Blue Fish News – December 21, 2020

In this final issue of the Blue Fish Canada News for 2020, we begin with an editorial by editor Lawrence Gunther “Local Knowledge Stakeholder Engagement” that explores whether the genie should be put back into the bottle post-pandemic. As always, we include a specially curated list of Links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news, and close with a special resource selected to inform and inspire our readers to ice fish sustainably. 

Editor Lawrence Gunther with his guide dog Lewis, a Lab – Golden Retriever mix

This Week’s Feature

“Local Knowledge Stakeholder Engagement” – by Editor Lawrence Gunther

No doubt, 2020 was problematic for most of us at best, and far worse for many others. And while some may lament society’s pivot to webinars and video conferencing, the one bright spot is the increased participation levels and transparency that resulted.

Blue Fish Canada volunteers participated in more meetings in 2020, that prior to the pandemic, were never options due to costs and their associated carbon footprints. Our increased participation and that of many others, by this virtual throwing open of the doors, has set in motion broader collaboration and an openness to new ideas.

For years Blue fish Canada has been advocating for both greater stakeholder participation by recreational anglers and indigenous fishers, and increased consideration of fish health issues by those concerned with water quality. I’m pleased to report that we have made progress in getting fish and fishing included, if not on actual agendas in every case, as topics to be considered and discussed. Within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence watersheds alone, the number of meetings we participated in set a new record.

Even though funding to organizations with official status flows primarily to scientific research, the introduction of local knowledge held by indigenous fishers and recreational anglers has helped to strengthen the framework upon which research findings are mapped and connected in ways that mirror this knowledge. Whether it’s the science that’s culminating in a more holistic and coherent story that people can then apply, or if it’s the local knowledge that’s identifying the gaps in scientific research that need filling, the point is that the dots are starting to be connected.

It’s now becoming abundantly clear just how important it is for researchers to collaborate with people and groups with local knowledge. The next step is figuring out ways to ensure the funding is there and applied equitably so we don’t revert to prior more insular processes that are, admittedly, a lot more predictable. Ensuring funding to groups that truly represent stakeholders with local knowledge is also imperative if we are to curb the dependents such groups now have on financing that comes with strings attached.

In my recent Blue Fish Radio interview with the co-founder of the environmental organization “Swim Drink Fish Canada”, Kyrstyn Tully speaks about how pre-loaded funding is shaping the directions taken by environmental and conservation groups who depend on grants to cover their operational and project budgets. Tully underscores the need for more stable funding so local knowledge organizations can stay true to the voices of their constituency. Even the funding needed to attend in-person meetings alone is often a hardship. You can listen to The Blue Fish Radio Show interview with Kyrstyn Tully using the following link:

Having conducted over 300 long-form interviews with leading scientists and local knowledge experts from across Canada for “The Blue Fish Radio Show”, hundreds more with people who live by and from the water for my documentaries “What Lies Below” and “Lake2Plate”, and by simply spending time on boats fishing with amazing people, I can report that the sense of disconnection and frustration I’m hearing from people who directly experience the consequences of actions or inactions brought about by decision makers is growing. Whether indigenous fishers or recreational anglers, most now know where the science is being conducted and the decisions are being taken or not that impact their beloved fish and the fisheries that make up a big part of who they are.

For such decision-making bodies to move forward with a broader collaborative agenda, it’s no longer enough to simply include fish without also including the people who catch fish for cultural, social, subsistence, recreational, and entrepreneurial reasons. In short, we can not continue to study water without recognizing the direct relationships between water, fish, and the dependent people. Scientists need access to the knowledge these people possess, and fishers and anglers need answers and sound decisions that build on these answers, even if it involves strong medicine. It can only happen if the people responsible for taking decisions recognize the value of both, and back up this recognition with the funding and opportunities that make the science and participation by local knowledge stakeholders possible.

Let’s hope the rush to return to pre-pandemic practices in 2021 doesn’t bring an end to the inclusion and transparency many have now experienced at levels that far exceed what was once the norm. And hopefully, given the growing awareness among decision makers that science works best when combined with local knowledge, it will also mean greater financial consideration when allocating funding. To start, every scientific report should include a detailed section of how local knowledge was incorporated, the level of involvement of local experts in the actual research, and a budget line that clearly demonstrates the value of such collaborations. And then who knows, maybe directly funding local knowledge stakeholder groups to do more than plant shoreline greenery or scoop garbage. To give such organizations the breathing room to gather, sort and make available local knowledge in ways beyond providing opening and closing remarks at meetings.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News


Ten Ice Fishing Safety Tips by Canada’s own fishing legend Bob Izumi – Northern Ontario Travel
Proper preparation is one of the keys to ensuring a safe day on the hard water.

Fly Fishing’s Unlikely Following – Fishing Wire
Who would have guessed that old-fashioned fly fishing would captivate a whole new generation? But it’s true: the Zen-like practice is attracting millennials by the boatload.

How To Perform A Self Rescue if you Go Through the Ice – YouTube

Angling lost a legendary angler, educator, and industry icon with the passing of Ron Lindner – Angling Edge
Ron and his brother Al brought a scientific approach to angling that helped them evolve into elite tournament fisherman. The pair developed the Lindy Tackle Company and invented the Lindy Rig used by millions of walleye anglers. They went on to create a fishing media empire that began with the In-Fisherman magazine and expanded into radio, television, books and more. Then on to Lindner Media Productions which spawned Lindner’s Angling Edge and an outcropping of subsidiaries. Ron was inducted into many Sportsman and Fishing Hall of Fames. Rest in peace, Ron. Your accolades are many and varied, and changed the world through your life of service to the cause.

Minnesota’s NW Angle Businesses Unite to Save Ice Fishing Season – Fishing Wire
There is a part of the United States that as a result of the U.S. / Canada border closure, has been cut off from U.S. residents. In order to travel there, one has to drive through Canada about 40 miles before entering back into the U.S. Facing another season of virtually no revenue, the community has pulled together and come up with a solution, the NW Angle Guest Ice Road.

Fishing code of conduct being finalized for Haida Gwaii – Smithers Interior News
The recreational fishing code for fishing on Haida Gwaii is being developed by a trilateral group consisting of the Council of the Haida Nation, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Included in the code: take only what you need, avoid unnecessary harm to untargeted species, refrain from targeting the largest fish, and ending catch-and-release practices.

Fish Health:

Discovery Islands salmon farms to be phased out of existence over next 18 months – CBC News
The controversial open-net salmon farms in the Discovery Islands near Campbell River, B.C., will be phased out over the next 18 months. Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said all 19 farms have to be free of fish by June 30, 2022, when their renewed 18-month licenses expire.

Permanent fishway to be built at Fraser River landslide – Kamloops This Week
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has awarded a contract that would see a permanent fishway built to help fish migrate past the massive Big Bar landslide on the Fraser River. The federal government has awarded Burnaby-based Peter Kiewit Sons a contract worth $176.3 million to design and build a fishway that’s expected to be operational by the start of the 2022 Fraser River salmon migration

Large-scale fish hatcheries hurting Chinook salmon populations – CTV News
New report says four Chinook populations are moving towards extinction and one of the threats to the population is large-scale fish hatcheries. “They are really struggling,” said John Reynolds, professor of ecology at Simon Fraser University and the chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered

Tofino Hatchery sets sights on restoring Chum salmon stocks – Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News
The hatchery recently launched a new project designed to boost Chum populations by collecting roughly 45,000 chum eggs.

Tire Treads Washing into Rivers Discovered to be Killing California’s Coho Salmon – 
Scientists in the Pacific Northwest say they’ve solved a long-running mystery behind the region’s dying salmon, a discovery that may explain what’s harming fish elsewhere around the globe. In recently published research, a team of university and government scientists identify a toxic material derived from tire treads that is washing into rivers and creeks as the killer of as many as 90% of the coho salmon in parts of the Puget Sound. The finding is a welcome breakthrough for Washington state after decades of losing the revered fish without a full explanation. However, it also points to a bigger problem, one that’s both difficult to solve and not limited to a single part of the country, and possibly rampant in urban areas everywhere.

Alexandra Morton: The trilogy of DFO decisions in 2020—is this the end of wild Fraser River salmon? – Georgia Straight
The North Atlantic cod collapsed because the DFO ignored critical warnings from its own scientists.

Scientists call for Fraser River Estuary Act – Business in Vancouver
More than 100 species in the Fraser River estuary could go extinct over the next 25 years, according to a new study led by University of BC scientists. About 15: of the threatened species are fish, essential to most of the rest.

Feds give more than $6M to assist species-at-risk projects in Nova Scotia – CBC News
The Nova Scotia Salmon Association will receive $3.8 million to be used in two projects, while the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq will receive up to $2.3 million. The bulk of the funds will go toward conservation planning for eight priority watersheds in several locations in mainland Nova Scotia. Work on the project started last year and will continue through to 2023.

New East Coast White Shark Research Consortium Formed – Fishing Wire
Shark research groups and government agencies from the northeastern US and Canada announced the establishment of the New England White Shark Research Consortium. With growing sightings of white sharks from Rhode Island to Canada, this is the perfect time to create a unique consortium to increase our understanding of white shark life history, including their migration, residency, habitat use, reproduction, and predatory behavior, factors that drive human-white shark interactions, and broader perceptions of white sharks by coastal communities.

Nearly 200,000 people come together in efforts to save BC wilderness – My Prince George Now
A new ‘Fish, Wildlife and Habitat’ coalition forms in B.C and has 188,000 members. The coalition is comprised of 750 businesses and 54,000 supporters from different backgrounds, lifestyles and political beliefs. The group is demanding fish, wildlife and habitat no longer take a ‘back seat’ in B.C. In 1954, BC spent approximately .63% of the provincial budget on fish and wildlife, by 2017, that number declined to .06%.

Whales to trout: Ottawa announces $50M for research into fisheries ecosystems – Kamloops This Week
The federal government is announcing more than $50 million for research into marine and freshwater ecosystems across Canada. The projects range from improving habitat for Atlantic salmon to measuring the effects of shipping on whales off the British Columbia coast to studying trout-bearing waters in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains where new coal mines and expansion of others are being considered.

Canada joins 13 nations in 100% sustainable ocean management pledge –
Canada, with over five million square kilometres of ocean area, is one of the countries to put forward a new ocean action agenda on Wednesday. Boris Worm, a professor of marine ecology at Dalhousie University, was the scientific advisor to the Canadian government and reviewer of papers written for the newly proposed oceans agenda. Worm says the world’s oceans are at a critical turning point, as some estimate a decline of 50 per cent in marine resources. “In Canada, only one-quarter of fish stocks is considered reliably healthy,” Worm says. “There’s a road to recovery we need to engage in, and we’re willing to engage, and that’s what this panel is all about — to make sure it actually happens.”

Water Quality:

Yukon wetlands at tipping point from placer mining – The Narwhal
The Yukon Water Board is asking the public to weigh in as the territory considers legislation to protect remaining undisturbed wetlands from small-scale gold mining in streams and riverbeds.

Ottawa’s Downtown tunnel finally ready to keep sewage out of Ottawa river –  CBC 
The $232-million “engineering marvel,” which began construction in 2016, is now ready to store water when the next big storm hits Ottawa. The pair of tunnels measure 6.2 kilometres in total, and include 15 underground chambers capable of holding up to 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of sewage.

13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding – Cowichan Valley Citizen
Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s executive director, Aaron Hill, applauded the investments, with a note of caution. “Much more is needed, including much stronger efforts to ensure our lands and waters don’t get trashed to begin with.”

It’s official: Alberta’s oilsands tailings ponds are leaking – The Narwhal
There are more than a trillion litres of toxic oilsands waste stored in tailings ponds near Alberta’s Athabasca River. A years-long international investigation has found ‘scientifically valid evidence’ the massive pits that store toxic waste in the oilsands are leaking, leaving Albertans wondering who’s going to clean them up

The watershed watchers: in conversation with the International Joint Commission – The Narwhal
Canada and the U.S. are bound together by waterways that transcend political borders. But what happens when industrial development changes those waters in ways that could last hundreds of years? Selenium pollution in the Elk Valley watershed, which is linked to fish and bird deformities and the collapse of treasured trout populations, is on the rise. And because the Elk Valley watershed drains into the Koocanusa reservoir, which crosses the B.C.-Montana border, the province’s selenium problem is now raising the ire of our neighbours to the south.

Government blocks proposed mine that threatened Alaska salmon fishery – The Guardian
Denial of permit to controversial Pebble gold and copper mine delights environmental and indigenous rights activists, and brings an end to the dreams of Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. The mine and it’s proposed open-pit excavation would have created a pit deeper than the Grand Canyon, threatening the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery located in south-west Alaska.

The last undammed river of Manitoba – The Narwhal
The Seal River is Manitoba’s only major waterway that hasn’t been dammed — and five Indigenous communities have banded together to keep it that way by establishing a protected area.

Lake Partner Program News – FOCA
The Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations has entered into a new 5 year agreement in support of the Lake Partner Program carrying on their longstanding partnership between dedicated waterfront volunteers and the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. Their important work together supports the shared commitment to the long term monitoring of our precious freshwater lakes.


New Legacy art gallery exhibit aims to revitalize traditional W̱SÁNEĆ fishing practices – Martlet 
UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery has a new exhibit: “To Fish as Formerly,” is a powerful, educational exploration of the traditional fishing practices of the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) and Salish peoples.

Algonquin Land Claim Update – FOCA
Ontario recently undertook another phase of consultations regarding provincial land matters related to the Algonquins of Ontario treaty negotiations, expected to be completed in 2023.

Canada’s first Indigenous coast guard program is already saving lives – The Narwhal
In mid-November, a storm pounded B.C.’s central coast, 120-kilometre-per-hour winds whipping the waves into a frenzy. The newly operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary dispatch centre in Bella Bella started receiving a flurry of calls for help from several vessels in distress. “We had one vessel towing another vessel and he had to cut his tow loose. And we were told there was a person in the water,”. “We live on the coast, we live on the water and we will respond to any call for help,” said Johnson, who’s been a responder for more than a decade. Roger Girouard assistant commissioner for the Canadian Coast Guard says “the first step  was building relationships with the First Nations along the coast”.

Climate Change:

Increasing Ocean Surface Temperatures along West Coast – NOAA
Record marine heatwaves continue to build reservoirs of toxic algae Off the  West Coast and continue the spread of harmful algae forcing the closure of valuable Dungeness crab and other shellfish seasons every year since 2015.

2020 Was a Record Year for Hurricanes – Sierra Club
The most active Atlantic hurricane season on record began two weeks ahead of schedule and ended on November 30, 2020. This season surpasses the previous record holder set in 2005, and marks the second time in recorded history when meteorologists ran out of names and had to resort to the Greek alphabet.

IJC invites public feedback on high water impacts
The International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee and partners are gathering input from property owners who have been directly affected by high water levels on the Great Lakes or along the St. Lawrence River shoreline over 2019 or 2020. Impacted property owners can participate in a voluntary online questionnaire, and are able to upload photos.

Sluggish start for Arctic sea ice freeze-up – EarthSky Voices
After the spring and summer melt season, the cap of frozen seawater floating on top of the Arctic Ocean begins to refreeze. In 2020, the annual freeze has been slow, When Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum in September 2020, it was the 2nd-lowest in the satellite record, and the sea ice extent for this October was the lowest on record for any October.

How climate change is making winter ice more dangerous –
Sapna Sharma, an associate professor of biology at York University in Toronto and a lead author of the study, said people don’t realize how global warming is increasing the risks that come with winter traditions like skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling. Northern Canada and Alaska have higher rates of drowning, even in very cold temperatures. “It may not be as safe now as it was 30 years or 40 years ago.”


Boat Manufacturing Momentum Slows in September – Fishing Wire
The NMMA reports new boat manufacturing activity in September pulled back for the second consecutive month following a summer of elevated growth, according to its latest Monthly Shipment Report (MSR).

Torqeedo Deep Blue Electric Power Boat that “Flies” – Fishing Wire
Propelled by the Torqeedo Deep Blue 50i, the Candela Seven is a 7 meter long boat with a top speed of 55 km/h and a range of 92 km when driven at 37 km/h.

Registering your Boat – Transport Canada

Canadian Marine Advisory Council continues to consider changes to the Pleasure Craft License (PCL), to better identify boat owners for emergency purposes, and to track abandoned vessels. Currently, PCL are valid for 10 years but TC is considering a shorter (e.g., 5 year) renewal period.

Special on Ice Fishing – Blue Fish Canada

Ice fishing is one of the fastest growing recreational fishing segments in Canada. If the growth in fishing witnessed throughout 2020 continues, the 2021 ice fishing season promises to be even more popular. Quality how-to articles on equipment, tackle, techniques and safety are prolific, but here’s something you don’t often hear about – tips on how to ice fish sustainably. Blue Fish Canada relies on top Canadian fish biologists and experts with local knowledge to fact-check all our Blue Fish Sustainable Fishing Tips.

  1. USE ROD AND LINE SIZED APPROPRIATE FOR EACH FISH SPECIES Using the right strength rod and line for each fish species ensures fish are captured without causing undue fatigue. Properly matched hook strength and size increases your hook-to-landing ratio and helps ensure fish go back healthy. The use of leaders when targeting toothy fish prevents their breaking off with your tackle in tow.
  2. KEEP HOOK CUTTERS AND REMOVER HANDY Needle-nose plyers and hook removers make hook removal efficient and safe by keeping hands away from the mouths of toothy fish and hook points. When hooks are difficult to remove, hook cutters can quickly and safely separate fish from lures.
  3. AVOID REMOVAL OF FISH-PROTECTING SLIME Bacteria found in fish slime serve as a protective coating. Make sure your hands are wet and hold fish away from clothing. Do not put fish you intend to return on dry ice or snow to avoid removing slime.
  4. SUPPORT THE BELLIES OF LARGE FISH USING YOUR HANDS Fish are anatomically designed to move through water with minimal resistance and live in a constant state of neutral buoyancy. They do not possess the stomach muscles required to support internal organs when out of the water and subjected to gravity.
  5. MINIMIZE THE TIME FISH SPEND OUT OF WATER Avoid subjecting fish to extreme cold or wind that can cause frostbite or damage to their eyes. Remove fish-hooks quickly and minimize the amount of time a fish will spend out of the water.
  6. HARVEST FISH LOWER ON THE FOOD CHAIN Alpha predator fish are similar to lions; they claim territory and live solitary lives. By targeting fish considered by apex predators as prey, you are harvesting fish that grow quicker and in greater numbers.
  7. HARVEST FROM PUT-AND-TAKE FISHERIES AND SUPPORT FISH STOCK REBUILDING EFFORTS Some ecosystems are routinely planted to ensure adequate supplies of adult fish for harvest. Other ecosystems may have experienced a significant decline, and efforts are underway to rebuild their stocks to self-sustaining levels. Put-and-take fisheries are intended for harvesting individual limits. Fish stocks at below sustainable levels should be treated as catch-and-release only.
  8. HARVEST FISH SPECIES IN PLENTIFUL SUPPLY Each unique ecosystem experiences yearly fluctuations in fish species abundance. Local anglers generally know which bodies of water are supporting an abundance of fish, and which fish species are at low numbers. Set harvesting goals by consulting local anglers familiar with the water you intend to fish.
  9. LIMIT HARVESTS TO ONE MEAL OF FRESH FISH Just because you can doesn’t mean you should fill your daily fish harvesting limit each time you go fishing. Many regulations include maximum numbers of fish you possess including what’s in your freezer. Frozen fish lose up to 30% of their flavor and can suffer freezer burn after six months. Fresh is always best!
  10. EXERCISE RESTRAINT WHEN HARVESTING FISH NEAR URBAN CENTRES Fishing locations situated near-by highly popular ice fishing locations experience higher fishing pressure than do more remote less-frequented locations. Not all fish harvesting regulations consider proximity to urban populations. Limit your harvest or practice catch and-release when fishing popular waters.

About us:

You can read current and back issues of Blue Fish Canada’s Newsletters by visiting:

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