Blue Fish News – January 15, 2024

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: Along with all of you, we here at Blue Fish Canada are patiently waiting for ice to firm up and winter fishing to begin. But, that doesn’t mean we have been busy twiddling our thumbs. Along with ice fishing, we need to fit into winter time for grant writing, event calendar planning, and sponsorship reporting and renewal. Yup, 2024 is underway even though all outward signs would suggest otherwise. And before I forget, thank you all for sharing your words of encouragement and appreciation, it made the teams’ taking off a few weeks to be with family and friends that much more special!

Photo of Fortress Louisburg located on Cape Breton Island on the north-eastern tip of Nova Scotia

This Week’s Feature – Ownership of Canada’s Shorelines and Responsibility for Fish Stewardship

Prepared by President Lawrence Gunther

In 1986 I purchased a half-acre on Catalone Gut in Cape Breton Nova Scotia and took possession of what to me was my first shoreline property. I remember the lawyer I hired to close the deal telling me, “There’s only so much shoreline, and once it’s all purchased it’s gone.” Of course, I was more interested in the fish that I imagined living beneath the waves of the brackish water that began where the mouth of the Catalone River broadened out to 1.5 km in width for a 5 km stretch before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. It didn’t take long before I was obsessed with learning the habitats and seasonal movements of the Brook Trout, Pollock, Cod and Atlantic Salmon that lived in, or migrated through the gut between the ocean and the river. Fish aside, I was also curious about the history of the area and who may have spent time on my 70 meters of shoreline before me?

Catalone Gut had no more than a couple dozen shoreline property owners, most of us having purchased our lots from descendants of a family that homesteaded a quarter section of land over 100 years earlier, and then subdivided the land to sell off the more lucrative shoreline lots. It was a legal process established to encourage settlers to generate economic activity on what the government considered to be unused land, and led to more complex legal transactions that further deepened legal title to these properties, as well as wealth generation by their further development and sale. It all seemed completely legitimate at the time. I was led to believe that my purchase made me the second owner of a small piece of Canada’s wilderness, which technically may have been the case, but which we have now come to realize isn’t necessarily the truth.

I always suspected deep-down that surely there must have been others who followed this shoreline either by foot or canoe, and quite possibly have occupied the land at some point. After-all, France had established Fortress Louisburg as its centre for governance and trade in Atlantic Canada in 1713 just 20 kilometers away.

Throughout my 14-years of owning land and a cabin in Cape Breton, a First Nations man named Donald Marshall was in the news a lot. First, with his being wrongly found guilty and sentenced for murder, and then charged in 1983, a year after being released from prison, with harvesting and selling fish out of season and without a license. Twice in his life Donald Marshall would have criminal charges over-turned, culminating in his securing a Supreme Court victory in 1999 reaffirming his right to fish commercially. Donald’s latest victory was based on his being a member of a Mi’kmaq First Nation community located on Cape Breton that had entered into a treaty with the Crown in 1760 affirming their right to fish and hunt. His Supreme Court ruling paved the way for indigenous people across Canada to earn a “moderate” commercial livelihood from fishing and hunting, subject only to conservation requirements.

What happened to Donald and his seemingly impossible fight in one court after another signified the beginning of a seismic shift in how non-indigenous commercial fishers could engage in commercial fisheries in Canada from which they and their ancestors had prospered for over 500 years. Ironically, it was seven years before Donald’s supreme court decision was handed down that the Atlantic Cod fishery had collapsed and was shut down, throwing tens-of-thousands of Atlantic Canadians out of work, myself included.

The First Nations Mi’kmaq people who live in Nova Scotia, for the most part, exist separate from the vast majority of the descendants of those who began arriving following John Cabot’s arrival in Cape Breton in 1487. It’s a disconnection that settlers seldom spoke about until Donald Marshall won his Supreme Court ruling, and now with reconciliation. The socio-economic divide between Cape Breton’s Mi’kmaq and settlers reminded me in several ways of my own challenges at the time.

Despite my spending 14 summers in Cape Breton and making many friends, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was never fully accepted as a member of the community. I came to learn that being regarded as “from away” was not unique to Cape Breton, but an experience I shared with others who visited or moved to Atlantic Canada – people who did not possess deep local family ties in the region. Sure, I made friends, but seldom received invitations to community celebrations. And, when I spoke to others from away who moved to the area to work, I was told that taking a job from a local often led to being “black-balled”, a term describing the social isolation of being physically acknowledged but socially excluded.

I also understand what it is like to be stereotyped. As a person without sight, my own position and value within society is often regarded as inconsequential, or worse, a drain on community resources. Thankfully, technology has allowed me to assimilate into the mainstream of society by becoming recognized as a contributor. Eliminating exclusionary practices such as residential schools for the blind and the adoption of Canada’s Charter of Rights and freedoms in 1982 have also facilitated the mainstream socio-economic integration of people like me with disabilities.

Learning about the arrival of European settlers to Cape Breton, or what was once referred to by the French as Port Royal, is explained in part by historic actors hired to animate Eastern Canada’s largest living museum, Fortress Louisburg. I was a frequent visitor to the fort to learn how settlers lived over 250 years before my arrival in the area. Much of the Fortress within the walls had been restored, but other than one stone home meant to replicate the typical housing of a Cod fisher, nothing was rebuilt outside of the fortress walls. References to Mi’kmaq people who traded with fortress settlers were sparse. As with the textbooks I was provided in school, few details were shared about indigenous people throughout North America.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Abraham Francis, a Mohawk from the First Nations community of Akwesasne located on the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall Ontario. Abraham and I talked about his people’s historic relationship to the land, the water and the game, and how this all suddenly and relatively recently changed. First with the introduction of settlers and the wars they brought to the region, and then the environmental impacts heavy industry had on the land and water. Abraham explained how toxins were introduced into the land and water had forced his people to turn away from the water. To suspend their reliance on fish for food and trade due to health warnings over fish consumption.

Having grown up in a culture that defined itself on land and home ownership and the right to private property, I find it difficult to imagine what it was like to live the blend of nomadic and community life Abe described. Yes, I stir my deeply imbedded internal feelings of provider when I fish, but I come from ancestors who strove to own land and to farm.

Both my parents were born on farms in Europe. My father’s family lived as farmers in Ukraine for three generations, and were then displaced during World War II, resulting in my family’s farm being seized and my father’s father being sent to Siberia. At age 18 my father found work on a farm where he met my mother. That farm would eventually belong to my mother’s younger brother, so my father and mother moved to Canada to start over yet again.

I learned to understand what my father lived through, and I think this helps me to understand what indigenous people in Canada must feel. The difference is my father was able to relocate, start over, and not experience systemic discrimination even though he came from away. Indigenous people not only lost their land but have faced all manner of discrimination for hundreds of years. We are only just starting to gain awareness of what this all entails.

Link below to listen to my conversation with Abraham Frances, environmental scientists, Mohawk of Akwesasne, on The Blue Fish Radio Show. Abe is sorting through what happened to his people who have lived for thousands of years along the shores of the St. Lawrence River. He’s working hard to restore and rebuild his community and their connection to the land, water and fish.–58298561

Our contamination of fishes in the St. Lawrence River, whether intentional or not, have seriously undermined the Mohawk’s people’s way of life, similar to how the collapse of the cod fishery in Atlantic Canada ended 500 years of small-scale local fisheries. Expecting Mohawk people to turn their backs on the river after thousands of years due to the legacy of heavy industrial activity is similar to our forcing the closure of coastal communities in Atlantic Canada due to large-scale industrial over-fishing, it’s just wrong and should never have happened. In order to rectify these injustices, we also need to sort out who owns and controls which land and resources.

The current system of reservations and crown land fails to acknowledge indigenous rights and treaties. Donald Marshall may have established a precedent overfishing rights, but this too needs to be interpreted and implemented more widely as excluding indigenous fishers from commercial fisheries is another on-going injustice.

Many difficult discussions still to be had, but good relations mean having such conversations. All this would be made easier if we knew more about indigenous people, their culture, values and history, something that’s still sorely lacking in our schools and throughout Canada.

Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis of small-scale fisheries, their social, economic and conservation benefits, and why reconciliation isn’t a simple matter of turning over industrial-scale fisheries to indigenous-led incorporations if we are going to establish strong and sustainable commercial fishing opportunities throughout Canada. Many indigenous leaders acknowledge that establishing truly sustainable commercial fisheries will take a “two-eye” perspective, which sounds to me like a pretty good place to start. Finding commonality is another.

The Latest Fishing, fish Health and Fish Habitat News


In Canada, women-only ice fishing is about more than fish / CS Monitor
Ice fishing in North America traces back about 2,000 years to Indigenous communities, but for the last century has been a sport dominated by men. Now groups like Ontario Women Anglers are introducing more women to the beauties of the “hard water,” in an extreme embrace of winter. “Being on a frozen lake is kind of like walking on the moon. When the ice is building, it’s actually an audible noise that kind of sounds like whales,” says Capt. Barb Carey, who founded Wisconsin Women Fish because all of this felt inaccessible to women at one time.

Find Aerated Lakes Near You / ACA
The Alberta Conservation Association has created a map that showcases the combined stocking efforts of ACA and Alberta Environment and Protected Areas. With over 130 lakes and ponds stocked with trout across Alberta, you can easily find an ice fishing haven near you. Did you know that Alberta has over 20 aerated lakes across the province that are stocked with trout? Aeration can weaken the ice layer causing open areas of water. Please do not approach the open water surrounding the aerators. Swimming in your winter clothes is not recommended!

Great Lakes ice season off to slowest start in 50 years of records / USA Today
It’s the slowest beginning to ice formation in 50 years of recordkeeping, with an infinitesimal coverage of less than 1% on Jan. 1, since researchers began officially measuring Great Lakes ice cover  in 1973, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario were completely devoid of ice, while just 0.1 percent of Lake Michigan was covered. Lake Superior had ice covering 1 percent of its surface. The lakes typically hit their peak ice concentration in February or early March. This year, they’re under the influence of a strong El Niño, bringing a short-term warming trend to the region, but scientists say evidence of the long-term climate change also can be seen in the region’s ice formation trends. Already this winter two ice-related fatalities have been reported in Minnesota and dozens of fishers have been rescued.

At Sharkathon, Shark Fishers Are a Keen Audience for Conservation Advice / Hakai
Every fall, more than 900 recreational anglers in Texas gather their gear and wade into the blood-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico for Sharkathon. In this four-day catch-and-release shark fishing tournament, anglers vie to land the biggest shark they can, seeking a share of the roughly US $80,000 prize pool. The sharks and the prize purses are huge: in 2022, the top award, worth $20,000, went to the fisher who ensnared a nearly three-meter-long hammerhead. But that year, Kesley Banks, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, went home with a prize of her own. During that year’s Sharkathon, Banks and her colleagues shared tips with participants about keeping sharks healthy while they’re on the hook. The researchers documented how anglers handled their catches, and in a recent study, they show that the interventions worked. Sharkathon anglers took Banks’s pointers to heart, giving the apex predators a better chance of surviving the ordeal of being temporarily ensnared.

The Unwinnable Battle Over Forward-Facing Sonar / Outdoor Life
Until 2018, no fishing technology had advanced so far that a genuine fear emerged over its potential to alter fisheries and the entire sport for the worst, but that’s exactly what’s happening with forward-facing sonar. Recently, the issue has come to a head after the technology was banned in a popular bass tournament. The implications of that decision could alter the future of professional bass fishing, but the cases both for and against forward-facing sonar are anything but cut and dry.

2023 Season Recap: Find out how BC’s salmon returns and fisheries fared / Greg Taylor
Fishing is always a trade-off between conservation and economic benefits in the context of the impacts of climate change on salmon abundance, diversity, and now markets. With Russian production creating such huge changes in international markets, should we be planning fisheries in the same way we have in the past? Should it be business as usual? Or do we need to reevaluate the costs and benefits of fishing? It is an intriguing question that DFO is addressing through its five-year, $647-million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative program. We are closer to the end of the program than the beginning and are starting to understand how DFO intends to re-evaluate these trade-offs.

How crowded are the oceans? New maps show what flew under the radar until now / The Verge
New maps created with satellite imagery and AI reveal some of the under-the-radar, potentially nefarious activities occurring at sea. With unprecedented precision, the maps expose tremendous amounts of unreported industrial activity, including suspicious fishing operations. The research also reveals that three-quarters of the world’s fishing vessels are not publicly tracked. (The Verge)

Resolve to Meet (and Eat) New Seafood NOAA
The new year is a great time to try new things! In 2024, we suggest exploring overlooked sustainable seafood options. Discover a new world of flavors with seafood such as triggerfish, skate, and more. Get inspired with these delicious recipes while you learn more about sustainable seafood.

What kind of seafood is morally ethical to eat? / Los Angeles Times
A well-managed and abundant ocean could feed a billion people a healthful seafood meal every day, forever. Overfishing, especially by big industrial fleets, is destroying that abundance — collapsing a wild food resource essential to the health and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people along coastlines around the world. A four-year investigation of industrial distant-water fishing by the Outlaw Ocean Project, published this week in the Los Angeles Times, uncovered evidence of human rights abuses and violent and deadly conditions. Chinese-owned and -flagged ships are the largest distant-water fishing fleet in the world. This fleet includes an estimated 6,500 ships, and they fish in every ocean. To put this fleet in context, neither Japan nor the U.S. has more than 1,000 such ships.


Atlantic Salmon highlighted in IUCN Red List update / IUCN Red List
An update to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species includes the first global freshwater fish assessment. Atlantic salmon are prominently mentioned; the document states that the species has moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. The report’s authors cite climate change, habitat destruction, and salmon aquaculture as existential threats.

Lois Creek’s native cutthroat trout population supplanted by invasive brook trout / Kimberley Bulletin
After the recent discovery that an invasive species had supplanted the native cutthroat trout in Kimberley’s Lois Creek, the ecosystem has become the focus of a project from Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corp.

Northwest salmon hatcheries harm wild salmon populations, study finds / La Conner Weekly News
For much of the last century, fish hatcheries have been built in the Northwest, across the U.S. and around the world to boost fish populations where wild numbers have gone down.

Salmon skyline takes wild coho conservation to new heights in B.C. / National Observer
Each autumn, Courtenay Fish and Game volunteers go to great lengths to capture live spawning salmon from an isolated stretch of the Trent River to raise at their new Comox Lake hatchery.

“Over the years of growing hundreds of brood-stock brookies, I’ve noticed individuals that are complete outliers,” Jeff Matity said. “It’s usually a situation where you get a male with a rounded snout, weak kype and soft colouring. A female with a pronounced kype and gaudy paint job is much more rare in my experience.


Christmas trees helping Vancouver Island salmon habitat after ‘worst return’ / Alberni Valley News
Streamkeepers will fasten bundles of trees in pools near where chum eggs will incubate next winter.

Arctic temperatures have broken new records. What to know / Tyee
The 2023 Arctic Report Card tracks change that is shifting cultural practices and disrupting livelihoods.

Growing pains? SFU research tracks 100 years of salmon adaptation to climate change / Simon Fraser University
Juvenile salmon in British Columbia are growing larger than they did 100 years ago due to climate change, according to a new Simon Fraser University-led study.

Modern Hurricanes Have a Surprise Ingredient / Hakai
As Hurricane Larry curved north in the Atlantic in 2021, sparing the eastern seaboard of the United States, a special instrument was waiting for it on the island of Newfoundland, in Canada. Because hurricanes feed on warm ocean water, scientists wondered whether such a storm could pick up microplastics from the sea surface and deposit them when it made landfall. Larry was literally a perfect storm: because it hadn’t touched land before reaching the island, anything it dropped would have been scavenged from the water or air, as opposed to, say, a highly populated city, where you’d expect to find lots of microplastics.

Irrigation canals threaten the Bow River’s world-class sportfishery / Outdoor Canada
Ongoing concern extends throughout Alberta’s angling community regarding a decline in populations of mature trout in the Bow River. Provincial biologists have identified several major stressors on the fish, from erratic and declining flow levels to catch-and-release angling mortality. However, biologists have also identified another major factor contributing to fish mortality: irrigation canals.

New Twists on an Ancient Fishery / Tyee
The Quw’utsun fish spear begins with a wooden shaft — a round, three-metre Douglas-fir pole. There is a nine-metre length of nylon rope attached to the top of the shaft, connecting it to the thrower’s wrist to retrieve the spear from the river after a throw. The bottom of the spear consists of two tempered-steel points, slightly flared, and tightly bound to the shaft with strong twine. The tips of the points come off when the spear hits a salmon, sinking into the flesh to help prevent escape. But they remain attached to the spear with rebar wire, more nylon rope and flexible rubber from a bicycle inner tube. “You could pull in a car with that thing,” says Harold Joe, a Quw’utsun fishermen of the Cowichan River.

Leave The Lead Out / FishingWire
Tungsten and zinc alloy lures have become popular in the past few years. Those materials replace lead and are friendlier to our environment.& Lead negatively impacts the world in several ways. That’s why gas with no lead and paint with no lead is offered and widely accepted. People in some places have learned the hard way that lead in the drinking water is a bad deal. In many ways, tungsten and zinc alloy are better for wildlife, people, and fishing.


Restoring Gill Bar: A Collaborative Effort for Conservation and Cultural Preservation / Watershed Watch Salmon Society
The Xá:y Syí:ts’emílep (Gill Bar) restoration project has multiple objectives. These include the conservation and protection of key habitats and fish spawning areas, the integration of nature-based solutions for flood protection, the preservation of First Nations rights to traditional harvesting activities, and the development of a long-term co-management plan that facilitates recreational opportunities with minimal environmental impact.

Using AI to track salmon could be a ‘game-changer’ / Narwhal
Using AI means some communities are starting to collect quicker, more accurate data on salmon than the federal fisheries department. About a dozen First Nations are working with scientists to train AI models to recognize how many salmon are returning in real-time. It could revolutionize how First Nations fish and steward salmon, offering critical information for managing populations struggling from habitat loss and warming temperatures.4 days ago.

Indigenous groups in B.C. seek long-term funds to bring salmon back to the Columbia River / Globe & Mail
Nearly a century of dam construction and operation has transformed the Columbia into an electrical powerhouse, but has blocked entry to salmon.

First Nations fight to bring traditional foods back to the table / Narwhal
“Having access to abundant wild food that’s in close proximity within your traditional territory goes beyond ensuring food security, it’s about cultural integrity and self-determination,” says Mateen Hessami, a hunter, ecologist and tribal member of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, “Creating more wild food is just so important. Because we need people in those rural communities, we need jobs, we need guardians. Because if no one’s out on the land, cherishing it and utilizing it, then no one’s going to care about it.” Unfortunately, about half of Pacific salmon populations are in some state of decline, according to the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The foundation reports Fraser River sockeye declined 54 per cent in the past decade compared to all preceding years. A 2019 study found the second biggest sockeye run — Skeena River sockeye — has declined 75 per cent since 1913.


Environmentally Friendly Clam Pro Tackle / Clam
With environmentally friendly high-grade materials like tungsten in our jigs and zinc alloy in our spoons, we are reducing the amount of lead used in our tackle lineup – and we are proud to stand apart as an eco-friendly tackle brand. Clam Pro Tackle is committed to protect all aquatic species and wildlife, increasing water quality and being stewards of the environment for future generations.


E423 Abe Frances on Mohawk FN Connections to Fish and Fishing / The Blue Fish Radio Show
Abraham Francis is a member of the Mohawks of Akwesasne where he serves as the Environmental Science Officer. Abe speaks with Lawrence about the historic connection Mohawk First Nations people have with the fish of the St. Lawrence River, why his people were forced to suspend this connection for the past two generations, what’s being done to re-build this relationship, and why understanding fish health and fish contamination is crucial to reconciliation.


Jan 17 at 6:00 pm Eastern Dive In with Liz and Sylvia
Paul Greenberg, Liz and Sylvia will be discussing the deep scattering layer (DSL) of the ocean. The DSL is an area of high concentration of marine organisms that live suspended in the water column. Many of these organisms, such as fish, have swim bladders that can reflect sound. These swim bladders can reflect the sound so strongly that a “false bottom” effect can be created. When early sonar operators thought they were seeing the seafloor, they were actually seeing a thick layer of fish, squid, jellyfish, and other marine organisms. This layer is typically seen around 300-500 meters (984-1,640 feet) and can be deeper during the day and portions of the layer can get shallower at night. DSLs can be seen in ocean basins all over the world and serve important ecological roles in the open ocean. This layer of ocean wildlife is threatened by the commerical fishing industry.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Bass Fishing HOF Continues Scholarship Program / Best on Tour
The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame (BFHOF) is proud to announce the second year of its Fishery Management Scholarship Program. Recognizing the critical role of fishery management professionals in ensuring the health and vibrancy of bass fisheries across the U.S. and Canada, this program aims to provide financial support and encouragement to high school and college bass anglers pursuing careers in this vital field.Up to $15,000 will be awarded in June 2024 to selected applicants. Applications are now open and can be submitted through the BFHOF website.

Calls to Action:

Have your say on Atlantic salmon and striped bass management / DFO
Fisheries and Oceans Canada wants feedback on bag limits, size limits, catches, and other management measures for Atlantic salmon and striped bass. The survey is for people who fished in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region in 2023.

Coming Up:

Special Guest Feature: 5 Apps Every Fishing Enthusiast Should Have Installed

Fishbrain: The best fishing practices have often spread through word of mouth: good rods and lines to use, the best times of day to fish, spots to visit, and so on. Of course, not everyone has time to head over to the local marina and bother sailors with questions. Instead of that, why not join a massive online community of anglers to source the best information for your fishing trip?

FishAngler: Much like any hunting pursuit, information reigns supreme in the fishing world. Every last scrap of data, from the weather to the habits of the fish you’re pursuing, moves you ever so slightly closer to that coveted haul. The hard part is actually getting that information, but if you’re using the FishAngler app, that tricky task becomes a whole lot easier.

Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time: You know how the tides of a body of water are affected by the relative position of the moon? Well, that’s not the only impact the moon has on water. According to the Solunar Theory, animal behavior is also influenced by the moon’s phases and position in the sky. Ergo, by carefully following the moon, you may be able to maximize your fishing yield by venturing out on days when the fish are more active. It sounds a little hokey, but it’s a widely used practice. If you’d like to try it, the Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time app will help.

Fishing Knots app: Perhaps one of the most minute elements of the fishing experience is tying knots. The best tackle knots require particularly precise hand and finger movements, and even if you’re especially dexterous, it’s still a pain trying to remember which lines and loops go where and in what order. Practice makes perfect, of course, but if you need a little help along your path to becoming a knot master, try the Fishing Knots app.

FishTrack: Fishing in a pond or lake is one thing, but if you’re out fishing in the ocean, safety becomes a much more pressing concern. The last thing you want is to go out for a leisurely fishing day, only to end up getting rocked by a sudden shift in the tides or being hit with nasty weather. If you’re looking to stay safe while out on the salt, try the FishTrack app.

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