Blue Fish News – December 4, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: Attending the Ultimate Ice Fishing Show, equipping the Blue Fish Exploration Centre with a six-passenger side-by-side, preparing status reports for granting organizations, meeting fundraising goals, learning about threats to monster freshwater fish around the world from Nat-Geo TV personality Zeb Hogan, finding out what it takes to photograph man / environment conflicts for Nat-Geo by photographer Brent Sturton, collaborating on developing outdoor access best practices, taking on news agencies that aren’t practicing what they preach about inclusivity, debating animal sentience and if fish feel pain, reporting on EV vehicle up-take for AMI TV, and preparing for the up-coming outdoor show season – just another week at the Blue Fish Canada office. But most importantly, thank you to all who responded to our “Giving Tuesday” fundraiser with your donations, and just as importantly, your words of encouragement and thanks, it’s great to know we have so many loyal conservation-minded anglers out there who believe in what we do.

Photo of The new Tracker 800SX Le Crew side-by-side being loaded on to the Blue Fish Exploration Centre’s enclosed trailer at the Bass Pro Shop in Vaughan purchased with a $10,000 grant from Cabela’s and donations to Blue Fish Canada

This Week’s Feature – Conservation Takes a Community

By Lawrence Gunther

Over the past four years I’ve been issuing calls to action directed toward youth and others with all abilities, from all backgrounds, and of all identities. These calls are meant to inspire youth and others by showcasing my own experience as a conservation-minded angler living with vision loss. It’s my opinion that the largely silent world requires people gifted at storytelling to give voice to what most others aren’t able to see. It’s particularly annoying therefore, when I read comments like the following being shared by a leading independent news source, “We’re stumbling blindly through a dangerous present towards an even grimmer future.” Normally, I simply choose to ignore people when they share metaphors that portray people who are blind as ignorant, but since December 3rd is the International Day on Disability, I thought maybe I should take a moment and try to explain why comments like this can be alienating.

Before you start in on me for being overly sensitive, politically correct, or whatever you want to call people who challenge social norms, let me first justify my standby describing the myriad social experiments and changes I’ve experienced over the years. Keep in mind, my own personal path from sighted to blind allows me to see both sides of the picture, and let’s just say what I lost along the way was more than just sight. It wasn’t easy and still isn’t, to have my status within society diminished simply because I now use other senses than sight to make sense of the world around me.

As a child registered blind at age eight, I came close to being sent to a residential school for the blind. The transfer was stopped thanks to the intervention of the principal of my public school. He told me, “As long as you can get along you can stay.” It’s a reframe I have since heard, in good ways and bad, for many years since.

Throughout my teenage years, like most who grew up in a small town, I worked summer jobs as a farm hand during haying season, on construction sites as a labourer, landscaping, and other jobs like delivering newspapers and shoveling snow. I was even hired along with my brother at the AMC car factory in nearby Brampton Ontario subbing for fulltime employees taking summer vacations, but only after the HR official doing the hiring finally agreed to give me a chance with the proviso that floor supervisors would not be informed about my visual disability, leaving it to me to “get along.” He seemed to think it important that I receive no special consideration, something the floor supervisors found ridiculous as I was quickly swopped out of my first assembly line job involving detailing body work prior to cars being painted, with the job my brother was initially assigned, reaching underneath car bodies and feeling for holes that needed plugging with putty. Turns out there were plenty of other assembly jobs that I could do perfectly fine, and the money was great.

It was a reality check when I received two phone calls around the time I was finishing up high school. The first was from the president of the blind piano tuner’s union offering me an apprenticeship. Up until then I never identified as being blind, so that was a definite pass. The second call was from social services with an offer to receive life-long disability payments. My initial reaction was outrage that someone who didn’t even know me considered me as unemployable. It was only later that I understood the cold hard truth that the offer reflected a broader held opinion that people registered as legally blind like me were not capable of working. Clearly, the odds of my achieving success were stacked against me.

What followed were two years of college, four years in undergraduate school, and another three years earning my masters.

Despite graduating with three different post-secondary diplomas and degrees, each time I was told by potential employers that I was unemployable due to my being blind, even though, technically, I qualified for their jobs. I knew in my heart that they were wrong, and that if I had been given the chance I would have got along just fine.

Without doubt, my academic experience included my fair share of challenges. It included all manner of systemic barriers such as a lack of access to textbooks, the inability to access information being shared at the front of the class, professors who took exception to my handing in essays on cassette tape, and tests that I couldn’t read. This was before talking computers or other accommodation programs such as note takers and reader assistants. It was ironic that while I wrestled with academic institutions unwilling to provide any form of assistance to students with disabilities, these same institutions were embracing affirmative action and employment equity.

To escape the frustrations I was experiencing in classrooms, I spent much of my final two years of study pursuing independent field research throughout much of Canada’s Arctic, culminating in a year as a guest lecturer and researcher at Umeå University in northern Sweden. Equipped with a tape recorder, I met with all manner of people to record their local and traditional knowledge, including government officials, elected politicians, captains of industry, indigenous knowledgekeepers, NGO leaders, and people representative of different groups within society.

It was in my last year in university that I gained access to one of the first-ever talking computers for the blind, and a state-of-the-art electronic book scanning and reading machine invented for the blind by Raymond Kurzwiel. Despite being dropped into the world of literacy overnight, I quickly became a prolific writer.

Throughout my 20’s, my vision continued to deteriorate. In 1986 I reached the point where I had to get either a white cane or guide dog – of course, I chose the dog. As one of the first ten people in Ontario to receive a guide dog, it was overwhelmingly challenging to take the dog anywhere without being told, “dogs aren’t allowed”, but at the same time, extremely liberating in terms of my mobility. He was a black labrador who loved to hunt way more than guiding, but we managed to get along just fine for just over ten years.

Getting a guide dog allowed me to keep my part-time job in the city at a group home for ten men with mental health and developmental challenges, to continue to attend university, and to eventually undertake my field research. The only disadvantage of having adopted such an obvious mobility and orientation aid for the blind was that people now perceived me as “blind” in the worst sense of the word. Being restored with the ability to once again, independently move about and explore the outdoors certainly softened the blow of my status within society being even further downgraded.

Finding work in the summer was still a challenge. I eventually purchased a small cabin in Cape Breton where I was able to find summer employment as a commercial cod fisher. I was right at home stepping on to home-made wooden dories powered with old car engines, and spending 12 hours a day bobbing around on the Atlantic Ocean jigging for cod while my guide dog combed the forest around my cabin for rabbits and other prey. Funny as it may sound, my two shipmates decided it was safer for me to drive the boat back at the end-of-day instead of handling the sharp knives used for preparing our days catch for sale back at the dock. I could just see enough to head west towards land using the sun as my compass. Not only was I able to get along just fine aboard the boat, I received 10% from the sale of each days catch. Those were great days for sure, until somehow we fishers managed to catch them all, leading to the cod fishery being closed in 1992.

The transition from academia to running my own consulting business, and then working for the House of Commons as a research officer, were challenging days but rewarding times despite the recession in the early 1990’s.

I eventually landed a job in the Foreign service made possible through a management trainee program. After working at Global Affairs for a year I was offered the job full time. But first, they had to cancel their HR policy that all foreign service officers had to pass a fitness test deeming them fit to “stand at arms” should one of our embassies come under fire. The HR department even encouraged me to hire my wife as my reader assistant through their “spousal employment program” and assured me that my assignments over-seas would include only the safest foreign countries like France, the U.K., or Japan, posts that foreign service officers spend most of their careers trying to secure. To be frank, while the elimination of the systemic “stand at arms” barrier seemed appropriate, the accommodations being offered were over-the-top, and eventually led to my leaving.

Skip ahead 20 years and along came COVID-19. People like me who often depend on the elbow of a sighted guide all of a sudden became highly suspect as potential transmitters of the virus. And then there were those who wanted to lower their stress by petting my dog. These were challenging times, especially since my usual friends and volunteers were no longer available to drive with me in my truck to get out of the city.

All this new time on my hands led to the launch of a new podcast in September 2020 called “Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther”. Together with my youngest daughter Lilly who was 14 at the time, and my 12-year-old son Theo who continues to serve as our technical producer, we began creating content meant to inspire other blind and low vision youth and others to connect with nature in fun, meaningful, and sustainable ways.

Turns out I’m not the only person with a disability who has experienced alienation. It’s lead to the launch of the “Outdoorist Oath” movement. In fact, the issue of exclusion is of sufficient scope that conservation and other environmental groups are now adopting the policy of “diversity, equity and inclusion.

Over the years I’ve produced numerous documentaries, short videos, podcasts, blogs, articles, and plenty of TV content. My advocacy work has earned me the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal, the Public Service Award of Excellence, and numerous other awards and recognitions. By no means am I the first blind person to specialize in knowledge keeping and storytelling. I’m privileged to have met a number of elder blind Inuit and First Nations people who have dedicated their lives to continuing this ancient tradition.

More than ever our planet needs to be heard. It needs people to speak up on its behalf. By sharing traditional, local and scientific knowledge through storytelling, people are able to link the past with the present.

Clearly, we need new approaches to mitigating our impacts on nature and rebuilding its resilience. New perspectives, new approaches, new ways of seeing the world are needed to find our way back to living sustainably. It’s going to take all of our unique perspectives and skills to make these changes, and can only be accomplished if we work together.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Crappie Barotrauma Study / AnglingBuzz
The AnglingBuzz crew partners with the Minnesota DNR to study the effects of Barotrauma on crappies caught in deep water.

Lake Superior Fish Consumption Advisories / LRCA
Consult information posted by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority regarding contaminant levels in fish due to Chemicals of Mutual Concern to help consumers make informed decisions to minimize exposure to toxins.

Advocates call for moratorium on herring fishing over concerns of stock collapse / West Coast Now
They say not enough is being done to protect herring in the Strait of Georgia, though others disagree.

All the Fish We Cannot See / Hakai
In a dark, unexplored layer of ocean, a hidden cache of fish might play an unexpected role in our climate’s future. It seems like a bad time for a new fishery.

Fishing Industry In ‘Fight Of Our Lives’ Over Offshore Wind / National Fisherman
The drive to develop U.S. offshore wind industry is growing along the West Coast, and fishermen should pay close attention to the political and legal battles already ongoing in the Atlantic states, a panel of experienced activists said at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. Wind power developers “still believe mitigation will not be necessary” to compensate fishermen for the loss of fishing grounds when turbine arrays are built.

During COVID-19 Lockdowns, Fish Hit the Park / Hakai
In the absence of tourists, fish populations flourished within Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo National Park.


Special teams help salmon on drought-affected rivers / Victoria Times Colonist
When a massive die-off involving upwards of 1,000 spawning pink salmon occurred after the adult fish massed at a spot on the river and used up all the available oxygen, salmon SWAT teams mobilized and experimented with aerating the water.

Swimmer witnesses surprise fight between octopus and sea lion / CBC 
It was flippers against tentacles in an ocean matchup near Nanaimo, B.C.

Salmon in the Arctic: Bad omen or evolutionary success story? / Yukon News
Experts express concern that salmon moving into the Arctic could harm native fish species.

Public Meeting About Barrier to Prevent Grass Carp from Migrating to Lake Erie / Freshwater Future
Preventing grass carp in the Sandusky River from moving into Lake Erie was the topic of a meeting last week that discussed a feasibility study to assess different types of barriers. The $953,500 project aims to impede grass carp movement from Lake Erie to potential spawning habitats in rivers. These invasive species threaten native habitats and fishery resources, particularly aquatic vegetation crucial for waterfowl and native fish habitat. Learn more about the Lake Erie Grass Carp response strategy.

Chris Vandergoot is the director of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS), which brings together researchers and fishery managers alike who use sound to monitor fish.


Farren Lake residents lead second fish habitat project in twelve months / Watersheds Canada
In early August 2023, members of the Farren Lake Property Owners Association (FLPOA) gathered for the second time to create and deploy brush bundles on their lake. Now with both the eastern and western portions of the lake rehabilitated with underwater sticks and branches, residents of the lake can rest assured that their aquatic and amphibious neighbours will have the homes they need to survive and thrive far into the future.

Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd. fined $755,000 for federal offences related to transporting and discharging ammonia into fish-bearing water in British Columbia /
On November 2017, Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd. was quoted $19,000 plus taxes and freight by a refrigeration contractor to dispose of contaminated ammonia. Arctic Pearl Ice and Cold Storage Ltd. declined the offer of service. On the morning of November 24, 2017, a garbage disposal company employee arrived at the warehouse to collect garbage and became ill from the strong smell of ammonia. His call for help led local authorities to the storage tank’s location—it was in the back of the truck and was releasing ammonia into a fish tote of water. The contaminated water was overflowing into a storm drain, which flows into Bath Slough and discharges into the fish-bearing Fraser River.

Scientists ‘refrigerated’ a Nova Scotia salmon stream / Hatch Magazine
Scientists artificially refrigerated a salmon stream in Nova Scotia during last summer’s record heat wave. Hundreds of migratory and river-dwelling fish basked in the cold-water flows pumped into the river from a nearby groundwater well. The addition of cold water to the Wrights River was part of a Dalhousie University study conducted to determine if adding colder water to streams that become dangerously warm for trout and salmon during prolonged heat waves can help keep the fragile fish alive. Results, biologists say, were encouraging.

Glencore’s record questioned amid Teck coal mine takeover / Narwhal
Teck’s plan to sell its Elk Valley coal mines to Swiss mining giant Glencore has raised alarm bells on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border amid negotiations over an international inquiry into extensive water contamination from the mines. If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination problem decades in the making.

B.C. coastal issues poll finds strong consensus on future of coastal economy / Research Co.
A new poll found that 79 per cent of British Columbians support the creation of more marine protected areas and 92 per cent are concerned about declining fish stocks.

Great Lakes Habitat Restoration: Partnering to Promote Fish Production / GLFC
Degradation of coastal, nearshore, and riverine habitats has adversely affected fish communities and fisheries in the Great Lakes for more than a century. Now a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (Commission) is advancing restoration goals for important habitat for Great Lakes fish. Working with NOAA Fisheries through a Regional Habitat Partnership funded at $4.8 million by NOAA, the Commission, along with local partners, is leading implementation of high priority projects as identified by Lake Committees across the Great Lakes basin.

Wildlife Forever To Build National Mapping Tool For Improved Access To Invasive Species Decontamination Locations / FishingWire
Wildlife Forever and a coalition of fishing industry stakeholders and federal partners will be designing a new online platform to identify watercraft inspection and decontamination stations across the country. In addition, the new website will feature state-specific aquatic invasive species information for boaters traveling across multiple states. This national resource aims to centralize information for traveling boaters and supports AIS objectives of the newly introduced MAPWaters Act. “Bring together key allies in the fishing industry and our state and federal partners to create a go-to resource that helps boaters and anglers understand where, when, and how to clean and decontaminate boats will greatly help protect our nation’s waters,” said Pat Conzemius, President & CEO, Wildlife Forever.

Let coastlines be coastlines: How nature-based approaches can protect Canada’s coasts / Yahoo!
It’s time to look beyond the status quo and consider nature-based solutions to protect the places we love.

The $500,000 fight to protect a Muskoka wetland / Narwhal
If you’ve spent time in the rocky stretches of the Canadian Shield — where water often pools in stony hollows and wetlands can seem a dime a dozen — it can be hard to believe that the soggy landscapes left are just a fraction of what was here 150 years ago, before European settlers began filling them in. In southern Ontario in particular, about three-quarters of the wetlands that once existed are gone. Very few of Ontario’s quickly vanishing marshes and swamps are safe from development. A group of citizens managed to preserve one, but they also found deep flaws in the system.


New ‘mountaintop to seafloor’ Indigenous protected area in B.C. / Narwhal
The Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis First Nation’s Chief Rick Johnson says the move to take over stewardship of the region — once teeming with salmon and abundant old growth — is to ‘reclaim what is already ours’.


ePropulsion Launches x Series Electric Outboard Motor Line-Up / FishingWire
ePropulsion announced the latest expansion to its product portfolio with the launch of its X Series outboard engines. Three innovative electric outboard motors, the X12, X20 and X40. Weighing up to 36% less than traditional motors, the ingenious X Series features a compact, fully integrated design. All motors within this series unify electric steering, power trim/tilt, the electric control unit (ECU) and the controller within a single assembly, simplifying installation and optimizing onboard pace. Cutting-edge driving assistance features like ‘Position Hold’ and ‘Heading Hold’ and ‘360 Motions’ offer additional safety-focused options.


Armstrong artist reels in salmon foundation contest top prize / Golden Star
Dale Cooper’s painting of Chinook salmon chasing after herring will be featured on stamp.


“Chasing Giants, In Search of the World’s Largest Freshwater Fish” by Zeb Hogan and Stefan Lovgren
The book offers a thrilling and enlightening dive into the over-30 one-hour TV specials filmed for Nat-Geo TV for the series “Monster Fish”.


E421 Chasing Giant Freshwater Fish and Zeb Hogan / BFR
National Geographics Monster Fish TV hosts Zeb Hogan and Stefan Lovgren have just released their new book, Chasing Giants, In Search of the World’s Largest Freshwater Fish. Hogan is a research biologist at the University of Nevada, an advisor to the UN Convention of Migratory Species, and our guest on The Blue Fish Radio Show. Zeb’s adventures around the world researching and filming over 30 one-hour specials for Nat-Geo TV have both amazed viewers world-wide and identified the five most common threats to the world’s largest freshwater fishes. A scientist and TV host who enjoys fishing as much as he does researching fish, Zeb has probably checked off every fish on the bucket list.


New Greenland salmon tagging video / ASF
For the last five years, ASF has worked with scientists from DFO and NOAA to map the routes that Atlantic salmon take from Greenland back home to North American and European rivers. Watch as ASF researchers Jonathan Carr and Heather Perry reel in large Atlantic salmon off the west coast of Greenland and release them with tags that track their homeward migration.

Calls to Action:

Ice events – the freeze and thaw dates of lakes and rivers / Ice Watch
As citizen scientists, IceWatch volunteers contribute to a scientific understanding of climate change. By analyzing citizen records, scientists have found that the freeze-thaw cycles of Northern water bodies are changing. However, since climate change is not consistent across the country and there are large gaps in the current monitoring network, scientists require critical data from many more regions. A citizen network of IceWatchers spread throughout Canada can help to supply that information.

Scientists and Local Champions:

After 20 years at the helm of FOCA, Terry Rees has announced he will be stepping down. / FOCA
As the leader of one of the largest membership associations in the Province, Terry has been committed to building a strong community, and to working collaboratively with a broad range of partners to address the many complex challenges facing Ontario’s rural communities and our freshwater environments.

Coming Up:

2024 Invasive Species Forum / ISC
Registration for the 2024 Invasive Species Forum is open and spots are filling up fast. By registering, you’ll make sure that you get a virtual front-row seat for the more than 40 presentations being delivered by invasive species experts from Canada, the United States, and beyond. The Invasive Species Forum is an annual event that brings attention to invasive species issues, research, and advances in prevention and management.

Special Guest Feature – Progress Report on Great Lakes Water Quality / FOCA

The International Joint Commission’s (IJC) 2023 Third Triennial Assessment of Progress on Great Lakes Water Quality is a review of federal government progress under the Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement toward healthier Great Lakes. Access the full report (80 pages) as well as a summary of the top 3 recommendations.

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