Blue Fish News – December 5, 2022

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Featured Blue Fish Radio guest Tom Rowland

In the December 5, 2022 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we begin with an exploration of evolving fish handling best practices, including a podcast featuring TV host, podcaster, tournament angler and guide Tom Rowland. As always, we include links and summaries to the latest fishing, fish health, habitat and other news you need to know. Our closing Special Guest Feature is chosen to inform and inspire our readers’ concerns.

This Week’s Feature – Catch – Care – Release

By Lawrence Gunther

The practice of returning caught fish back to the water alive is a very recent development; however, when you consider the big picture, deriving enjoyment from fishing began long before this conservation ethic came into practice. For sure, fishing goes back many thousands of years. In fact, it may be one of the first predator-prey relationships involving humans where we weren’t the prey. There is however, growing evidence that using more “sporting” methods of catching fish date back at least 3,000 years according to paintings discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs. Images of people fishing with long supple rods appear alongside people depicted hauling in nets filled with fish. If fishing was regarded solely as a harvesting activity, then what was the person doing with the fishing pole?

It was in the 1980s that bass fishing tournaments first began the practice of releasing fish alive after the weigh-in on shore. Until then all fishing tournaments, and pretty much all forms of fishing in general, included harvesting one’s catch. The concept of releasing fish alive was promoted as a conservation measure.

Many anglers still prefer to keep a daily limit of fish and that the fish selected for harvest represent the largest of their catch that day. Still others prefer to keep just enough to provide for a fresh meal. In either case, both often voluntarily suspend fishing once their harvest goals are met.

Whether you enjoy fishing and return all you catch alive, or you prefer to harvest fish for food, most jurisdictions mandate daily harvest limits. The increased use of slot sizes has also made releasing fish a part of the selective harvesting process.

Most anglers know that the largest fishes are the ones that are responsible for the majority of the successful spawning, and choose instead to let these fish go, even if a slot size limit isn’t in affect. Fish consumption guidelines also often recommend returning the larger older fishes, suggesting instead to harvest younger smaller fishes that have absorbed fewer toxins from their environment. All this to say, anglers have become increasingly selective about how and when they harvest fish.

Among certain cultures or countries, it’s mandatory to keep every fish caught. This is partly due to the act of fishing being regarded by some as an act of cruelty, making it necessary to limit the number of fish caught by recreational anglers. Restricting catch-and-release can also be regarded as a means of eliminating post-release mortality, allowing for more accurate tracking of the number of fish being removed from an ecosystem.

Often hybrid models exist that limit the harvest of a certain species, while allowing other fishes in the same ecosystem to be harvested without limits or requirements. And still the harvest of other fishes is sometimes encouraged, or the removal of a species altogether, as a means of re-establishing balance in ecosystems.

My point in describing the many variations of harvesting by recreational anglers is to justify why it’s necessary as anglers to be prepared to apply both catch-and-release best practices, and the sustainable and humane harvesting of fishes. Simply focusing on efficiency in harvesting, or the act of releasing fish as the only two modes of fishing no longer take into consideration the many forms of sound conservation.

Our fishing ethic now extends beyond deciding whether to keep or release fish, to how we choose and use fishing gear. We now select equipment that is both sporting, in that fish have a chance of escaping or avoiding capture, and at the same time ensuring fish aren’t overly exhausted leaving them vulnerable to predation when released. There are still those times when we choose gear that makes escape almost impossible, such as during competitions or when fishing for food, but even these choices are often made within mandated parameters that limit our tackle options such as the number of hooks we can use at any one time. When our goal is to catch and release fish by causing the least amount of stress or injury, we select gear that also has a much higher chance of fish coming off during the capture process, or gear that gives fish more chance of avoiding being caught altogether. Gear limitations such as single barbless hooks, one-to-one ratio reels, artificial baits only, or restrictions on the use of nets, gaffs or spears after a fish is hooked. Even strict limits on hook design are being implemented when fishing for certain species of fishes such as limiting anglers to using non-offset circle hooks when fishing for billfish. Limits on how we handle fish after being caught such as lifting fish into the boat, and even lifting fish out of the water are also growing in popularity. While some of these self-imposed choices may seem excessively restrictive when first being championed, at some point they can become moral imperatives such as prohibitions on catching or keeping any fish hooked anywhere other than in the mouth – what is now referred to as “snagging”.

As mentioned, sorting out the ethics of recreational fishing is still relatively new. Many who fish today may have personally experienced the transition from fishing solely to fill a personal harvest limit, to the goal of releasing all fish in good health, and everything in between. It’s no wonder that the intersections between the two forms of angling are still being sorted out.

The state of Florida in the United States offers some of the best sport fishing in the world year-round. Numerous guides, outfitters and fishing resorts operate 365 days a year throughout much of the lower parts of Florida. To better manage the impacts recreational catch-and-release fishing is having on fish populations, an increasing number of rules and best practices are emerging. Everything from the use of descending devices to assist fishes to return to the depths from where they were caught, to fish handling guidelines designed to minimize fishes from experiencing exhaustion and then falling prey to sharks and other predators post-release.

Mr. Tom Rowland is a Florida based executive producer of three TV fishing shows, host of a highly popular podcast, and a former guide and competitive professional angler. I reached out to Tom to learn more about the best practices now in use in Florida, the fishes they are intended to benefit, and why. We discussed how best to teach and enforce new fish handling rules, and what it has meant for both the fishes and the fishing business. Link below to hear my conversation with Tom Rowland on The Blue Fish Radio Show:

Florida anglers and their guests aren’t the only people evolving their fish handling skills. Sturgeon fishers on Canada’s west coast continue to introduce new best practices designed to ensure the future of their highly profitable and popular catch-and-release sturgeon fishery. Salmon fishers on Canada’s east coast also have numerous practices that are either expected or mandated by their Atlantic salmon anglers. Across Canada social media tools like Facebook, and angler apps like My Catch are promoting catch-photograph-release fishing for fun and during tournaments. And researchers too are benefitting by anglers who volunteer to serve as citizen scientists by catching, tagging, and releasing fish in the name of science.

So much has changed in the world of recreational fishing in the past four decades, and so much more change is still to come as people learn from other anglers and the research of fish biologists. The charity Blue Fish Canada is constantly documenting these best practices to share with our partner organizations like Canadian Fishing Network, Earth Rangers, and the International Game Fish Association, to name a few. Link below to access Blue Fish Canada species-specific fish handling best practices developed with input from expert anglers and verified by our science advisors:

Underscoring the necessity to continually nuance our recreational fishing practices are the exponential advancements in fishing technology that now continually improve our efficiency on the water. But probably the biggest influence behind the evolution of recreational fishing is the desire among anglers themselves to become ever stronger stewards of the resource. There is growing awareness that the health we derive from fishing is predicated on the health of the fishes and their ecosystems. It’s what many involved with animal husbandry refer to as a “one health” relationship. Growing awareness and understanding of indigenous people’s food, social and ceremonial relationship with food harvested from nature, and traditional indigenous knowledge and values are also influencing broader social norms.

For millennia most all cultures around the world have sourced their protein from seafood. What hasn’t been part of our collective experience are the many advancements in harvesting technology, that when combined with alterations to seasonal patterns brought about by increasingly extreme weather, requires that we mitigate in many ways our real and potential impacts on nature. This includes measures to improve the resilience of Canada’s fish stocks and the habitat upon which they depend. To this end, Blue Fish Canada is also implementing and evaluating the long-term benefits of a number of habitat and resource enhancement strategies in collaboration with a broad cross-section of stakeholders. However, research of this nature requires resources, both financial and human, so please consider becoming a Blue Fish Canada volunteer and/or making a donation. Link below to explore your charitable donation options:

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Historic Management Procedure for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna / FishingWire
The 2022 annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas takes landmark decision to adopt the first management procedure for Atlantic bluefin tuna. There is also a new bycatch mitigation measures for sea turtles.

Manitoba’s wild-caught fisheries pursue new markets with sustainability push / Narwhal
Once dubbed the worst in the world, Manitoba’s commercial fisheries were facing millions in lost sales. But following the leadership of Indigenous fisheries, the province is eyeing a future of more sustainably caught fish — with eco-certification and a new initiative to bolster the industry.

O Canada / Craig Medred
“As if Canadian commercial fishermen didn’t have it bad enough with precipitously declining salmon runs and Alaska interceptions of Canadian-born fish, now they’ve lost Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of their sockeye, chum and pink salmon fisheries.”

California’s Slightly Less Gray Laws on White Sharks / Hakai
Starting on January 1, 2023, recreational anglers in California will face new fishing restrictions that make it illegal to use shark bait, shark lures, or shark attractants, known as chum, “within one nautical mile [1.9 kilometers] of any shoreline, pier, or jetty when a white shark is either visible or known to be present.”

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP slams Liberal government over foreign ownership of B.C. fishing licences / Prince Rupert Northern View
MP Taylor Bachrach was met with applause over the ongoing controversy surrounding the monopolization of B.C.’s fishing industry and foreign ownership.

Ask MRIP: Answering Your Questions About For-hire Data / NOAA
Saltwater anglers, for-hire captains, and other members of the recreational fishing community often ask how and why we collect recreational fishing data. They also want to know how we use that data to estimate total recreational catch. Our Ask MRIP web series answers your questions about the science and statistics that support sustainable fishing.


The federal government is less likely to protect an at-risk fish if people like to eat it / Narwhal
When a fish is listed under the species at risk registry, federal protection measures kick in. But the vast majority of at-risk fish that are commercially valuable never get that designation, data shows. Less than one-tenth of commercially valuable fish species assessed as at risk in Canada are listed under the Species At Risk Act. That’s compared to more than 50 per cent of non-commercial fish species assessed as at risk being listed under the act.

More than 5,000 wild species are at some risk of extinction in Canada / Narwhal
More than 5,000 wild species are at some risk of extinction in Canada, according to the most comprehensive survey of the country’s biodiversity ever undertaken. The Wild Species 2020: The General Status of Species in Canada report, released Tuesday, found that one in five wild species — ranging from sea stars and slime moulds to mammals and moths — is in danger of disappearing from Canada. The at-risk wildlife includes 24 mammal species, 43 fish species, nine amphibian species, 17 reptile species, 50 bird species, 230 lichen species, 25 species of dragonflies and damselflies, 195 beetle species, 15 bee species and 188 butterfly and moth species.

As Shark Numbers Plummet, Nations Seek Ban on Devastatingly Effective Gear / FishingWire
Famed undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau had a favorite shark: the oceanic whitetip, or Carcharhinus longimanus. He said they were the most dangerous of all sharks, more so than the great white (Carcharodon carcharias). Some researchers believe the species used to be one of the world’s most abundant vertebrates longer than 6 feet (1.8 meters).

Fhit-Chips provide salmon health insight / PSF
A made-in-B.C. technology offers a new window into salmon health. A team of researchers deploys Fit-Chip technology to understand infectious disease and environmental stress in salhmon. Using cutting-edge genetic tools that can test up to 96 fish at once, researchers can rapidly draw conclusions about health, stress, and disease in salmon that we only imagined 20 years ago.

The Catcher in the Sturgeon / FishingWire
Lake Sturgeon were once found across the Midwest in strong populations and during the 1800’s were looked at as useless and left to die. This act was so common that the railway started to use dried sturgeon carcasses as fuel for their steam engines. Later, when caviar became popular, female sturgeon were highly sought after for their eggs.

Learn how the Percy Walkus Hatchery helps conserve Chinook salmon. / PSF
The Percy Walkus Hatchery is known for helping to preserve and enhance the enormous Chinook salmon that return to Wuikinuxv territory each fall. At the “egg take” Chinook eggs are collected and used for salmon enhancement efforts. Thanks to more than $600,000 in donations from generous Percy Walkus Hatchery supporters including Duncanby Fishing Lodge, Good Hope Cannery, Bridgeview Marine, and many others, hatchery team members and volunteers facilitated a successful egg take. The crew caught 81 fish – 39 females and 42 males, hand incubated nearly 300,000 eggs this year despite delayed rains and late salmon runs.

Salmon, cod and the plight of at-risk fish in Canada / Narwhal
The number of fish species at risk is increasing in Canada. If existing federal practices continue, scientists say more species and populations could face decline — and even extinction.

Will B.C. be next to ban open-net fish farms? / Vancouver Sun
A UBC study found samples taken from salmon waste from fish farms showed genetic traces of a virus that can harm wild salmon.


Governments are subsidizing the destruction of nature even as they promise to protect it / Narwhal
Amid a biodiversity crisis, 196 countries recently spent a week meeting in Montreal to hash out a new agreement to save nature.

Blind Bay / NYS/Watertown
Locals near Blind Bay, a small bay on the St. Lawrence River between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, have been concerned about a plan that would see U.S. Customs and Border Protection build a new, 48,000 square foot station on the very site the locals say, is a critical, rare spawning ground for muskies, keeping the ecosystem in tact. The Thousand Islands Land Trust was so worried, it actually bought the land to prevent the build.

Seagrass-associated Fish Recover Quickly From Cyclones / Coastal Review
Fish that live in the seagrass meadows of North Carolina’s Back Sound seem to recover quickly from tropical cyclones, demonstrating a capacity for resilience in the face of disruptive shocks, reports a study published last month in Plos One. The study hypothesizes that the resilience of the fish communities is tied to the integrity of the seagrass habitats that they depend on.

Federal funds will be used to restore habitat for at-risk fish species in Nottawasaga River /
There’s good news for two at-risk fish species in the Nottawasaga Valley watershed.

The price of paper / Hakai
Coastal communities around the world contend with the toxic legacies of pulp and paper mills.

Predicting Winners and Losers in a Warming Arctic / NOAA
Habitat for key prey species may shrink dramatically if climate change continues on its current trajectory, new research shows.

P.E.I. gets funding to protect endangered species / CTV
Prince Edward Island’s landscape took a beating from post-tropical storm Fiona in September. Now, new funding has been dedicated to protect habitats and species on the island and across the country.

Washing away: The Arctic hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., is collapsing into the ocean / CBC
The Arctic hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., is collapsing into the ocean as it loses up to a metre of coastline each year. The people who live there are in a race against time to preserve their way of life — and their community — before it is washed away.

Widespread amounts of cocaine, painkillers found in fish habitat on Sumas Prairie after 2021 floods: study / CBC News
Fish habitat in the lower Fraser Valley was found to have an “astounding” amount of contaminants after extreme flooding last fall, according to a new study.

Feds announce another $1.2 billion for ocean cleanup and protection / Cheknews
The federal government has announced an investment of another $1.2 billion in its Ocean Protection Plan for 29 projects involving ocean safety, science and environmental safeguards.


Union of BC Indian Chiefs want more federal action on fish farm closure / Peace Arch News
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is making their choice clear for the federal government: Get the fish farms out of the water, right now.

How a B.C. First Nation said ‘no’ to fish farms / Coast Reporter
What shíshálh Nation’s rejection of finfish farms on the Sunshine Coast means and why it was through B.C. legislation as a federal transition is pending.


Boating Immersion Stories
Help fellow Canadian Boaters by sharing your boating experiences! The Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) is looking for boaters who are interested in participating in a study regarding the importance of lifejacket wear in the event of falling overboard and accidental immersion.


Renowned Salmon Arm wildlife artist puts her stamp on prestigious contest / Maple Ridge News
Her painting, Rapid Ascent, is the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s winner of its Salmon Conservation Stamp Art Competition for 2023-24.


“Managing to Zero – The Thompson Steelhead Travesty”
Read author Bob Hooton’s latest book “Managing to Zero – The Thompson Steelhead Travesty”. Once a fishing bucket list experience that brought anglers to B.C. from around the world, Their slow but now surely imanant demise has been excruciating to witness. Bob Hooton, a retired fish biologist, explores how such a world-famous fish has been reduced to the point of near extinction, and the politics responsible for this preventable disaster. You can order your copy now from Amazon.


Recreational Fishing—Policy and Partnerships / NOAA
Recreational fishing is a key part of the social and economic fabric of our coastal communities. Explore how policy and partnership are working to ensure U.S. recreational fishing remains vibrant and sustainable for the future. On this episode of Dive in with NOAA Fisheries, we talk with Russell Dunn, the National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries, and Alex Atikinson, a policy analyst with NOAA Fisheries.


Incredible video shows endangered orca ‘superpod’ in Salish Sea / CHEKNEWS
Scientists say a strong chum run could be keeping all 73 endangered southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea for an extended period.


Healing Our Connection to Water and Place through Habitat Creation / Latornell
The second event in the Latornell Re-imagining Conservation Webinar Series, Healing Our Connection to Water and Place through Habitat Creation.

Scientists and Local Champions:

The Government of Canada appoints Dr. Robert Hecky and Mr. Earl Provost to the Commission’s Canadian Section, filling two vacancies

Coming Up:

Registration is Now Open for 2023 Invasive Species Forum / ISC
This year’s Invasive Species Forum theme is Invasive Species Action in a Changing Climate. The February 7-9 Forum presents the opportunity to learn from a variety of dedicated sessions including Ecosystem Resilience; Vectors, Pathways, & Threats; Indigenous Communities; and more.

SAVE THE DATE: Great Lakes Day 2023 / Great Lakes Commission
Save the date for Great Lakes Day, including the annual Great Lakes Day Congressional Breakfast Reception, to be hosted by the Great Lakes Commission and Northeast-Midwest Institute on March 9, 2023. The Breakfast Reception includes dialogue on Great Lakes priorities by regional leaders and members of Congress who play a critical role in shaping Great Lakes policies.

Special Guest Feature – Oceana Canada releases sixth annual Fishery Audit 2022

The audit found that less than one-third of wild fish and invertebrate stocks can be considered healthy, and most critically depleted stocks lack government plans to rebuild them. The number of healthy fisheries has decreased since 2017, with no significant improvement to many of the indicators of good fisheries science, monitoring and management.

The federal government has made significant investments, developed new policies and most importantly changed the law to improve fisheries management. But these changes have not yet led to healthier fisheries. Given rising threats from overfishing, biodiversity loss and climate change, urgent action is required to see change where it counts, on the water.

Oceana Canada is calling on Fisheries Minister Murray to address the most critical gaps in Canada’s marine fisheries science, monitoring and management by prioritizing the following actions:

  1. List all remaining critical and cautious fish stocks, including those currently classified as uncertain, under Canada’s amended Fisheries Act and make management decisions that are consistent with its rebuilding
  2. Meaningfully engage with Indigenous communities and organizations to make decisions about wild fish that are informed by Indigenous Knowledge Systems, as well as the best available science.
  3. Integrate ecosystem-level considerations into fisheries decisions, prioritizing rebuilding depleted forage fish that other species rely on as prey, and addressing vulnerabilities to climate change.
  4. Improve fisheries monitoring by counting everything caught in a fishery — including for recreational and bait purposes.

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