Blue Fish News – Feb 22, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: It’s been a busy couple weeks having just recently returned from Vancouver where we were covering the Impac5 Conference, and taking part in the Festival of Ocean Films as a short documentary provider and panelist. Both experiences centered on the question, “can we fish sustainably? We were then in Toronto for the Spring Fishing and Boat Show, and awards were presented as part of the Canadian Sport Fishing Hall of Fame. We also covered the Canadian Sport Fishing Industry AGM and the considerable discussion that took place about potential threats to angler access associated with Canada’s push to protect 30% of our ocean and terrestrial territory by the year 2030 – more of that in the next issue of the Blue Fish News. Right now we need to prepare for the Ottawa Boat and Outdoor Show – drop around and take in our exhibit!

Photo of Editor Lawrence Gunther and the rest of the panelists at the Festival of Ocean Films

This Week’s Feature – Is Fishing Sustainable?

By L. Gunther

Is fishing sustainable? This was the topic of the films and panel discussion on day two of the Festival of Ocean Films in Vancouver earlier this month. It was also a powerful underlying theme at the Impac5 conference taking place in Canada for the first time. As the host of one of the documentaries screened at the festival and a panelist, I wasn’t sure about the reception I would face knowing that fishing is often blamed as one of the top reasons the world’s oceans are in decline. It was also a message being amplified by many of the exhibitors and presenters attending the Impac5 Conference that I attended as a representative of the media while in Vancouver. But first let me thank the Georgia Strait Coalition for the invitation and travel support to attend the screening of the Ripple Effect Episode I was featured in, and for inviting me to be on the panel.

In 2022, The Water Rangers selected a series of experts to help teach and inspire members and followers in a special monthly video release. I was pleased to be selected for Episode 3 of the Ripple Effect series in a video filmed and edited by Graham Perry, aboard my boat on the Upper St. Lawrence River. We set out on opening day of the walleye fishing season with weather conditions typical for early May. As temperatures hovered around zero the wind made it feel much colder. My fishing partner and I met up with Graham at around 4am at the Cardinal boat launch along with dozens of other anglers, all of us anxious to catch the lunker walleyes the St. Lawrence is famous for.

Watch the featurette now: Ripple Effect Episode #3: Lawrence Gunther & Blue Fish Canada

By 4:30 we were aboard my Ranger 1880 MS Angler with lines in the water along with a couple dozen other boats fishing in front of a giant cornstarch factory. The factory is massive and is one of the few remaining industrial complexes still operating along the shores of the Upper St. Lawrence River.

Even though the factory has operated for decades, the quality of fishing directly in front of the complex remains excellent, despite its numerous smokestacks spewing out a stench smelling of cornstarch and chemicals. We weren’t disappointed with a number of Walleye caught ranging in size from 50 to 75 cm, all of which had substantial girth.

By 8am the sun had risen and was shining down in earnest, bringing to an end the bite for that day. Boats loaded on to trailers, many of the anglers having been on the water at the moment the clock struck midnight and the season opened. I spoke with several to learn who had caught fish, and who were planning to eat their catch despite the fish consumption advisories warning anglers to limit their consumption and that of their spouse and children.

My informal survey of anglers that morning revealed about half of those who caught fish chose to harvest a few for their personal consumption. All were aware of the advisories but were confident that eating the fish in moderation and by cutting away the fat along the belly would provide sufficient safeguards.

Fish consumption advisories aren’t going to prevent anglers from showing up to take part in the annual tradition of fishing the St. Lawrence River on opening day of walleye season. By choosing to eat a small amount of the fish caught, they keep alive their connection with the river and a tradition that goes back generations.

Trying to capture the sentiments of my fellow anglers on film was no easier than getting these anglers to discuss how fish consumption advisories are impacting their tradition and ability to provide fresh caught fish for their families and friends. Conveying this to the audience in the theatre in Vancouver as a panelist was even harder knowing that many would be horrified by the thought of catching and eating fish caught in front of a factory, and that governments have issued health warnings that very likely under-estimate the true danger of eating these fish. What they don’t know is that these anglers show up every year because not to, would be like admitting that the ecosystem was broken beyond repair and was now in the hands of industry to do with as they want.

Following the screening of films at the festival I was pleased with the number of questions from the audience that were pro-fishing. Most felt that, properly managed and protected, the world’s oceans could provide a safe and sustainable source of wild grown protein to satisfy the world’s population. It was a considerably more optimistic viewpoint than what I encountered earlier that day on site at the Impac5 conference.

One of the last audience members to ask a question at the festival wanted to know if people are working together to ensure the future of fish and fishing. I responded that in many instances this was the case, but that those responsible for planning the Impac5 conference were less so inclined based on my limited observations. Other than diverse indigenous groups from Canada and around the world, not one of the exhibitors and workshop presenters I encountered or read about in the conference agenda represented non-indigenous people who fish. It was a disturbing absence at a conference focused on marine stewardship. Bringing people together at such an important conference to discuss what should or should not be permitted to take place within marine protected areas or indigenous conserved and protected areas, without doubt, should include those stakeholders who, for good or for bad, have been and still are fishing commercially or recreationally on waters that are being considered for protection.

Attendance at the Impac5 Conference included plenty of government representatives, a slightly smaller number of Indigenous People, many environmental groups, and companies and consultants looking to find customers for their services and technologies as governments around the world rush to meet their international commitments to protect 30% of their oceans and terrestrial territories by 2030.

A surprising number of companies were featuring technology for detecting and surveilling fishing boats of all sizes.

Technologies being marketed to identify and track fishing boats deemed to be trespassing or fishing illegally included the latest in hydrophone audio recording equipment and the artificial intelligence to identify different types of boats. Another sold shore-based radar to identify and track boats up to 15 km offshore. The technology could spot even small fishing boats as long as there was something on the boat that reflected the sonar signal. Even the makers of Canada Arm 1 and 2 were there to showcase their satellite imaging technology capable of tracking fishing boats whether or not they had shut off their automated ship identification transponders. The computers processing the data could re-trace the boat’s course back to where the captain shut off the boat’s transponder and gone “dark”.

To be clear, not all MPA’s restrict fishing. Some do, and others restrict only certain forms of fishing such as bottom contact fishing which is the case along Canada’s west coast where glass sponge reefs are present. But none of these nuances were part of the presentations by these companies. In fact, anyone visiting their booths would assume fishing was no more welcome than boats smuggling drugs.

A concern I have with the Impac5 Conference is the extremely high cost to attend the event. Participation cost upwards of $1,200, which included access to the buffet lunch each day, and access to all presentations and the exhibit area. It’s by far the most expensive conference I’ve ever attended, and yet over a thousand people from around the world showed up for the event. Thankfully, I was able to attend as a representative of the media.

Many of the people in attendance represented various levels of government, with many coming from Canada. It may seem like a lot of money to spend on public servants, but it’s often categorized as “training”. Fair enough, where else can public servants learn so much in such a short period of time, and get to know the stakeholders and their positions. My only worry is that without non-indigenous fishing interests being represented at the conference, it may be the case that such policy makers and regulators are missing and important piece of the story. No doubt, official consultations could make up for this deficiency, but can we count on these important gate-keepers recognizing that there was another significant perspective and local knowledge gained over generations of experience concerning marine protection that wasn’t represented?

A comment made by a fellow panelist at the film festival about not letting commercial aquiculture business representatives take part in discussions about establishing protected marine areas because, as the environmental group representative claimed, “how can you have someone at the table who clearly has demonstrated a disregard for the marine environment.”. If blocking the aquiculture sector from participating in such talks is a priority, then just maybe organizers also blocked commercial fishing representatives from participating as well? How can you allow one and not the other. And if that’s the case, then it just may be that the embargo included recreational or public fishing interests as well. It wouldn’t be the first time that all forms of fishing were conflated as responsible for the endangerment of fish stocks.

There are negotiation tables in B.C. that include all the stakeholders when dividing up salmon harvesting quotas. I’m told these can often be heated discussions, but that they do work. Most all other provincial governments negotiate with FN fishers separate from non-indigenous communities when negotiating harvest restrictions meant to ensure long-term sustainable fishing. However, increasingly the trend is now for indigenous groups to develop and enforce their own harvest quotas and conservation measures.

When FN communities implement their own harvest quotas, government biologists and regulators are left with assessing and allocating what’s left. This can include reducing or stopping fishing by non-indigenous fishers altogether if fish stock estimates have declined to unsustainable levels. In such cases indigenous fishers are also expected to stop commercial fishing activity, and fish only for food, social or ceremonial purposes. Such outcomes were anticipated in Canada’s 1999 supreme court ruling involving the case of Donald Marshal in Nova Scotia, an FN fisher charged with fishing without a commercial license.

The recreational marine fishery, or what some refer to as the public fishery along Canada’s west coast generates over $10 billion in revenue each year, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the value of the inland freshwater fishery often associated with many of these same marine fishes. More than economics, it’s a way of life for many who live along the coast and has been for generations. People are worried that their interests and way-of-life may be overlooked in the rush to establish MPAs and ICPAs to meet the 30% protection goals by the year 2030.

We have the disastrous example along the coast of California of what can happen when protections are implemented with a promise to conduct the science later to adjust restrictions where possible. In the end, California failed to meet their five-year review commitment, sighting budget restrictions, and by year ten the state government announced that the research would not be conducted and the fishing restrictions would stay in place. It was a devastating blow to tourism, guided fishing operations and public access to near-shore fishing. In one disastrous move an entire way of life was brought to an end.

Thankfully, in Canada there’s a common decree shared among most indigenous and non-indigenous leaders alike that fishes and other natural resources belong to all of us. Respecting this grass roots understanding means finding ways to achieve fair share agreements. For such negotiations to be successful, governments and other stakeholder groups also need to acknowledge that equitable access is fundamental to achieving success. All stakeholders need to be on-side with any conservation and protection measures otherwise they are destined to fail.

To listen first-hand to several of the exhibitors I spoke with at the Impac5 Conference, and to hear highlights and the panel Q/A session at the Festival of Ocean Films link below to listen to The Blue Fish Radio Show:

A big thanks again to the folks at the Georgia Strait Coalition for screening our doc and for inviting me to be a panelist, to the Impac5 Conference organizers for providing the media passes, and especially to Dave Brown of the Public Fishery Alliance for assisting me with getting around Vancouver.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Canadian Sportfishing Hall of Fame Inductees (2023) / CSIA
The inductees of the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame fall under a number of categories. Angler – an avid angler be it recreational, competitive or otherwise; Advocate – a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of the industry; Media – the means of communication, radio, television, newspapers and/or magazines, that reach or influence people widely; and Industry Leader – a person who has taken the initiative to help the industry in a positive way. The Canadian Hall of Fame Alumni nominate and vote for the newest inductee annually. For 2023 new inductees include Outdoor Canada Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Patrick Walsh, and Mike Melnik, Managing Director for the Canadian National Sportfishing Foundation. Congratulations to you both!

DFO is holding a ‘reverse auction’ where the ‘most worthless’ salmon fishers are the winners / Skeena
B.C.’s salmon fishers have just weeks to decide if they will try their luck in a bizarre “reverse auction” held by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in the face of declining runs, has imposed coast-wide restrictions until 2025 that make the future look bleak for salmon fishers. For many, it’s a choice between the slow death of closures or the quick relief of a minimum payment to quit now.

Charges against B.C. anglers who took part in Fraser River demonstration fishery dropped / Hope Standard
‘It’s important to know the people who were out there were not law-breakers,’ says angler.

DEC will stock Lake Ontario with nearly 1 million salmon in 2023, expects ‘excellent’ fishing season / New York Upstate
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have agreed to a 10% increase in Chinook salmon stocking in Lake Ontario this year, for a total of 985,180 fish.

To catch more big walleye, lake trout and whitefish, tap into those good vibrations / Outdoor Canada
The fact is, most of the time fish use their lateral line to reassure themselves that our baits are safe. They may see, hear or smell them first, but it is almost always the vibrations they detect through their lateral lines—what scientists call a hydrodynamic sensory system—that finally convince them to strike.

International Game Fish Association Announces 2023 Fishing Hall of Fame Inductees / IGFA
This year’s inductees include IGFA World Record consummate and tournament champion Roberta G. Arostegui; fly-fishing adventurer and trailblazer, Kay Brodney; conventional and fly-fishing master angler, captain and writer Dean Butler; distinguished Avalon Tuna Club member and conservation advocate, Gerald A. Garrett; and marine resources champion and fishing apparel pioneer Bill Shedd. Elected unanimously by the IGFA Board of Trustees, the 2023 class will join 141 legendary anglers, scientists, conservationists, writers and fishing industry leaders whose contributions to sport fishing are forever preserved and celebrated in the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame.


Save our Salmon / PSA
PSF participated in the announcement of a new initiative launched by First Nations Fisheries Council of B.C. called Save Our Salmon-Extinction is Not an Option. Announced during the IMPAC5 conference with global focus on marine protected areas and the vital need to take action to help our marine ecosystems, the SOS campaign is intended to engage the broader public in the need to save and rebuild wild salmon.

Lake Huron fishery further protected from invasive sea lampreys / GLFC
The completion of a $1.67 million permanent sea lamprey trap on the East Branch Au Gres River in Iosco County, Michigan. The completion of the project represents a long-standing partnership between USACE and GLFC to control invasive sea lampreys and protect the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery.

DFO Decision: Discovery Island Fish Farms remain closed / Cortes Currents
The DFO press release announcing the decision to not reissue licenses for fish farms in the Discovery Islands, states, “Recent science indicates that there is uncertainty with respect to the risks posed by Atlantic salmon aquaculture farms to Wild Pacific Salmon in the Discovery Islands area, as well as to the cumulative effect of any farm-related impacts on this iconic species.”

B.C. salmon returns 2022 / Watershed Sentinel
License buybacks, fishery closures, and drought – Watershed Watch’s Fisheries Advisor, Greg Taylor, takes a look back at how it all went for the salmon in 2022.

Surrey salmon hatchery flood recovery / CityNews Vancouver
A fish and game club in Surrey is rebuilding after losing 30,000 salmon eggs in the 2021 flooding that hit B.C.

Salmon deplete fat stores while stopped at dams, study shows /
Dams on Maine rivers have long been known to impact fish populations, but a new study led by the University of Maine quantifying the time and energy lost by Atlantic salmon stopped by dams indicate that the structures might have even more of an impact than once thought.

Opinion: To help recover B.C.’s Pacific salmon, we need to rethink hatcheries / Outdoor Canada
After a decade of declining returns (and another disappointing year for anglers on BC rivers), it’s time to rethink how we run our hatcheries on the Pacific coast. Right now, hatcheries are simply wasting precious money to produce fewer and fewer salmon.

Manitoba’s belugas have a chance to be protected / Narwhal
Near Churchill, conservation advocates are pushing the federal government to protect a huge swath of Western Hudson Bay, an area important to narwhals, polar bears and 60,000 beluga whales.

AquaBounty reduces role of genetically engineered salmon facilities on P.E.I. / CBC
AquaBounty will no longer be producing fully-grown genetically engineered salmon for sale as food at its operations on P.E.I.

Making Sense of Menhaden / Hakai
In the Chesapeake Bay, a fight is raging over a little fish with an outsized importance.

How Did Millions of Dead Crabs Wind Up in the Abyss? / Hakai
The unexpected discovery of a mass grave of red crabs 4,000 meters below the ocean’s surface is puzzling scientists—and raising questions about the ecology of the deep sea.

Watershed stewards use DNA technology to hunt for invasive Prussian carp / Prairie Post
Prussian carp spread from Alberta into Saskatchewan through the South Saskatchewan River system. It is very adaptable and its presence in a watershed is a concern for several reasons. Technology is helping the Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards (SCCWS) to identify the potential presence of invasive Prussian carp in the aquatic ecosystem.

Whose Egg Is It Anyway? / Hakai
How to create a catalog of fish eggs to make it easier for aquariums to raise rare fishes.


Canada’s largest permanent protected area will be underwater / Narwhal
The Tang.ɢwan-ḥačxʷiqak-Tsig̱is marine protected area will be 133,000 square kilometres, covering underwater mountain ranges and alien ecosystems.

Canada is going to protect a ‘vast network’ of B.C. marine areas stretching from Vancouver Island to Alaska / West Coast Now
Canada is going to be protecting a huge swathe of B.C.’s west coast with the guidance of coastal communities and First Nations.

What COP15’s Global Biodiversity Framework will mean here in Canada / World Wildlife Fund
The world has agreed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. WWF-Canada’s James Snider explains what this will mean for conservation in Canada.

Herring spawn season is upon us, here’s why you should rethink seaweed mulch / Coast Reporter
February, March, and April are herring spawning months on the Sunshine Coast and herring will often choose seaweeds as the “anchor” for their eggs. Even when the egg-laden seaweed gets broken off and washed up on the beach, those eggs can quite happily survive until the next high tide.

Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission call proposed Canadian open-pit gold-mine a threat to Southeast / KINY
Upstream from Southeast Alaska, in the British Columbia wilderness, a significant mining boom is taking place.

Do booms influence salmon survival? / PSA
There’s an extensive history of log booms used for storage and transport via bays and estuaries that provide access to sawmills. Bays and estuaries also serve as critical migratory corridors for salmon. Harbour seals rest on log booms and prey on salmon in coastal waterways. Read about the log boom predation study.

The worst house guests: European green crabs are invading B.C. waters. / Narwhal
A monumental effort is underway to contain the spiny creatures, the bodies of which are flash frozen and dumped at landfills or churned into compost. But one First Nation is arguing that, given the price of groceries, we should rethink the way we eradicate invasive, but edible, species.


Why this tiny B.C. First Nations community sees hope for a recovery of sockeye / West Coast Now
There’s hope that a vast new network of Marine Protected Areas for B.C.’s coast will spark a revival of Chinook, oolichan and sockeye runs.

First Nations, B.C. groups launch coalition to save Pacific salmon from extinction / Hope Standard
New coalition says Pacific salmon populations have declined by more than 90 per cent since the 1970s. A leader with the First Nations Fisheries Council of B.C. says collaboration, not politics, will be the only thing that saves dwindling Pacific salmon populations.

How this Nuxalk Coastal Guardian reconnected to his culture by protecting his territory / West Coast NOW
Becoming a Guardian Watchmen was not a straightforward journey for Roger Harris. But the job has become a deeply meaningful one.


Ottawa Boat and Outdoor Show!
From February 23-26 visit the Blue Fish Canada exhibit at booth 4320 located in the new fishing section at the Ottawa Boat and Outdoor Show. This year the Show provides visitors with free parking at the EY Centre in Ottawa.


FISH ART CONTEST / Wildlife for Ever
Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Fish Art Contest! With over 55,000 entries and counting, the Fish Art Contest is the BEST way to introduce youth to conservation and the joys of fishing. The Fish Art Contest uses art, science, and creative writing to foster connections to the outdoors and inspire the next generation of stewards. The 2023 Contest Deadline is February 28th, 2023.


E385 Impac5 and the Festival of Ocean Films / BFC
The Blue Fish Radio Show covers the Impac5 Conference in Vancouver focused on Marine Protection Areas, and then participates as a pannelist at the Festival of Ocean Films featuring his Water Ripple Change Maker documentary. It’s a collection of live audio featuring Impac5 exhibitors discussing fishing, and a lively panel discussion afterwards at the Festival with a focus on the question, is fishing sustainable? Catch all the highlights on The Blue Fish Radio Show!


Dive deep into the Bay of Fundy without leaving home / CBC
Dive Deeper, a virtual museum exhibit on the Passamaquoddy region of the Bay of Fundy launched this week. The website, presented by the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, lets you take a deep dive into the flora and fauna that live above and below the bay’s depths from the comfort of home.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW)
Access the ISAW Toolkit and the full Invasive Species Awareness Week Campaign Toolkit! Together, our actions can help raise awareness about the importance of preventing the spread of invasive species. In the spirit of education and discussion, from February 20th to February 26th, 2023, let’s get #InvSpWk trending!

Coming Up:

Save the Date! World Water Day Film Screening – Watch trailer / POLIS
Please save the date for a screening of The Soul of the Fraser followed by dialogue with four watershed changemakers! This World Water Day event will be held in person on lək̓ʷəŋən territory in Victoria, BC on March 22, 2023. It is co-hosted by POLIS, the Centre for Global Studies, Birds Canada, BC Nature, Greater Victoria Naturalist Society, and the University of Victoria Sustainability Project. More details will be coming soon! Watch trailer>

Special Guest Feature – Canada’s marine protected and conserved areas

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

On December 9, 2022, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) published the Government of Canada’s 2022 Guidance for Recognizing Marine Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECM).

The 2022 Guidance will apply to existing and future federal marine OECMs, including marine refuges, which are key in helping the Government of Canada meet its marine conservation targets to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.

Protected areas include Marine Protected Areas created under the Oceans Act, National Marine Conservation Areas, and marine portions of National Wildlife Areas, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, National Parks, and provincial protected areas. Protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECM) both contribute to marine conservation targets. To date, all areas that qualify as OECM have been fisheries area closures. Fisheries area closures that meet OECM criteria are known as “marine refuges.”

OECM are governed for the long term by a Lead Relevant Governing Authority (RGA) in coordination or co-led with other RGAs. RGAs have the jurisdiction to make and enforce long-term decisions with no end date. They are required to recognize and respect Aboriginal and treaty rights, and consult rights holders. They must also take into account the views of local communities and stakeholders. RGA’s may include Indigenous governments who “may have rights over hunting, fishing and land usage, as per treaties and self-government agreements.

About us:

Subscribe to receive the Blue Fish Canada news in your inbox.
Read back issues of the Blue Fish Canada News
Please rate The Blue fish Radio Show on Apple Podcast.
Email us your news or podcast story ideas.
Donate to Blue Fish Canada, a federally incorporated registered Canadian charity.