Blue Fish News – January 30, 2024

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: As the Chair of the Great Lakes Fish Health Network, I’m fortunate to be in the company of a team of terrific scientists and advocates who care about Great Lakes water quality and fish health. Not only do fish live in water, they are made up of about 80% water, making it especially important that the water they breathe, drink, harvest their food from, and absorb can both support life and provide a relatively stress-free existence. Having said this, we often measure the quality of a fish’s life by its ability to provide humans with food that won’t cause health impacts – healthy fish, healthy us – one health. To be sure, scientists are hard at work measuring fish health for both their and our benefit. But, can we truly depend on the quality and reliability of this research? A new report just published questions whether fish consumption advisories are telling us everything we need to know. The report was prepared by a number of us who contribute to the Great Lakes Fish Health Network; a summary of the report is the feature article in this edition of the Blue Fish News. And if that’s not enough, our guest contribution concerns a second recently released report that looks into Awareness of Impacts of Toxic Substances in the Great Lakes. Two report summaries, plus all the latest fishing, fish and habitat news, and a special podcast featuring the amazing artist Nick Mayer!

Photo of Editor Lawrence Gunther holding a Yellow Perch on the St. Lawrence River

This Week’s Feature – Navigating the tricky waters of fish consumption advisories in the Upper St. Lawrence River

by K. Lowitt, A. Francis, L. Gunther, B.N. Madison, L. McGaughey, A. Echendu, M. Kaur, K.A. Roussel, Z. St Pierre, and A. Weppler.

Fishing in the St Lawrence River is a practice undertaken by thousands of anglers each year and deeply tied to the lifeways of Indigenous peoples. Fish consumption advisories (FCAs) are public guidance intended to help all fishers make informed decisions about the safe consumption of their catch. However, what happens if there are multiple advisories in place in a watershed? Such is the case in the Upper St Lawrence River, which spans the traditional territory of multiple Indigenous Nations as well as the jurisdictions of Ontario, Quebec and New York State.

Our research examined the similarities and differences in FCA programs across jurisdictions in the Upper St Lawrence River.

We find an overall lack of coordination in fish monitoring and differences in consumption advice for a waterway in which fish, contaminants, and fishers all move across political borders. For example, for yellow perch caught from the St. Lawrence River in Ontario where mercury is the dominant contaminant of concern, the general population is advised to consume up to eight to 32 meals per month (depending on the size of the fish) and children/women of childbearing age (i.e., sensitive population) are advised to consume up to four to 16 meals. However, across the river in New York State, the general population is advised to eat only up to four meals per month of yellow perch and children/women of childbearing age are advised “Do Not Eat” due to concern of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Differing guidance can be confusing for fishers and make it difficult for individuals and communities to make decisions that affect their health. Importantly, not everyone bears the impacts of contaminated fish evenly. Women of childbearing age, children, anglers who rely on recreationally caught fish for food security, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by the health and cultural risks of contaminated fish. FCAs also generally do not consider the risks or benefits of different eating practices. Indigenous communities, for example, have traditionally eaten a greater range of parts of the fish (e.g., skin, organs) in addition to the flesh, and these parts can have different contaminant loads.

Moving forward, we recommend four key steps for improving FCAs: (1) developing a shared and transparent approach to monitoring fish and contaminants, (2) integrating cultural food practices, (3) conducting more outreach with angler populations, and (4) upholding the self-determination of Indigenous communities in the development and communication of FCAs.

Link below to read the paper
Governing for transboundary environmental justice: a scientific and policy analysis of fish consumption advisory programs in the Upper St Lawrence River

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Hundreds of jobs, industry stability at stake in pending Atlantic Canada fishery decision / CBC
The Trudeau government is poised to allocate fishing access to the massive redfish population in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the end of the month, a highly anticipated decision generating both dread and hope throughout the industry in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Seabed Trawling May Be Spewing Huge Amounts of CO2 Into the Atmosphere / Smithsonian Magazine
A study published last week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science finds that bottom trawling releases as much as 370 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, roughly double the greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuels burned by the world’s fishing fleets. When the heavy fishing gear is dragged across the seafloor, it stirs up long-buried carbon, which microbes convert into carbon dioxide. The study also found that about 40 per cent of the carbon dioxide released into the water stays there. In enclosed seas, like the Mediterranean, it can cause local ocean acidification, which can weaken and dissolve the shells of crabs and sea urchins and hamper the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon.


Salmon, The Masters of Adaptation / SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
In the research recently published in Global Change Biology, Dr. Price and colleagues at Simon Fraser University and Fisheries and Oceans Canada used 100-year-old salmon and climate data to report that a variety of lake habitats in the Skeena watershed is fostering a diversity of responses by salmon to climate change.

Citizen science-based initiative monitoring salmon to continue at Pender Harbour / My Coast Now
A citizen science-based initiative is gathering oceanographic data in the Salish Sea to learn more about salmon return changes in B.C. and Washington State.

New round of grants awarded to community-led salmon conservation / PSF
The Pacific Salmon Foundation Community Salmon Program has awarded $792,304 in grants to advance 65 community-led salmon restoration, education, and stewardship projects across B.C. and the Yukon. For more than three decades, the Community Salmon Program has empowered volunteers, local streamkeepers, Indigenous communities, and schools to take proactive measures to recover Pacific salmon and their habitats.

2024 Atlantic salmon and striped bass management / ASF
There is a smolt survival crisis in the Miramichi estuary. Smolt leave the river system at precisely the time when half a million predatory striped bass aggregate in the estuary to stage for spawning. During the last two springs (2022 and 2023), less than 5% of acoustically tagged smolt from the Northwest Miramichi survived through the estuary. The results manifested clearly at the Northwest Miramichi conservation barrier in 2023, with only 6 grilse returns, down 98% since 2011.

Can Animals Evolve Fast Enough to Keep Up with Climate Change? / Hakai
“Many creatures have a surprising capacity to cope,” says Sarah Diamond, an evolutionary ecologist at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Ohio. The traditional conception of evolution presents it as a gradual process, slowly shaping organisms over hundreds or thousands of years. In some cases, however, species can adapt much more quickly. Research conducted over the past couple of decades has shown that evolution can occur on timescales similar to those of climate change. By figuring out what factors set the speed of evolution, scientists are hoping to identify what conditions give animals the best chances of keeping pace with the rapidly changing world.

Ocean sunfish are odd, gentle giants
The ocean sunfish or Mola mola is a large and odd-looking fish. Large specimens can reach 14 feet (4 m) vertically and 10 feet (3 m) from mouth to fan-shaped “tail.” And they can weigh nearly 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg). They appear to be newcomers to the planet. Scientists think they’re one of the most recent fish in the sea.


Freshwater invasive species are pointing B.C. towards catastrophe / Georgia Straight
Incredibly destructive freshwater invasive species are pounding on B.C.’s door, but the federal government and energy utilities with everything to lose seem oddly unconcerned, writes B.C. Wildlife Federation executive director Jesse Zeman.

Adventures in West Coast Kelp Farming / Tyee
Fall in Prince William Sound, Alaska, is a stormy affair, with rain, wind, falling temperatures and diminishing daylight. But for kelp farmers like Skye Steritz, it’s a time to be outdoors in rubber boots and rain gear, prepping for the winter growing season. This includes long hours of what Steritz calls “line work,” the labour of stretching lines and building the floating arrays that by spring will support thousands of kilograms of kelp.

Can recreational fishing and offshore wind farms coexist? A resounding ‘yes’ / Angling International
When developed responsibly, offshore-wind power can coexist with — and even improve — fishing along the East Coast. Offshore-wind power can benefit recreational anglers if developed with our input in mind. In addition to reducing the carbon emissions that are driving climate change, the turbine structures will provide hundreds of fishable artificial reefs and current breaks that will attract numerous fish species.

Unsettled Pacific Ocean Offers Few Clear Indicators for Salmon Success in 2024 / NOAA
Researchers at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center track key ocean indicators, such as seawater temperature and salinity, and the number and types of tiny crustaceans called copepods. These indicators correlate with juvenile salmon growth and survival—and how many adults will return to rivers to spawn. The ocean indicators of juvenile salmon survival reflect a rapidly changing ocean that is tough to predict.

Ontario’s Greenhouse Sector is A Fuel for Harmful Algae in Lake Erie / Narwhal
Harmful and toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie triggered an agreement by the Ontario, Michigan, and Ohio state and provincial governments to reduce phosphorus pollution by 40% to the lake. Unfortunately, one of the inputs of phosphorus appears to be the proliferation of vegetable and cannabis greenhouses in southwestern Ontario. A study by the local Conservation Authority found that phosphorus levels in Leamington, Ontario streams are 100 to 200 times higher than the provincial target and were more concentrated in streams with greenhouses. The provincial Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has handed out few regulatory actions for violators of environmental protection laws concerning management of nutrients in recent years. Enforcing existing regulations on agricultural operations is essential to reduce the pollution to Lake Erie.


Four Manitoba First Nations sign historic conservation agreement / Narwhal
Four First Nations in Manitoba have signed a historic memorandum of understanding, a step toward the creation of an Indigenous protected area in the pristine 50,000-square-kilometre Seal River Watershed region. The pristine 50,000-square-kilometre Seal River Watershed region would be the province’s first federally recognized Indigenous protected area.


Yamaha buys Torqeedo
DEUTZ sells Torqeedo to strategic investor Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. DEUTZ today announced a further milestone in the repositioning of its portfolio as part of its Dual+ strategy: Torqeedo, the world’s leading manufacturer of outboard and inboard drives, will be sold to Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. (“Yamaha”).

Art / Books:

Nick Mayer is a successful artist who focusses on painting fresh and saltwater fish in-and around North America. His work is so highly regarded even your spouse will appreciate it on your walls. Nic also features his art in books like: a book to read to the kids NEW Fish ABCs an Angler’s Journal and a Wild Oceans Coloring Book and more. He’s an artist who loves to paint as much as he enjoys fishing. Check out his art at: Nick Mayer Art


It’s always a pleasure to speak with artists who have a focus on fish on The Blue Fish Radio Show. Nick Mayer has been earning his living full time painting fish and related fish art, and judging from the reaction in my own home, a truly extraordinary artist. His mission is to connect people with nature through appreciating it’s beauty. Not only does Nick paint, but he’s caught over 75 species of fish on a fly rod including sailfish, sharks, tarpon and muskie. You can learn more about Nick’s work at:

Enjoy the podcast as Nick and I discuss his journey from marine biologist to successful artist:–584941855


Guichon Creek daylighting and fish ladder / Global News
Many urban streams, like Guichon Creek, face obstacles to fish passage and the poorly designed culverts and spillways can be every bit as damaging to the movement of fish as large dams. The building of a new urban fishway through an old spillway (or small dam) in the midst of greater Vancouver addressed one of these concerns. The British Columbia Institute of Technology, a renowned local construction firm, and river advocate Mark Angelo made it a reality.


Scientists and Local Champions:

Destination Northern Ontario is set to restructure its Product Development teams in 2024. As we look to the future, we are asking stakeholders to engage in two virtual meetings for Product Development per year and participate in focused sessions during the Northern Ontario Summit (NOTS). The working group will collaborate and share their collective knowledge on how best to approach the enhancement and expansion of the sustainable tourism opportunity by exploring:

  • Develop and promote eco-friendly tourism initiatives.
  • Highlight sustainable practices to preserve Northern Ontario’s natural beauty.

Please get in touch with

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.

Coming Up:

Special Guest Feature – Exploring Awareness of Impacts of Toxic Substances in the Great Lakes Basin: Voices from the Underserved and Underrepresented Communities

Canadian Environmental Law Association

There are communities and individuals in the Great Lakes basin who disproportionately bear the negative impacts associated with toxic pollution. The voices of these communities and individuals are usually left out of environmental policy and processes designed to address the impacts of toxic pollution in the Great Lakes.  The lack of involvement makes these communities vulnerable to environmental injustices, because of the lack of their representation. The absence of special consideration of the impacts facing people who are underserved and underrepresented weakens the efforts to curb the negative impacts from toxic pollution in the Great Lakes basin.

The authors of the report conducted an inventory of some existing mechanisms and approaches used to share science, specifically, chemical-related information with marginalized communities. They also organized and facilitated small focus group discussions with various marginalized community members to engage and collect specific information related to awareness and information needs related to chemical exposure, risk, fish consumption advisories and other chemical-related information.

Results generated by the focus groups revealed that The impacts of toxics on the local economy, primary industries such as fishing, human health, especially children’s health were widely held concerns. Toxic pollution impacts on nonhuman species were also a concern for many participants. Most participants who conveyed their concerns about water safety questioned if the water was safe to drink, and if the fish were safe to eat.

The report’s authors point out that many of the recommendations they put forward in their report apply to all of us, i.e., academic institutions, government, non-government environmental organizations, industry etc.

Report recommendations include the need to work jointly with underserved and underrepresented communities to find the best ways to increase awareness of and discuss solutions to improve communication. The report recommends that improving communications should include working in partnership with the communities they are to be used, and that information be provided that is of greatest relevance to the particular community. It should also be  publicly accessible and easy to locate, contain timely up-to-date information, and present data in a jargon free manner, without acronyms, without use of technical unexplained terms, etc. Focus group participants also requested that information be provided in a variety of depths, formats and languages, and that it include interactive types of tools including components specially designed for children and youth.

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