Blue Fish News – Feb 6, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: On Saturday January 28, Blue Fish Canada’s President Lawrence Gunther spent the day in Clayton New York to take part in the annual Winter conference organized by Save The River and the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. Check out our podcast for highlights. On February 6-8 Gunther will be in Vancouver attending the IMPAC5 international marine conservation conference, and then on the evening of February 7th, a short documentary produced by Water Rangers featuring Lawrence Gunther is being aired as part of the Festival of Ocean Films followed by Gunther’s taking part in a panel on sustainable fishing. Link here to secure on-line or in-person Festival of Ocean Film tickets.

Use the discount code “FOF2330” for 30% off

The last two weeks of February will have Blue Fish Canada volunteers and Gunther at the Toronto Spring Fishing and Boat Show (Feb 17-19), and at the Ottawa Boat and Outdoor Show (Feb 23-26).

Photo of Lawrence Gunther wearing his “Save Blind Bay” sweatshirt along with his guide dog Lewis.

This Week’s Feature – Save The River and Fishes

By Editor Lawrence Gunther

Last weekend I attended the annual winter conference organized by Save The River and the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. It’s an event I try not to miss as the St. Lawrence River holds a special spot in my heart. And, like monitoring city sewage for signs of disease outbreaks among citizens, the St. Lawrence itself serves as a barometer of sorts with respect to the health of the Great Lakes. Link below to The Blue Fish Radio Show featuring short interviews and extracts with conference presenters including amazing news about the number and size of captured and released Muskie in 2022.

Much has been written and advocated for with respect to healthy Great Lakes. I can be counted as one of many who are calling out for stronger protection measures. In my mind however, health in this case can be defined in several ways.

Water quality is always first and foremost as more than 40 million people get their drinking water from the Great Lakes. How safe the water is to drink elicits wide ranging responses depending on who you talk to, but so far no one has directly linked human mortality to this source of drinking water. And yet, it’s what most activists focus on.

Fish consumption is probably the second most recognized issue with regards to water quality. A lot of fish are caught and consumed from the Great Lakes, and governments feel obliged to not only monitor the safety of fish being caught and sold commercially, but to inform the public about which fish are safe to eat or not, by who, and in what quantities. This is important information to know and follow without doubt, but many ask why are such consumption advisories even necessary? Should not fish caught in the world’s largest collection of fresh water be safe to eat?

Unsightly and occasionally toxic Blue Green Algae blooms are causing concern, as are unpleasant raw sewage releases and the closure of beaches due to safety issues after heavy rains. Shoreline erosion due to water level fluctuations, and conversely, water hazards when levels drop are also serious inconveniences and threats to property. All of the above are grist for mainstream media as they can be counted on to grab the public’s attention.

Perhaps however, one of the most serious healthy Great Lakes issues that we hardly ever hear about are impacts to Great Lakes fishes. Things like toxins, micro plastics, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, invasives, habitat loss and anoxic dead zones caused by excessive Blue Green Algae. We pay attention when it concerns our ability to catch and safely consume Great Lakes fishes, but what it means for the actual fishes is seldom reported. Issues such as genetic mutation, endocrine disruption, mortality, spawning success, and increased stress on fishes caused from multiple sources often go unreported or unrecognized.

Fishes aren’t binary in that they either thrive or die. I know we think of fish as not much higher on the spectrum as plants, and maybe that helps people convince themselves that eating fish is acceptable, which it is and always has been. But, they are animals and not only deserve our respect, but the right to live lives free of undo stress, the ability to freely carry out their fish behaviors, have access to suitable habitat and food, and the ability to successfully spawn.

I’m not going to get into whether fish feel pain, as it’s a topic that has been exploited heavily to advance other agendas. I’ll only say what we tell youth, and that’s fishes eat other fish whole all the time, and many of these fish being consumed are well defended with all manner of sharp appendages. The only issue I’ve witnessed by predatory fish that impacts their consumption of smaller fishes is their inability to completely swallow their prey when they “bite off more than they can chew”.

Some even consider fish to be sentient, which is defined as the capacity to experience feelings and sensations. Can they problem solve or formulate problems is difficult to say. What seems more likely is that they are constantly learning what is safe and beneficial to eat, how to hide from threats and hunt prey, and what they need to do to successfully spawn. So yes, they can think even if it’s at a very rudimentary level.

Putting aside arguments about feeling pain and sentients, like all animals, fishes deserve to live free of constant and severe pain, stress, anxiety, starvation and frustration. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be caught in responsible ways and selected for harvest when they reach sustainable levels. The fact that they are prolific spawners and often assemble in large groups or schools are evidence that their place in the ecosystem is to nourish other forms of life.

Perhaps our general lack of concern over fishes has to do with how fish are handled during the capture and euthanasia stages of being caught-and-released or harvested. Blue Fish Canada has been working for over ten years to document recreational angling best practices specific to fish species, time of year, and our intentions. Others have also taken notice of how commercial fishing practices often result in unnecessary fish stress and inhumane mortality, resulting in new research specific to humane fish handling and euthanasia practices.

One of the first attempts to establish standards for humane fish handling practices in the commercial sector is the Canadian Aquatic Industry Alliance’s new Animal Care Code. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Salmonids serves as the industry’s national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. It was developed with a diverse group of stakeholders including researchers, veterinarians, national animal welfare organizations and farmers.

It’s a step in the right direction, and one that’s certainly needed. Most every other farmed animal in Canada has their own animal care codes, so why not fishes.

The way fishes are handled even aboard artisanal fishing boats for centuries involves fishes being piled up on decks or in hulls where they are slowly smothered, crushed, and suffocate out of water. Fish caught throughout the day are often only processed by the same fishers at end-of-day on route back to the dock. I know, I was one of these fishers in the 1980’s up until the cod fishery was closed. What we now know is that fish handled carefully and euthanized humanely within minutes of being caught are far more valuable due to their having experienced only minimal stress. Unfortunately, commercial fishing operations have a long way to go before this becomes standard practice.

Anglers care about fish mortality and minimizing fish stress. We invest considerable money in proper hook release equipment, nets and aerated livewells aboard our boats. Are we perfect? No, but we are making progress. Now, if there were only some way to transfer our concern over fish health to the public at large, maybe then we would begin to see a change in how commercial fishing is carried out. You know, by rewarding those that do with our business.

The fact that certain fishes on occasion are forced to live under less than ideal conditions, out of sight of the public, would never be tolerated if wild terrestrial animals were observed living under similarly problematic conditions. Whether it’s our sport, our food, or just out there living their lives, fish are animals and deserve to be treated with respect. And, isn’t that really what healthy Great Lakes truly means?

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


The untold story of a Lake Erie nature preserve that used to be a fishing lodge and casino for gangsters / Outdoor Canada
Now a nature preserve, Lake Erie’s Middle Island hides a notorious past as a key rum-running centre, complete with a luxury fishing lodge and casino.

Okanagan-Similkameen residents reminded to not release goldfish into the wild / Castanet
A non-profit organization dedicated to tackling invasive species in the Okanagan-Similkameen got a report in this week from a local angler who spotted goldfish while ice fishing at Yellow Lake near Keremeos.

Does rewarding anglers for their fish do more harm than good? / Outdoor Canada
When I first heard about my home province of Saskatchewan’s new Master Angler Program, I thought about all the anglers vying for great prizes and bragging rights for catching giant fish. Then I shuddered to think of the effect it could have on big breeding females, in particular, in our province’s waters. After all, competition can bring out the worst, as well as the best, in people.

Try Ice Fishing for Free During Family Fishing Weekend (February 18-20) / ACA
Looking for a new place to go? Check out Alberta Conservation Authority’s on-line Discover a New Favourite Ice Fishing Spot interactive map.


Fish experiment shows how B.C. salmon influence life on land / Burnaby Now
For four years, an SFU team led by salmon ecologist Allison Dennert pulled rotting salmon from a river to see how it would impact plant growth in a nearby salt marsh. The results have big implications for a wide web of life.

Serious scientific failings: Experts slam DFO report downplaying threat of salmon farms / Narwhal
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released a report that found “no statistically significant association” between the level of sea lice that attack juvenile wild salmon and infestations of the parasite at nearby salmon farms. What that implies, the report continues, is that sea lice on wild juvenile Pacific salmon “cannot be explained solely” by sea lice larvae from farms. The industry association that represents salmon farmers in B.C. sent out a press release lauding the report as “comprehensive.”

Salmon farms not ‘solely’ to blame for growing B.C. sea lice infestations, claims DFO study / CBC
Alexandra Morton says the conclusions reached in the latest DFO study reflects unreliable sampling data provided by farmers and consulting firms hired by them.

Kids’ salmonid program back on the Seymour River / North Shore News
Gently Down the Seymour, a program that has brought thousands of Metro Vancouver kids up close with the salmonid-bearing creek, is returning after three years of COVID-19-related cancellations.

Research continues on pinniped predation in Salish Sea /
As state officials raise the issue of whether to consider the removal of sea lions and seals for the sake of reviving endangered salmon populations, research continues on the mammals.

Geneticists light up debate on salmon conservation / The Scientist
Splitting Chinook salmon into two groups based on their DNA could aid conservation efforts. But some researchers argue that this would be a misuse of the data.


Feds and First Nations gearing up to host global ocean conservation summit / National Observer
The upcoming IMPAC5 conference in Vancouver is an opportunity to chart the path to meet world leaders’ promise last month to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s land and waters by 2030, says federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray.

Winter Salt / Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
Rising chloride (salt) levels are impacting Ontario’s lakes and rivers. Salt is accumulating in the environment and poses an emerging threat both to ecosystems and human health. Once introduced into an ecosystem, salt can become a persistent problem, since there are really no biological processes that will remove it. Reducing the amount of salt entering waterways is an important way to protect our aquatic ecosystems.

When will Klamath Dam removal take place? A complete timeline for the largest dam removal project ever / Active NorCal
The Klamath River dam removal project has cleared every major hurdle, paving way for the deconstruction of four dams in 2023 and 2024.

Feb 2 World Wetlands Day / Watersheds Canada
Did you know Canada is home to 25% of the world’s wetlands? In fact, there are approximately 1.29 million square kilometres of wetlands covering 13% of Canada’s terrestrial area! Watersheds Canada has four free resources you can use to learn about the importance of wetlands and resilient shoreline areas.

Sea vomit: Why DFO is worried about an invasive species with a disgusting name / CBC
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is asking fishermen to keep an eye out for an invasive species in the Bay of Fundy. Pancake batter tunicate is also known by the less appetizing phrase “sea vomit.”

Since the founding of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in 2002, the TRCP has existed to unite hunters and anglers around common goals and then bring the strong, unified voice of our community directly to decision-makers, who can implement pragmatic solutions that benefit fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation access. The best metric of success is whether the TRCP compelled its members, readers, and social followers—to act in support of conservation, whether that’s by signing a petition, sending a message to your lawmakers, attending a public hearing or rally, or donating to keep our work going. In looking back on this year—our 20th anniversary—we saw a pattern of strong support for many issues, both national and regional in scope. More than 30,000 of you took action at least once in 2022. Here are the top ten issues that convinced the most sportsmen and sportswomen to speak up.

Partnership to Improve Conservation of Nearshore Habitat / FishingWire
As human development of the nearshore continues, there’s a growing need to protect and restore high-value habitats for protected species and sustainable fisheries,”. The NOAA wants to provide a full, transparent, user-friendly, and effective toolbox for managers to do that more easily and accurately, especially when it comes to living habitat components like kelp, eelgrass and other submerged aquatic vegetation. In partnership the NOAA will identify and share the latest and most effective tools, science, and practices for recognizing and objectively assessing the ecological value of submerged aquatic vegetation in nearshore habitats.

Government says there is no need for every toxic chemical to have a pollution plan / Dawson Creek Mirror
The federal government is playing a dangerous game by refusing to force any company that makes or uses toxic chemicals to have a plan in place to prevent them from getting into the environment.


Blueberry River First Nations beat B.C. in court. Now everything’s changing / Narwhal
Apart from a little pocket of land on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Blueberry River First Nations territory is an industrial wasteland. At a walking pace, it only takes about three minutes to stumble onto some kind of development. It’s a land of pipelines, clearcuts and gas rigs. But things are about to change. After winning a hard-fought case before the B.C. Supreme Court in 2021, the Treaty 8 nation reached a final agreement with the province on Jan. 18. The agreement charts a path forward from a past where the province excluded the community from resource decisions and infringed on the nation’s constitutionally protected rights. Two days later, B.C. signed agreements with four neighbouring nations: Doig River, Halfway River, Saulteau and Fort Nelson. Collectively, the agreements represent a way out of conflict and a shared goal to heal the land.


2023 is shaping up to be another exciting year / Destination Northern Ontario.
Looking back at the past couple of years, we can see that tourism has been hit the hardest and will take longer to recover than any other industry. Using statistics from 2022, it is evident that some sectors have significantly recovered. Although the inflation rate is high, some sectors are performing above what they did in 2019. Between October 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022, approximately 1,688,383 crossings were made over the Ontario – U.S. land border. The crossings in 2022 are 130% higher than in 2021 and 412% higher than in 2020. Despite the significant increases in crossings in 2022, the crossings remain 30% below their pre-pandemic levels. Despite this, the shortfall gap continues to narrow.


Kwikwetlem sockeye hatchery cultural blessing and groundbreaking ceremony / Kwikwetlem First Nation
kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation recently hosted a special cultural blessing and ground-breaking ceremony for a new conservation-based hatchery on the Coquitlam River.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Research opportunity / ASF
UNB seeks postdoctoral fellow for new freshwater program. ASF’s Wild Salmon Watersheds is a new program focused on rivers and streams. Pilots have been established in three watersheds and we are looking to add academic horsepower to the program development team.

Become the next ASF New Brunswick program director / ASF
Are you a polymath with a passion for New Brunswick’s salmon rivers? If so, apply to join our regional programs team as the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s New Brunswick program director. Deadline for applications is February 22nd.

Join our team! / Ocean Tracking Network
Since 2008, the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) has been creating a unique global research, data management and infrastructure platform that tightly integrates biological, oceanographic and social sciences, promotes technological innovation, and fosters collaborative partnerships across sectors and around the world. We are currently hiring for two positions:
Program Manager (Deadline: Feb. 8, 2023)

Field Technician (Deadline: Feb. 10, 2023)

Coming Up:

Impac5 Conference Comes to Canada / Nature Canada
From February 3rd to 9th thousands of delegates are gathering in Vancouver for IMPAC5—the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Conference—to advance ocean protection. As host of IMPAC5, conservation groups are calling for Canada to become a leader for ocean protection by:

  • Laying out a clear pathway to our 30×30 ocean protection promises
  • Demonstrating support for Indigenous leadership in ocean conservation
  • Committing to strong protection standards in Marine Protected Areas
  • Announcing a moratorium on deep sea mining in Canadian waters

Special Guest Feature – What’s in Your Bait Bucket?

Invasive Species Center

The use of baitfish is a proven pathway for the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in Ontario’s waters. Problematic fishes, such as Round Goby or Rainbow Smelt, and pathogens like Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) can be inadvertently introduced via a bait bucket to new waterways when anglers illegally dispose of their leftover baitfish. But it is not just live bait that presents a risk, even dead baitfish, fish parts, or bait-holding materials (e.g., water) can have serious ecological consequences for our waterways if improperly disposed of.

To address this issue, Ontario has implemented new laws to help reduce the spread of invasive species through the use and movement of bait, as part of the Sustainable Bait Management Strategy. These rules include:

  • Establishing four Bait Management Zones (BMZs) to limit the movement of baitfish and leeches in Ontario.
  • Restricting the transportation of baitfish or leeches, whether live or dead, into or out of a BMZ with some limited exceptions.
  • Anglers fishing outside their home BMZ must purchase baitfish and leeches locally, retain a receipt and use or dispose of their bait within two weeks from when they were purchased.
  • Harvesting of baitfish and leeches by anglers may only occur in their home BMZ.

This Ontario’s Sustainable Bait Management Strategy serves as a best practice for anglers to follow no matter where they fish, the exception being those provinces like Quebec that have their own live bait regulations. Get to know your provinces rules concerning live bait, and if you think the province needs to do more to keep Canada’s wild fisheries healthy, than maybe it’s time to start asking questions of your elected officials.

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