Blue Fish News – January 25th, 2021

In this issue of the Blue Fish News, we begin with a focus on Alberta’s troubled native trout and government actions underway that will either save or further imperil the fish and the cold clear mountain rivers upon which they depend. As always, we present summaries and links to a curated list of timely fishing, fish, water and related news articles and research publications. We end with a spotlight resource selected to inform and inspire readers in the art of sustainable angling.

Editor Lawrence Gunther with a rainbow trout caught in the Rockies

This Week’s Feature: Alberta’s Famous Trout Under Threat

Westslope Cutthroat Trout, bull trout and Athabasca rainbow trout are native trout species found in Alberta that need help. Restoring and protecting these native species and the diversity they represent is crucial if Canada is to maintain its world-class fisheries. Of course, all of this is moot if Alberta’s newly announced open pit coal mining is to commence in the headwaters of the rivers that these fish inhabit.

Native trout populations across the East Slopes of Alberta have experienced severe declines in population size and distribution. The Government of Alberta supports the Westslope Cutthroat Trout Recovery Program and the North Central Native Trout Recovery Program as stipulated by provincial Fisheries legislation. According to Alberta’s government the Recovery Programs are designed to “provide a comprehensive, consistent and progressive framework towards fish species recovery”, and “facilitate cross-ministry partnerships on fish recovery strategies”.

I learned about Alberta’s dedication to restoring native trout species by visiting the Alberta Conservation Association website, and those of their many local stakeholder partners involved in the government-funded recovery programs. I also spoke with senior Alberta Conservation Association biologist Mike Rodtka. Listen to my conversation with Mike Rodtka on this episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show:

In June 2020, Alberta rescinded its watershed protection policy opening sensitive habitat to strip mines. There was no public consultation. Coal companies from Australia were quick to secure leases and have already begun building roads and conducting exploratory drilling.

Alberta isn’t the only province permitting open pit coal mining to take place in the Rocky Mountains. Canadian mining company Teck Resources operates five coal mines in BC’s Elk valley, the largest being the Fording River mine. In 2014 Teck was warned about increasing toxic selenium pollution emanating from its five Elk Valley mine sites and undertook steps to mitigate the issue. In April 2020 Tech reported an increase in selenium pollution and a 93% decline in the West Slope Cutthroat Trout population in the Fording River. Despite their best efforts, the Tech mining company is unable to prevent selenium associated with their mining waste from entering the ecosystem.

Following calls from a broad cross-section of vocal stakeholders for Alberta to reverse its unilateral position to allow open pit coal mining, Alberta recently announced a temporary moratorium on issuing any new leases but has yet to reverse its decision to remove the decades-old protections that once safeguarded these lands. Kevin Van Tighem is one of many Albertan’s speaking out about the government’s need to reinstate protections of these watersheds and is our guest on The Blue Fish Radio show. Link below to hear my interview with Kevin about what the potential loss of these trout and their habitat would say to Albertans and the rest of the world, and whether the jobs associated with foreign owned coal mines that would operate on average for 20 years justifies their sacrifice:

It’s not unusual for a government to operate with apparently contradictory goals. What’s happening in Alberta, pitching economic growth against the future viability of its natural bounty, is one that has played out across Canada and the rest of the world for decades. The difference now is that the stakes are far higher given our technical capacity to affect change on scales that 100 years ago were unimaginable. What else has changed is that people now have the tools to learn of such proposed changes, and to communicate and organize opposition in real time. Gone are the days of politicians banking on the assumption that they can operate with immunity based on the “trust us” principle. They must now instead engage their electorate and stakeholders meaningfully or lose the public’s trust. Special interest groups are also finding that they too must now gather and share the science and knowledge used to formulate their positions. It’s a level of transparency and accountability people now expect during these sorts of economic / environmental balancing questions. Hopefully, the days when the short-term interests of a few trumps the future reality of all the rest is becoming a thing of the past. But, it only works if people are engaged.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News


Lake Erie Steelhead-Winter is Prime Time – The Fishing Wire
If you think the winter months are only for ice fishing rods, you might need to reconsider. Angler surveys regularly conducted on Lake Erie tributaries typically show that the highest catch rates for steelhead occur during the winter months. Coincidentally, this is also when the lowest angler effort also occurs. This is especially true during mild winters, such as the one we are currently experiencing.

Rare Under-Ice Behavior Captured on Video – The Fishing Wire
Burbot might as well be the groundhogs of the fish world. Each winter, almost like clockwork, burbot (aka eelpout) suddenly become common catches among ice anglers. Intriguing about the enigmatic eelpout is that for the rest of the year, no one particularly knows where they go. Saskatchewan fishery scientist Jeff Matity is working hard to solve the mystery.

Get Hooked on Alberta Fishing – Alberta Conservation Association
There are 21 aerated lakes across Alberta that are stocked with trout. The Alberta Conservation Association has created a map that showcases the combined stocking efforts of ACA and Alberta Environment and Parks. With over 130 lakes and ponds stocked with trout across Alberta, you can easily find an ice fishing haven near you.

Great Slave Lake winter fishery reopens – Cabin Radio
For the first time in 15 years, Hay River -in the Northwest Territories- winter fishery is opening as part of efforts to revitalize NWT commercial fishing. Under the program, the Hay River packing facility will receive and grade fish from commercial fishers in Yellowknife and Hay River. The fish will then be shipped to the federal Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg for processing and sale.

Keep Fish Caught Deep in Winter – Fishing Wire
Keep fish caught from deep waters due to low survival rates for released fish. Catch-and-release fishing, no matter the time of year, is discouraged for fish caught in 30 feet or more of water, because fish reeled in from those depths have a greater chance of dying if released. Fish caught in deep water won’t likely survive because of the extreme change in water pressure, which causes the swim bladder to expand. Fish can no longer control their balance in the water column when this happens. Other internal injuries, such as rupturing of organs and bleeding, are also likely. Anglers targeting fish in deeper water make the commitment to keep what they catch. And once they reach their limit, anglers should stop fishing at that depth to avoid killing more than their limit of fish.

Recreational Fishing Booms in Hawaii During Pandemic – The Honolulu Star
Since the novel coronavirus made its way to Hawaii in March, Brent Young, owner of Brian’s Fishing Supply in Honolulu, has observed more interest in fishing. Some of his customers are new fishers who want to learn, and others are seniors who haven’t fished in decades, but have had more time to do so. And while many of them are looking to fish just as a hobby, Young has also noticed more customers who are out of work and need to fish. “We’ve had a lot … of people come in to say they catch the food because they’re not working, and they’ve been very thankful that we’ve been open”.

Pandemic has new and returning anglers hooked around Kamloops fishing holes – iNFOnews
As people look for outdoor recreation through the pandemic this winter, it appears many are choosing to dunk a lure into the region’s many fishing holes.

Debate Continues About Catch and Release Impact on Salmon Populations – VOCM
The debate continues among salmon anglers and conservation groups about catch and release and the impact on salmon populations. Junior Downey is with the Salmon Watchers Assistance Group or SWAG. His group is one of a few in the province which is against catch and release, and acknowledges that salmon groups in the province are divided on the issue. A federal petition has also been launched asking that catch and release be banned. Downey says most groups agree there is a 10 per cent mortality rate when it comes to catch and release in ideal conditions, but that rises as the water temperatures rise. His concern is that there are no controls over catch and release.


Labrador’s Arctic char vulnerable to climate change, says new study – CBC News
A new study paints a troubling portrait of potential climate change impacts on Arctic char in Labrador, amid calls for more research to better understand what the future holds for the species that occupies a place of immense value in Canada’s North. The study, published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change, is the result of years of field and laboratory work by a team of Canadian scientists. The study analyzed the fish’s genetic data and, combined with climate modelling from 2050, concluded the southernmost fish are the most vulnerable and “may be unable to adapt to pervasive warming in the Arctic.”

Atlantic salmon in eastern Cape Breton could be added to list of species at risk– CBC News
Ottawa is considering listing Atlantic salmon in the region as endangered under its Species at Risk Act (SARA). But even if the salmon population is listed as endangered, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it won’t automatically stop recreational fishing. Bill Haley, president of the Margaree Salmon Association, said successful salmon stocking programs and hatcheries are helping conservation efforts. “The weak link in most of this is the investment in science hasn’t been there where DFO are concerned for almost a few decades,” Haley said.

Gizzard shad swarm in Thames River for once in a decade show – CBC
A shoal of gizzard shad, the size of which hasn’t been seen in nearly a decade, have congregated in an estuary along the Thames River in London, Ontario. Watch now!

Restoration Dollars Bring Six Times the Return on Investment – NOAA
A 2020 follow-up study confirms 2011 projections by calculating that a $10 million NOAA investment in habitat restoration is powering up local economies in Michigan by at least $57 million, with more benefits every year.

Canada’s ecosystem hotspots – The Narwhal
In 2017 conservation scientist Aerin Jacob was invited to join an expert team charged with advising the Canadian government on ways to meet its conservation targets. The team was asked to identify areas that provide important ecosystem services — such as landscape-based carbon storage, flood prevention, fresh water and food resources and outdoor recreation — so they could be taken into account when deciding where to put new protected areas. But there was just one problem: that information didn’t exist.

Invasive Species will be Winners and Losers Under Climate Change – IJC
Researchers who model climate change in the Great Lakes predict the waters will become warmer and subject to more intense storms in the decades ahead. These conditions will benefit some species and hurt others, including native and invasive creatures. If Asian carp invade Lake Michigan, for example, they may find more suitable habitat thanks to warmer waters, while invasive zebra and quagga mussels may have more trouble forming their shells.

I’m blue da ba dee da ba daa (and so are B.C. salmon) – The Narwhal
Remember when wild salmon in B.C. were plentiful? Changes to the farmed salmon industry could help bring back the good ol’ days. Critics have long charged that a big part of the problem lies within the province’s massive farmed salmon industry, whose open-net pens have been found to spread disease and sea lice to wild populations. The industry begs to differ and insists its operations pose no harm.

We’re Running Out of Seafood, Yet We Waste Billions of Pounds of It – Sierra Club
A 2015 study published in Global Environmental Change estimates that every year, almost half the seafood supply is lost. Globally, we lose 110 billion pounds. Considering it’s recommended that the average person consume at least 1.7 ounces of protein per day, that’s enough food to feed 2.8 billion people for a year. Here’s how commercial and social enterprises are making a dent in fishy food waste.


Five things the federal government must do for Lake Winnipeg – Lake Winnipeg Foundation
The Lake Winnipeg Foundation, in collaboration with the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective, recently released a position paper on how to achieve meaningful results in decreasing blue-green algae in Lake Winnipeg.

Microplastics found in Arctic Ocean could be from clothing – The Narwhal
A new study shows that the synthetic fibres being found throughout the Arctic Ocean are threatening wildlife and Indigenous ways of life. Who would have imagined that the clothes we wear might be contributing to the problem? Evidence increasingly shows that tiny synthetic fibres are permeating the Arctic Ocean and finding their way into zooplankton, fish, seabirds and marine mammals.

The Sixth Great Lake is Under Your Feet – IJC
Between 20-40 percent of the water budget of the Great Lakes (the total water flowing in and out of the system) originates as groundwater. Without this unseen water, the Great Lakes would be dramatically different from those we know. Although the exact influence of groundwater on the quality of the surface waters of the Great Lakes has not been pinpointed, plumes of contaminated groundwater often discharge to lakes and streams. Strengthening public appreciation of and public policy protecting groundwater is a fundamental part of Great Lakes stewardship.

Where did the Deepwater Horizon oil spill go – NOAA
NOAA Sea Grant partners in the Gulf of Mexico released a short video that provides a clear explanation of where oil went after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill occurred at a depth of 5,000 feet and lasted 87 days.

The Big Picture: The biggest freshwater reserves – The Guardian
Water is necessary to life on Earth, but some countries have very little and others have enormous endowments. It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population is at risk of water shortages, a problem only exacerbated by climate change. Countries like Qatar, Israel and Lebanon are among those most at risk of “water stress.” Meanwhile, other countries have more water than they need — including Canada. This country ranks third worldwide in freshwater reserves, which is generally considered to be water with low concentrations of dissolved salts. It can be found in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, bogs, ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers and even underground (known as groundwater). While Canada’s resources are immense, they are only about half of those found in Brazil, the world leader in freshwater reserves.


A letter from Henry Lickers – IJC
I write this letter to share my experiences as an Indigenous scientist. On the reserve, I had always wondered what job and who would pay me to play in nature. I was naturally drawn to the water, which seems to link everything together, and I decided to become a biologist. I, too, have had problems talking to and understanding the knowledge of my people, the Haudenosaunee. I hope that by sharing my story, you will become more aware of and curious about Indigenous ways and the importance of drawing from multiple knowledge systems.


Lead is Dead…but Tungsten is here to stay – Clam Outdoors
There’s a quote in the tackle industry that is starting to take off…Lead is Dead. This is referring to the fact that many states are banning lead, and the trend is going to continue. Watch as Clam Pro Tackle Director John Crane talks about the benefits of tungsten tackle and talks about some of the most popular Tungsten CPT jigs on the market.

Simrad Continues Partnership with Gray Fish Tagging – The Fishing Wire
Simrad Yachting – a division of Navico and leader in the design and manufacture of world-class marine navigation, autopilot, radar, communications and fishfinding systems – announced today the continued sponsorship of Gray FishTag Research (GFR). “We have been sponsoring GFR for many years and their work is vital to the health and sustainability of our oceans and fisheries.” GFR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, international, all species and fully interactive fish tagging program, powered by the world’s largest network of fishing professionals, consisting of approximately 10,000 charter boat captains and mates. The GFR program strives to be a fun and interactive program by introducing anglers to the world of fish tagging and tracking.


Electric Boat Company Expands Capacity – The Fishing Wire
Ingenity Electric is increasing its capacity to build electric boats as part of parent company Correct Craft’s investment in 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space near its headquarters in Orlando. The new space will support growing demand for more sustainable boating solutions like the award-winning, 100% electric Nautique GS22E.

Ingenity President Sean Marrero stated, “The Nautique GS22E is incredible. It shows what’s possible with fully electric propulsion, but this is only the beginning.

U.S. Boat Sales Reached 13-Year High in 2020 – Fishing Wire
With heightened interest in outdoor recreation activities and ways to social distance, consumer demand for new boats surged across the U.S. in 2020. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), representing North American recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers, reports that retail unit sales of new powerboats increased last year by an estimated 12 percent compared to 2019. More than 310,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020. RV sales also reached their fourth highest level in 2020 with over 500,000 units sold in the U.S.


The Coolest Teacher on Earth? – NPAA
Jean-Marc Perreault is not your average middle and high school science and technology teacher. For the past 27 years, the Canadian educator has consistently demonstrated that he will go to any length to make his courses more interesting and… In addition to teaching, Perreault is assistant scuba diving instructor and volunteer patroller for the Canadian Coast Guard. His passion for all things aquatic has led him to develop several unique learning opportunities for his students, the most recent of which involves the use of high-frequency sonar to locate and document previously undiscovered shipwrecks in the St. Lawrence Seaway.


Save The River Annual Conference
Join Save the River online for their 32nd Annual Winter Environmental Conference. ON February 6th at 10: a.m. Eastern Lawrence Gunther will be presenting “Health and Current Status of the St. Lawrence River Fishery”.

February 2nd is World Wetlands Day
Watch Blue Fish Canada’s Twitter and Facebook accounts where we’ll be sharing more information about the crucial role of coastal wetlands in fish health.

Special Feature – Blue Fish Canada’s “Youth Sustainable Fishing Training Program”

Science and Local Knowledge: The Blue Fish Canada “Youth Sustainable Fishing Training Program” ensures youth and their mentors have access to the latest regionally specific science and knowledge to fish sustainably. Program guidance documents and training modules are developed in collaboration with leading fish biologists, expert anglers, and indigenous elders across Canada.

Program resources include:

  • Fish species and size selection;
  • Bait, technique and tackle choices;
  • Disease and invasive species prevention;
  • Fish handling and release health and welfare;
  • Fish identification and biology;
  • Sustainable harvesting and euthanization
  • One health one welfare stewardship responsibilities and personal care; and,
  • Safe fish consumption awareness.

Learn more and become a program delivery partner – together we can ensure the future of fish and fishing!

About us:

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Gunther founded the charity Blue Fish Canada in 2012 and launched the podcast Blue Fish Radio in 2013.

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