice fishing has long been a tradition on Lake Simcoe, but the length of time the lake is covered in ice, for areas like Kempenfelt Bay, has been shrinking, according to data from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.


Yukon River’s salmon runs likely to stay small while Indigenous Peoples’ sacrifice grows / National Observer
Indigenous people on both sides of the border spoke about the devastation the loss of chinook salmon and the more recent collapse of chum stocks are having on communities while testifying at the Yukon River Panel, a bilateral commission that manages salmon stocks, during its meeting in Whitehorse this week. The collapse of wild salmon is causing a current of pain that spans the length of the Yukon River, from its mouth at Alaska’s Bering Sea to the headwater’s in Canada’s Yukon territory 3,000 kilometres away.


E393 Bring Back the Brookies with Trout Unlimited / Blue Fish Radio
Kerry Kennedy is a member of the Niagara Ontario chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, and the driving force behind the Bring Back the Brookies initiative. A committed conservationist, Carrie is leading the charge to enhance trout habitat, and to document the TU chapter’s progress so others are informed and inspired to do the same. Find out what it takes to enhance stream and shoreline habitat, and why initiatives such as this are becoming imperative to the health of resident trout.

Special Guest Feature – Fisheries and Oceans Canada Faces Deluge of Calls to Improve ‘Suspect’ Science National Observer

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is being flooded with calls for change after a parliamentary committee examined how the federal agency conducts, interprets and acts on its own science.

The investigation ended with 49 recommendations to address concerns about how DFO science is presented to the fisheries minister and the public before important political decisions are made — particularly those involving B.C. salmon farms or commercial fisheries on either coast.

Insufficient funding for critical research, not incorporating data from Indigenous people, fish harvesters or independent academics, and a lack of transparency about DFO’s scientific research and outcomes also surfaced as key issues in a recent report from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO).

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