Blue Fish News – December 18, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: Blue Fish Canada underwent its most productive year yet! Covid may have forced a shift in how we deliver programs, and the need to take our foot off the accelerator while the world responded to the pandemic, but the last year offers proof positive that our programs are more in demand than ever, and we are back to in-person program delivery. Want to know more, read our year-end summary below, along with all the rest of the fish, habitat and fishing news. And most of all, thank you all for your support and assistance. Stay tuned for lots more to come!

Photo of editor Lawrence Gunther and his guide dog Lewis fishing brook trout under a waterfall

This Week’s Feature – Blue Fish Canada in 2023

Prepared by President Lawrence Gunther

Introduction: Without doubt 2023 has been a tremendous growth year for Blue Fish Canada’s programs, new and old. This report details the extent of the growth and results generated over the past calendar year – 2023.

“The Blue Fish Radio Show”: In 2023, 44 episodes of the podcast were produced and released. In addition to interviews with local champions and others working hard to build and strengthen fish health, water quality, and the future of fish and fishing, podcasts include live recordings from Canadian Fishing Network, live Facebook streams featuring Blue Fish Canada President Lawrence Gunther in conversation with CFN host Scotty Martin about the latest fish and fishing news. Of special note, on September 8, 2023, the podcast tracking service Feedspot released its review of the top 35 fishing podcasts around the world, and ranked The Blue Fish Radio Show as number two! Podcasts continue to be featured in Outdoor Canada Magazine’s website and social media.

“Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther”: The Accessible Media Inc. show and podcast “Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther” began its 4th season in September 2023. A total of 92 episodes have been released to date. The podcast features Lawrence and co-host young Lilly Melrose along with special guests discussing outdoor access and conservation. The target audience includes youth and others living with disabilities, their family and friends, and others who have an interest in outdoor life or who live in rural, remote or northern communities. The show airs each Saturday and Sunday over basic cable TV across Canada on AMI Audio, and is available as a podcast.

“Get Ready for Fishing”: In 2023 Blue Fish Canada rebranded its youth and family sustainable fishing program as “Get Ready for Fishing”. The program experienced tremendous success with over 500 youth and family members directly benefiting. Beneficiaries included First nations youth from the Mohawks of Akwesasne community, new Canadians throughout eastern Ontario, and 96 youth who took part in our partner initiative, “Ottawa Fish School”. The program goes beyond teaching youth and their families to fish sustainably, and includes modules such as invasive species identification, removal and prevention, water quality observation and testing, fish handling and release best practices, selecting species-appropriate and environmentally friendly tackle, fish health and habitat resilience, and sustainable harvesting and fish welfare. The program is made possible with assistance from key partners who provide venues and assist with marketing and logistics.

“The Blue Fish News”: A total of 26 issues of the Blue Fish Canada Newsletter were circulated to over 5,000 subscribers in 2023. On average, 31% of subscribers open the News within 24 hours. Each Newsletter includes an editorial, links to fishing, fish, habitat, indigenous, industry, boating, and other news articles, videos, webinars, books, podcasts, details about related up-coming events, and a featured guest blog – no ads. A google search for “fish conservation” places the Blue Fish News in the top-ten results.

“Blue Fish Exploration Centre”: After commencing a search for a remote location to establish a research station and youth exploration centre in early 2022, an off-grid property located 2.5 hours north of Ottawa was eventually chosen. The 3.5 hector (7 acres) Red Pine Forest stretches along 412 meters (1,350 feet) of pristine shoreline. The lake is home to Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Perch, and both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. Renovations are underway to the 162 square meter (1,750 sqft) cabin, and the installation of smaller “bunkies”. The cabin, bunkies, paths, docks and beach access will be fully accessible to researchers, youth and others of all abilities. The cabin will house between six and eight researchers, and the bunkies and canvas wall tents will provide sleeping accommodation for another 20 to 25 youth and their families.

The Blue Fish Exploration Centre will allow youth to learn directly from scientists, local experts, and First Nation knowledge keepers as they engage in structured activities designed to create and strengthen their connection to nature. Their un-plugged experience will include the cool air under the mature forest canopy, the dark night skies, the property’s level forest floor, access to a massive sandy swimming area, and its overall peace and tranquility. The lake is one of the largest in the area, and a network of trails lead to many other nearby water bodies and rivers home to wild fishes of all species.

Collaborations: Blue Fish Canada continues to leverage partnerships to extend program reach. Partner organizations are committed to fish health and conservation, the protection of fish habitat and water quality, and the belief that fishing is a terrific way for youth and others to establish life-long connections with nature. New and renewing partners in 2023 include Water Rangers, Cabela’s, the CNIB, Shimano, Ontario Power Generation, the Great Lakes Network, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Earth Rangers, Canadian Fishing Network, Maitland Tower, Watersheds Canada, B.C. Public Fishing Alliance, St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Studies, Ottawa Fish School, Save the River, Invasive Species Centre, and many more.

“Blue Fish Certified”: As fishing outfitters and resorts continue to recover from COVID-19 economic setbacks, Blue Fish Canada has been busy working with tourism industry leaders to design a Blue Fish Certification program that instructs, tests and certifies fishing guides and fishing resort management staff. Training focusses on water quality, fish health, invasive species prevention, fish handling best practices, fish habitat protection, and sustainable harvesting and fish welfare. Participation and completion of the certification program allows guides, outfitters and resorts to display the Blue Fish Logo, and provides their guests and customers access to pre-visit content explaining what to expect.

“Great Lakes Fish Health Network”: Since founding the Great Lakes Fish Health Network in 2017, Blue Fish Canada President Lawrence Gunther continues to serve as its Chair. In 2023 the Network has directed and overseen a legal review of fish consumption advisories, authored a chapter in a new book on small-scale fisheries, and written an article for a scientific journal on jurisdictional and methodological issues with current fish consumption advisories. Presentations on Network findings and analysis are presented at science symposiums, to Great Lakes Commissions, the Great Lakes Network, and others.

Outreach: In addition to our podcasts, newsletter, YouTube channel, and our other social media channels, we continue to exhibit and provide seminars at outdoor shows, conferences, and schools. President Lawrence Gunther also writes editorials for each newsletter on topics specific to fish and fishing, and is the bi-weekly environmental contributor on the Now with Dave Brown TV show aired over basic cable across Canada and as a podcast. Of special note is President Lawrence Gunther’s involvement in the Water Rangers “Water Ripple” series, an observer at bi-annual meetings of the Great Lakes Commission, a member of the Upper St. Lawrence River Strategy Steering Committee, a participant at the annual lake Committee meeting of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and a “Change Maker” for the River Institute’s “River Rapport”.

Grants and Donations: Grants and donations have been ramped up considerably in 2023 as Blue Fish Canada returns to in-person program delivery. Benefactors include Cabela’s, United Way, Ottawa Community Foundation, Maitland Tower, Service Canada, the CNIB, and numerous other public and corporate donors who believe strongly in our mission and ability to deliver. Comprehensive annual financial reports are submitted at the end of each fiscal year (March 31) to the Canada Revenue Agency, where Blue Fish Canada is registered as a charity, and to Industry Canada where the charity is incorporated as a national not-for-profit. Starting in 2004 reports will also be submitted annually to the Government of Quebec where Blue Fish Canada is now registered as a non-profit called “Poisson Bleu Canada”.

Plans for 2024: Registration to host Get Ready for Fishing events have commenced, and plans are underway to participate in outdoor shows as exhibitors and presenters. Work with engineers, architects and landscape designers for the renovation of the Blue Fish Exploration Centre, with a planned opening for July 2024. Another round of focus group testing for our Blue Fish Certification program will soon be underway, with new certified guides, outfitters and resorts coming on stream in 2024. More grants are being secured, summer students hired, and volunteers trained to support our mission and increasingly popular programs. Blue Fish Canada programs operate year-round.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


She and I, on the fly / Hatch Magazine
The YMCA of the Rockies is helping to increase angler access to affordable guided trips and female guides. The YMCA of the Rockies is a long-time institution in Estes Park that has served as a base camp for families visiting Rocky Mountain National Park since the early 1900s. The sprawling 860-acre property borders the national park, and today is the largest YMCA camp and conference center in the world — drawing more than 220,000 people to their location every year.

Tonnes of elvers were poached in 2023, but border agents didn’t find any / CBC
The Canada Border Services Agency says it looked, but did not find evidence of black-market shipments of baby eels or elvers out of Canada this year, despite widespread poaching in Maritime rivers.


The high levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in our fish could be harming us / INews
A chemical that takes thousands of years to break down is found in England’s freshwater fish at 1,000 times above safe levels – and could end up on our dinner tables. The most commonly cited concern about forever chemicals is that they can weaken the immune system.

Reasons to Be Skeptical about Sentience and Pain in Fishes and Aquatic Invertebrate / ResearchGate
“Just because some folks keep saying that fish feel pain does not make it so” Dr. Steven Cooke “a paper that embraces an organized skepticism perspective.”

Seabirds Can Help Predict the Size of Fish Stocks—If Only We’d Listen / Hakai
The scientists who study terns, puffins, and other fish-eating birds are trying to get fisheries managers to heed their warnings.

Salmon farming companies settle class-action lawsuit alleging global price-fixing scheme / CBC
Seven companies accused of conspiring to manipulate the global price of salmon have agreed to pay a total of more than $5 million Cdn to settle a class-action lawsuit.

Huge spike in herring killed in B.C. salmon farm operations: DFO data / CBC
The Watershed Watch Salmon Society is sounding the alarm on data collected by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that show an unprecedented spike in wild fish killed in B.C. salmon farm operations. According to DFO, 817,000 wild fish — nearly all of them herring — were reported killed in open-net pen salmon farm operations in 2022. That’s an almost five-fold increase from the previous year and a 21-fold increase from 2020. The DFO documents describe how salmon farm operators are responsible for the killing during a mechanical sea lice removal treatment of penned salmon known as hydrolicing.

Canada’s Limits on Sea Lice in Salmon Farms Don’t Measure Up / Hakai
Research comparing salmon farming regulations in four countries finds that Canada’s rules fall short when it comes to protecting wild fish populations from one of the key threats posed by aquaculture: sea lice infestations. In Canada, where scientists within and outside the federal government have clashed over the risk posed by sea lice, farm operators must assess their fish every two weeks during the spring wild salmon migration. If more than three lice per fish are at the motile life stage—growing quickly, moving about the salmon, and generally posing a greater threat—operators have 42 days to bring levels down. But, by then, some wild salmon species may have already migrated past the farm.

“As if 150 years of failure isn’t enough for lessons to be learned, enhancement persists as a key component of salmon management in BC”. Osprey Journal
SkeenaWild’s Director of Science, Dr. Michael Price, and Fisheries Biologist Kaitlin Yehle featured in The Osprey, the International Journal of Salmon and Steelhead Conservation, Fall 2023 issue. Together, they wrote an article, ‘The Follies of Salmon Enhancement, Lessons from British Columbia’s Past.’ The pair discuss the crossroads BC salmon face after a century and a half of intensive commercial exploitation and habitat erosion that has left many populations diminished and vulnerable to existential forces like climate change. The article centres on the government’s heavy focus on artificial enhancement to rebuild these wild salmon populations, hoping to increase abundance and strengthen future resilience. Dr. Price and Kaitlin discuss the various challenges associated with methods of artificial enhancement, highlighting that relatively few have shown much success.

North Atlantic Right Whales Have Better Food in the Gulf of St. Lawrence / NOAA
Chopepods are planktonic crustaceans that occur in large numbers across the North Atlantic Ocean and are the North Atlantic right whales’ primary prey. New research shows that copepods are more nutritious in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, providing a higher quality diet for right whales compared to those in the Gulf of Maine and off Nova Scotia, even though abundance may be less dense.


COP28 climate summit signals the end of fossil fuels / Nature.Com
Nearly 200 countries at the COP28 climate change summit agreed to transition global energy systems “away from fossil fuels.” While the pledge falls short of “phasing out” oil, gas, and coal—despite pleas from more than 100 nations to use that wording—many experts say the explicit focus on fossil fuels is still an important milestone.

Quarter of world’s freshwater fish species at risk of extinction, researchers warn / CBS
Freshwater species are at risk from climate change, pollution and overfishing, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said Monday.

World’s biggest gathering of bald eagles feast in B.C.’s Fraser Valley / Vernon Morning Star
Thousands of eagles descend on Harrison River to eat salmon on their migration route.

Salmon escaping farms are wreaking havoc on wild fish / Newsweek
Atlantic salmon have recently been reclassified as “threatened” due to a worldwide population drop. The trend of farmed salmon escaping captivity and intermingling with wild Atlantic salmon is producing offspring that are less able to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Save the endangered Pacific wild salmon stocks from fish farms / Ecojustice
Ecojustice lawyers — representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Living Oceans Society, Watershed Watch Salmon Society and independent biologist Alexandra Morton — are back in court to support the federal government’s refusal to renew licenses for open-net pen fish farms near the Discovery Islands.

Alaska salmon woes, extreme precipitation, tundra shrub growth part of Arctic transformation / Alaska Beacon
NOAA’s 2023 Arctic Report Card highlights challenges posed by rapid climate change in Alaska and elsewhere in the far North.

Dire new results from Ottawa Riverkeeper’s monitoring program show that urban waterways are impacted by road salt all year round. For the first time in 2023, volunteer community scientists took samples during the summer, and the results were disheartening.

Deep in the Wilderness, the World’s Largest Beaver Dam Endures / Yale E360
In 2007, Jean Thie, a Dutch-born landscape ecologist who lives near Ottawa, was looking at the latest satellite imagery of places he had examined via satellite in 1973 and 1974, when he was studying permafrost. It was then that he first spotted the dam which is about a half-mile long and in the shape of an arc made of connected arcs, like a recurve bow. The idea of going to the world’s largest beaver dam came to Rob Mark after reading about Thie’s discovery, a challenge as it meant wading through ten miles of swamp and back again after being dropped off by boat that first had to cross a 25-mile lake.


Aquatic invasive species in Western NL: vase tunicate are a filter feeding animal and a competitor for other native filter feeders including mussels and other commercial bivalves.

Invasive aquatic plant discovered in Lake Saint-François Quebec: a type of freshwater macroalgae called Nitellopsis obtusa, or more commonly, starry stonewort. Native to Europe and Asia, it can reach lengths of over 1.5 metres, is bright translucent green, and has irregular branches that grow in whorls from the main stem.

Invasive mussel monitoring ongoing in Christina Lake in BC: The lake is a tourism hotspot, and should Zebra or Quagga muscles be detected, it could serve as an early warning for other water bodies in the region.

Zebra mussels found in Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba: Last year environmental DNA was detected, this year they discovered Zebra muscles.


Coastal First Nations get $60M boost from B.C. to protect Great Bear Sea / National Observer
The funding helps 15 coastal First Nations conserve B.C.’s ‘Galapagos of the North’ and move forward with a network of marine conservation areas that spans two-thirds of Canada’s West Coast. The Indigenous-led funding allows coastal First Nations to push forward with a vast marine conservation network in their traditional territories to protect marine ecosystems, create new jobs and economic opportunities, and foster sustainable fisheries and tourism, the premier of B.C. said.

‘Salmon parks’ in traditional First Nations territory aim to save habitats by stopping old-growth logging / The Globe and Mail
A new plan from the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, aided by the B.C. and federal governments, signals a shift in Indigenous-led conservation across the province. To meet commitments by the federal and provincial governments, B.C. will need to set aside more than 10 million hectares of new biologically important areas for protection from development over the next six years. Much of that will be achieved through Indigenous-led conservation projects that are now on a fast track for approval. This includes the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation plan, which will require additional funding to complete.


Gone fishing… for some fish data / Statistics Canada
Canadian households were asked if they participated in outdoor activities close to home during the second year of the pandemic, and just under 1 in 10 (9%) Canadian households reported they went fishing close to home in 2021.

A total of 853 fishing and hunting camps with employees were counted in the second half of 2022. Over half of the camps were located in Quebec (253) and Ontario (229). British Columbia (125) ranked third. Just over half (52%) of fishing and hunting camps employ from one to four people, and the three largest camps each employed from 100 to 200 people.


Ottawa Boat and Outdoor show February 22-25
Visit the Blue Fish Canada booth at the Ottawa Boat and Outdoor Show and experience our “Get Ready for Fishing” program!


Guy Harvey Foundation Renews Support for the Art of Conservation® Fish Art Contest / Wildlife Forever
Wildlife Forever is proud to announce the continuation of their partnership with the Guy Harvey Foundation for the 2024 The Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest.


Episode 92: Marine Mammal Communications and Photographing Environmental Conflicts / Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther
On this episode of Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther, Lilly shares a story about dolphins rescuing a mother and baby whale from sharks, and we learn about marine mammal communications. National Geographic photographer Brent Stirton shares stories about his 25 years of photographing and reporting on environmental conflict, and Lawrence has a few tips on taking pictures without the use of sight. Lawrence also reflects on getting outdoors to open up you’re hearing.


B.C.’s ancient ‘river dinosaurs’ face uncertain future as population dwindles / Weather Network
Sturgeon fishing is more than just a sport, its cultural significance is deep in the province of B.C. The Weather Network’s Mia Gordon takes a look at the important history of sturgeon and the dangers facing them in the future.


Building Resilient Shorelands / Watersheds Canada
Discover the science behind vegetated buffers, strategies for achieving environmental net gain at the waterfront, shoreline planting restoration templates, and other resources promoting sustainable development along waterfront lands. Watersheds Canada has a free policy toolkit.

Unique pathways of invasive mussel spread / GLFC
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Invasive Mussel Collaborative recently hosted a webinar on unique pathways of invasive mussel spread. Presenters included James Dickey with Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries; Courtney Larson with the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Great Lakes Toxicology and Ecology Division; and Daniel Sandborn with the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Coming Up:

January 27th: Join Save the River at Winter Environmental Conference in Clayton NY to celebrate STR’s 35th gathering to hear about topics of critical importance to the health of the St. Lawrence River. Highlights include American Eels, Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), environmental indicators used in Plan 2014, and Save Blind Bay.
February 12-15: 2024 Invasive Species Forum / ISC
February 20-22: 29th Annual Wetland Science Conference
March 5-7: Great Lakes Commission Semi-annual Meeting and Great Lakes Day 2024
March 18-22: Great Lakes Fishery Commission 2024 Lake Committee Meetings.
May 12-16: International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species (ICAIS) in Halifax.
May 20-24: IAGLR’s 67th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research

Special Guest Feature – Ice Fishing Season is on the Horizon

Invasive Species Centre

As the weather gets colder, many of the staff at the ISC office are keeping an eye on the lakes waiting for the ice to become safe for ice fishing. If, like us, you are impatiently waiting to get back out on hard water, it might be a good time to freshen up on some of the bait regulations, including Bait Management Zones and how to properly handle and dispose of your bait.

A reminder: in Ontario, it is illegal to dump the contents of a bait bucket or bait, live or dead, either directly into the water or within 30 metres of it. Unknowingly having juvenile invasive species in your bait bucket and mishandling that bait is one of the most common pathways for invasive aquatic species to spread, especially into isolated lake systems. This preventative practice is something all ice anglers across Canada should adopt where-ever the use of live minnows for bait is legal.

Blue Fish Canada relies on top Canadian fish biologists and expert anglers to fact-check all our Blue Fish Sustainable Fishing Tips. Check out our tips on how to ice fish sustainably.

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