Blue Fish News – Jan 25, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: Our leadership role in the Great Lakes Fish Health Network is generating results. Maybe not yet in terms of improving fish health, but in bringing the issue to more tables. Not a minute too soon either as new reports out of the United States are ringing alarm bells about the health and safety of eating Great Lakes fish due to PFAS “forever” chemicals. These are the new Mercury, PCB and DDTs and desperately require our attention. Articles are being written and published, webinars hosted, and presentations at bilateral councils organized with the support of the Canadian Environmental Law Association – stay tuned…

Photo of editor Lawrence Gunther with Lake Ontario commercial fishers Joanne and Kenddall Dewey

This Week’s Feature – Lake Ontario Eastern Basin Fishery Stakeholders (Part 3)

By L. Gunther

Over three weeks in the summer of 2022 I visited with a number of stakeholders involved with fishing on the eastern basin of Lake Ontario and Bay of Quinte. Stakeholders that represent commercial fishers and processors, fishery researchers, scientists and conservationists, First Nations, recreational anglers, guides and outfitters. A goal of Blue Fish Canada is to gather and convey this local, traditional and scientific knowledge so everyone understands what fishing means to people, their communities, and the ecosystem.

The Great Lakes Fisheries Commission recognizes that fishing on the Great Lakes is valued at over $9.3 billion Canadian, and represents the most valuable freshwater fishery in the world. This doesn’t even take into consideration the value of fish captured, released or harvested by recreational and sport anglers, or fish harvested by First Nations for commercial, food, social or ceremonial purposes. We also know that extreme weather and other human activities have and continue to cause significant stress on Great Lakes ecosystems and biodiversity. All agree that the Great Lakes deserve to be treated with greater respect.

The federal government has committed to protect 30% of Canada’s oceans, lands, rivers and lakes by the year 2030. So far, Canada has designated two “national marine protected areas” on the Great Lakes – lakes Huron and Superior, many others along Canada’s coastline, and recently announced $800 million to establish four large “indigenous conserved and protected areas” across northern Canada. What these conservation initiatives mean to nature and people is not widely understood. The process being used to designate and conceive these protected areas seems to still be a “work in progress”. What’s becoming evident however, is that stakeholders are growing increasingly vocal about their interest in being consulted about the location and protection of future sites.

What Blue fish is undertaking by speaking with and sharing the thoughts of Lake Ontario’s eastern basin’s stakeholders is not part of any future consultation process meant to establish a “national marine conserved area” that would include Canada’s portion of Lake Ontario’s eastern basin and Bay of Quinte. Our goal is to help make sure the public and others associated with establishing any future protected area are aware of what this largely silent ecosystem means to the cultural, social and economic sustainability of the people who live by and from the water.

Part One of these conversations introduced the topic of a Lake Ontario eastern basin “National Marine Conserved Area” by speaking with a highly regarded scientist of many years who lives on Wolfe Island just off shore from the city of Kingston. Dr. Barrie Gilbert spent much of his career researching apex predators along Canada’s west coast, but he never forgot his roots and moved back to Wolfe Island upon retirement. Dr. Gilbert now serves as a senior advisor to Nature Canada – the conservation NGO leading the charge to establish the NMCA on the east basin of Lake Ontario including Bay of Quinte. I was surprised to learn that not only is Dr. Gilbert supportive of including recreational fishing in the proposed NMCA, but it was his view that the lake had much more to offer despite past abuses. His opinion is that even though the Great Lakes have been poorly treated over the past 150 years in terms of human impacts to water quality and fish health, and that unsustainable commercial fishing negatively impacted Lake Ontario during the early 1900’s, it’s now the case that Lake Ontario’s fisheries are now vastly underutilized. You can listen to my conversation with Dr. Barrie Gilbert by linking to the below episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show:

Part Two of Blue Fish Canada’s conversations with stakeholders involved sitting down with Chief Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of Bay of Quinte. I first met Chief Maracle not long after he was first elected chief in 1993 while taking part in a week long First Nations awareness training program involving the First Nations Tyendinaga community located on Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte. Our conversation focused mainly on First Nations reconciliation and jurisdiction over their traditional lands and waters. However, when it came to details about commercial and subsistence fishing for food, social and ceremonial purposes, the chief suggested I speak with a specific member of his community who fishes. When I asked his thoughts about establishing an NMCA that would include his community’s traditional waters, his reaction was unfavourable to say the least; however, this could have more to do with the idea coming from outside his community and not an indigenous led process. No doubt, any hopes of merging the proposed “national marine conserved area” with an “indigenous conserved and protected area” will take considerable discussion. You can listen to my conversation with Chief Maracle by linking to the below episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show:

In this Third conversation just released as a podcast I speak with Kendle and Joanne Dewey. This commercial fishing team and couple live and fish together using hoop nets and traps. Their knowledge of the history and current state of Lake Ontario’s eastern basin and Bay of Quinte is long and extensive. Fishing is a choice both made after having served as fish biologists and park interpreters for many years. After having spent an afternoon speaking with the couple in their kitchen I have little doubt that fishing is also much more than a means to generate a living – it’s their passion. Despite their concerns over steadily increasing levels of bluegreen algae and how it’s making it more difficult to fish, the two believe strongly that the potential of the fishery overall is being largely underutilized.

I asked Kendel and Joanne why the consumption of freshly caught local fish doesn’t figure into Prince Edward County’s highly popular summer tourism seen along with the numerous micro breweries, wineries, eateries, resorts and spas. They told me most of their catch is either purchased privately, or shipped to a processing plant on the shores of Lake Erie and then exported. But, it’s not like they haven’t tried to introduce fish into the local market, and suggested I speak with a young refugee from Syria that they recently helped to establish a fish processing and marketing business in the area. To learn more about how Kendle and Joanne Dewey fish sustainably, their life stories, and their thoughts on how to revive a fishery in decline, link below to listen to The Blue Fish Radio:

Blue Fish Canada has lots more conversations to feature and people with whom to follow up. With respect to establishing any sort of protected status to Lake Ontario’s eastern basin and Bay of Quinte. People always ask me during my conversations what such status would offer the lake itself. In fact, it’s a question I have been asking of others. As near as I can say at this point, protecting the lake and bay is not meant to stop fishing. In fact, it’s meant to ensure fish and fishing will be around for many years to come by highlighting the bounty of the waters and the need to better understand what we must do or do differently to ensure its viability. Designating the area as conserved or protected, is not only meant to enhance fish habitat, fish health, and the sustainability of local fisheries, but to give tourists one more reason to visit the area. And by doing so, strengthen local fisheries and nearby communities. Just as importantly, it makes it possible for researchers to secure the funding to better understand how to maintain and strengthen the health and numbers of different local fishes. Last but certainly not least, planning and implementing such a system in partnership with local First Nations will hopefully establish a transparent, productive, equitable and sustainable shared fishery for many more generations to come.

Having personally fished the Bay of Quinte both competitively and recreationally for bass and walleye aboard boats and through the ice, and having spent many days fishing Lake Ontario’s eastern basin, I can personally attest to the quality fishing that the area offers. Being situated an over two hour drive from cities like Toronto and Ottawa make it just a bit to far to fish without staying over in a hotel or campground though, which means it doesn’t get as much fishing pressure as it might otherwise. Below are links to several related articles about fishing in the area I’ve written over the years that you can read on my Feel the Bite blog:

All Aboard “Fresh Off the Boat”
Feeling Around for Some Bay of Quinte Beauties
Ontario Bass Nation Qualifier
Late fall and Where’s the Bay of Quinte Walleye

Here is a link to a blog I wrote for Nature Canada on fishing on Lake Ontario’s eastern basin and Bay of Quinte:

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Commercial fishing deaths in Canada hit 20-year high / OHS Canada Magazine
Despite improvements in safety training and awareness, commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous professions in Canada. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reports that 45 workers died between 2018 and 2020, the highest three-year total in 20 years. And fishing safety has been on the board’s watchlist of important safety matters since 2010.

Fishing for answers: who gets to fish for B.C. salmon in the future? / Hope Standard
The Canadian government has shut down about 60 per cent of B.C.’s commercial fisheries since 2021.

Chinook salmon now ‘functionally extinct’ / Yahoo
Yukoners are seeing the disappearance of a way of life — family fish camps with children helping their parents and elders with the catching, skinning, drying and smoking of a winter’s food.

Stormier Seas Keep Fishers on Shore / Hakai
As climate change fuels more extreme weather, fishers in western Madagascar and around the world are facing shrinking opportunities to fish. Small-scale fisheries employ more than 110 million people globally. But as climate change dials up extreme coastal weather, it is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous for the fishers to work.

Fishing Plan Can Rebuild Long Lost Cod Stock by 2033 / FishingWire
U.S. Federal ocean regulators say a new fishing plan has a chance to rebuild the New England cod stock, which is a goal even many commercial fishermen have long regarded as far fetched. Atlantic cod were once a cornerstone of the New England economy, but the catch has plummeted after years of overfishing.


Eating one fish from U.S. lakes or rivers likened to drinking month’s worth of contaminated water / CBS News
To find out PFAS contamination in locally caught fish, a team of researchers analyzed more than 500 samples from rivers and lakes across the United States between 2013 and 2015. The median level of PFAS in the fish was 9,500 nanograms per kilogram, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research. Nearly three quarters of the detected “forever chemicals” were PFOS, one of the most common and hazardous of the thousands of forms of PFAS. Eating just one freshwater fish equaled drinking water with PFOS at 48 parts per trillion for a month, the researchers calculated.

High levels of ‘forever chemical’ found in endangered orcas in Canada / Guardian
Southern resident killer whales off British Columbia show alarming levels of 4NP chemical used in toilet paper, study finds.

Electric barrier to keep silver, bighead carp from Great Lakes allows in other invaders /
“Silver and bighead carp pose a huge risk to the Great Lakes, but many other species, most of which are invertebrates, can be serious invaders and we also need to prevent them from spreading either to the Mississippi River Watershed from the Great Lakes or the opposite,” said Reuben Keller, a Loyola University Chicago biologist who led the research.

Endangered Salmon Regain Access to Healthy West Coast Habitat through 20 Projects Funded by NOAA Fisheries / Fishingwire
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is one of the largest funding packages for salmon and steelhead recovery in the last decade. It promises to reopen many miles of crucial spawning and rearing habitat across the West Coast as climate change increases the urgency of recovery actions. These projects will help restore access to healthy habitat for migratory…

A fishy problem: How antidepressants may impact the health of our aquatic ecosystems / The Conversation
In the past 20 years, European nations have seen consumption rates of antidepressants more than double. Closer to home, their usage amongst Canadian youth is surging. In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, these rates are only expected to rise, particularly when considering the affordability of and need for these medications. However, many people are likely unaware of a hidden and perhaps surprising environmental cost associated with antidepressant usage. The rising use of antidepressants has led to a parallel spike in their presence in our ecosystems. Our bodies do not fully break down each pill we take and the by-products released from our bodies are often just as active as the original medication.

First-of-its-kind winter ecology study provides important clues to salmon mystery / PSF
The first winter of the salmon life cycle is crucial to survival. Despite frigid conditions, Pacific Salmon Foundation researchers investigate the critical first winter of salmon life. Focusing on factors that may lead to declines in populations including predation, competition, and climate change, scientists advance salmon knowledge to find clues in a first-of-its-kind study on winter ecology.

OCEARCH Embarks on Expedition Southbound / FishingWire
Alongside 45 collaborators from 30 research institutions, the organization will collect data to support 24 science projects that will help solve, for the first time, the life history puzzle of the white shark in the Western North Atlantic Ocean.

Can the Ancient Humpback Chub Hang On in Today’s Grand Canyon? / Sierra Club
The Humpback Chub has survived invasive predators, too-cold water, poisoning, electro-shocks, and a ginormous dam. Still, the chub persists.


The Pacific Ocean’s oxygen-starved ‘OMZ’ is growing, new research finds /
Areas of low-oxygen water stretch for thousands of miles through the world’s oceans. The largest of these “oxygen minimum zones” is found along the Pacific coast of North and South America, centred off the coast of Mexico.

‘Endangered’ Lake Winnipeg gets federal support / Narwhal
The federal government is chipping in to help restore the health of the Lake Winnipeg watershed, providing $1.59 million to support projects aimed at reducing nutrient loads in the lake basin. The funding announcement was sandwiched into a week of cross-border discussions on water health, as stakeholders from three American states joined Manitobans at the 40th annual conference of the Red River Basin Commission — a non-profit supporting collaborative water management.

Scientists Sound Alarm as Ocean Temperatures Hit New Record / FishingWire
Oceans absorb about 90 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, shielding land surfaces but generating huge, long-lasting marine heatwaves that are already having devastating effects on underwater life. The study, by researchers in China, the US, Italy and New Zealand, said that 2022 was “the hottest year ever recorded in the world’s oceans”.

Environmental group claims water tests at gold mine site have high arsenic levels / CBC 
An environmental group in Nova Scotia says a gold mine is responsible for high levels of arsenic in local waterways near the mine. The company says it’s a natural occurrence.

BC Hydro, Site C contractor charged over discharge into Peace River / Narwhal
Four million litres of potentially contaminated water was discharged into the fish-bearing river. The incident was not reported ‘in a timely manner,’ according to BC Hydro’s latest Site C dam report.


Tŝilhqot’in Nation calls for shutdown of Alaska fishery amid concerns over interception of Canadian-bound salmon / CFNR Network
Despite Canada and Washington restricting salmon harvests in recent years, the Alaskan fishery has continued to collect large amounts of fish.

New conservation area being created in Pitt River Valley / Maple Ridge News
The Katzie First Nation are partnering with a new environmental group in a project to restore salmon runs and protect wildlife in the Pitt River Watershed.


Faulty Weather Stations Put Us at Risk, Say Central Coast Navigators / Tyee
In the winter months, a combination of high winds and choppy seas makes for treacherous travel in the Queen Charlotte Sound, which runs from northern Vancouver Island to Haida Gwaii. Since there are no islands to shelter boats or planes, this stretch of ocean is particularly vulnerable to strong winds — which have sometimes reached up to 130 km/h. For years though, unreliable weather tracking stations have added an extra layer of difficulty for travel in the region.


Climate Change and Habitat Loss: Fisheries at Risk / NOAA
Habitat restoration experts discuss the challenges coastal habitats face from climate change and what NOAA is doing to address them in our new video. Wetlands, coral reefs, rivers, and other habitats are all at risk due to climate change. Just like people, fish and wildlife need homes so they can thrive. Healthy habitats also protect coastal communities from storms, filter pollution from water, and support thriving tourism and fishing industries.


Little Program, BIG Responsibility! / ISC
Link to the January Invasive Species Center  Webinar: Little Program, BIG Responsibility! A behind-the-scenes look at how Saskatchewan manages a provincial watercraft inspection program to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Support the Cities Initiative’s $1 Billion Booster for Freshwater Health campaign / Great Lakes Cities Initiative
The Cities Initiative is working with other organizations across Canada, including the Canadian Coalition for Healthy Waters, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Great Lakes Commission to push the federal government to invest $1 billion in a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan to improve the health of the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, Lake Simcoe and other large lakes and river systems. This was a commitment made in the last federal election. As part of our campaign, the Cities Initiative is asking member cities to reinforce this message with the federal government and local federal and provincial elected officials ahead of Budget 2023. Encourage your municipal council to pass a resolution and send a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

Coming Up:

Kanietarowanenen – the Great River: Her health and the health of the future / River Institute
On February 1, 2023 at 6:15 Eastern don’t miss the in-person & Facebook LIVE event featuring Ojistoh Horn telling the story of the quest to keep the St. Lawrence River healthy, to monitor her health and the health status of the people who engage with her. It’s a discussion about ecological and planetary health. As a traditional minded Haudenosaunee woman, mother, western-based physician, having immersed herself in the understandings of the sciences including epidemiology and biostatistics, Ojistoh Horn will discuss the largest health crisis of this century. The dysregulation of the homeostasis of Iethinisthena Ohontsa – Mother Earth. Also known as Climate Change.

34th Annual Save The River Winter Environmental Conference / STR
On Saturday, January 28 this year’s Save the River conference will be held in person and virtually. In person registration is available for $60 per person and includes coffee, breakfast, and lunch. For the livestream, the registration fee is $25 and you will receive the link the day before the conference.

Invasive Species Forum Preliminary Program Available Now! / ISC
The program features experts in a variety of invasive species fields, including aquatic and terrestrial species, management strategies, community science, and more.

Special Guest Feature – B.C. ice fishers asked to carefully clean equipment to avoid spreading invasive species

The East Kootenay Invasive Species Council has message for anglers who enjoy ice fishing — invasive species management is a four season thing.

  • Make sure you remove all bits and pieces of plant matter and muddy debris as it could; be harbouring the larvae of the invasive Zebra Mussel or invasive plant seeds.
  • Check anything that was on the bottom of the lake, suspended in the water or in a weedy area before moving to a different part of the lake or another water body; and,
  • Inspect ice fishing gear (ice auger, fishing equipment, snowmobiles, sleds etc.) for attached invasive species.

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