Blue Fish News – July 19, 2021
In the July 19, 2021 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News, we begin with a focus on the evolution of fishing regulations and Lake Nipissing’s unique challenges. As always, we include summaries and Links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news. We close with a spotlight guest feature on Marine Protection Areas and our 30-by-2030 conservation commitments.
This Week’s Feature – Lake Nipissing and the Evolution of Fishing Regulations
By Editor Lawrence Gunther
Recently, Ontario’s now Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry sought input on proposed regulatory changes for Lake Nipissing. The proposals are meant to address a number of over exploited and under-utilised fisheries specific to recreational angling. While progressive in their proposed application of innovative solutions intended to benefit various pressured fish populations, their focus is on angling only, and do not include information about how the proposed changes complement conservation measures employed by the Nipissing First Nation’s (NFN) community and their various fisheries.
The proposed changes for Lake Nipissing carry forward a variety of regulatory approaches to recreational angling being applied in other areas of Ontario. The proposals also demonstrate where the Ministry is in it’s thinking about regulatory best practices, fishing pressure, angler preferences and tourism. However, without including data on the NFN’s “food, social and ceremonial” (FSC) and “moderate livelihood” fisheries, in addition to data specific to angling pressure, it’s impossible to assess properly whether the proposed regulations will achieve their intended goals. Understanding where we are now, how we got here, and what different government departments and the NFN are doing to conserve fish stocks is essential to understanding the intersections between angling and NFN fisheries and securing the support of the angling community and other stakeholders including those concerned with the social and economic sustainability of nearby communities.
Harvest limits: Regulations were initially established to set times of the year when a fish species could be harvested and were then nuanced to include daily and then possession limits on how many fish could be harvested in a day or in the possession of a licensed angler – including their freezer. In the case of many popular and easily accessed fisheries such as Lake Nipissing, a lake that now also includes what appears to be a significant FN fishery, further conservation measures are now required due to unsustainable combined fishing pressure. This has led to a proposed tightening of existing regulations specific to size limits (In the case of Northern Pike, retention of a limited number of fish under a certain size and one of a larger size), and a slot limit (in the case of Walleye, the retention of a limited number of fish within a certain size range). However, the two proposed conservation measures represent two opposite approaches to conservation.
Proposing to implement two regulations that use contrary measures on one body of water will result in confusion among anglers leading to fines and worse. It also sends the message that government scientists advising fishery managers are still experimenting to determine which approach is best suited to achieve the intended conservation outcome.
The intent of the proposed regulatory changes concerning the harvest of walleye is to ensure sufficient juvenile and breeding size fish are left in the lake. This is the exact opposite to the approach being proposed for northern pike. One can speculate why the different approaches for these two different species, such as limiting harvest to the ideal size walleye for processing AND CONSUMING, to reduce numbers of juvenile pike or to increase the number of juvenile walleye, to protect breeding size walleye, to ensure sufficient availability of fish for food for both public and FN fishers, to allow for the harvest of trophy sized northern pike, and to establish sustainable fisheries independent of hatchery interventions. On their own, learning and applying these two contradictory slot limit regulations may be possible, but add in two other completely different forms of proposed regulations for bass and muskie, and the chance of costly errors by anglers grows exponentially.
Pre- and post-spawn fishing: Similar to what was recently adopted in southern Ontario, regulators proposed that bass fishing on Lake Nipissing be expanded to include a pre-spawn fishery. In addition to the regular summer season now allowed for the harvest of a set number of bass, anglers would also now be permitted to catch-and-release bass pre-spawn. (No fishing would be permitted during the actual spawn.) The change was proposed to encourage more anglers to take advantage of what managers consider to be an under-utilised fishery. Nipissing is known best for the Walleye fishing, but with Walleye in decline due to the combined fishing pressure of both public and NFN fishers, it’s hoped recreational anglers will be convinced to transfer some or all of their fishing activity from walleye to bass.
Dr. Bruce Tufts from Queen’s University has conducted extensive research on the impacts of fishing pressure on spawning bass. It’s because of his research recent changes to Ontario regulations are beginning to include pre-spawn fishing opportunities, with a period of no fishing during the spawn, and then to reopen the fishery for harvest post-spawn. Link below to hear my discussion with Dr. Tufts about his bass fishing research on The Blue Fish Radio Show: https://bluefishradio.com/dr-bruce-tufts-on-bass-research-and-regulatory-changes-in-fm-zone-20/
Harvesting trophies: More-and-more we see harvest regulations of apex predators such as muskie being set to discourage the harvest of all but the most prized trophy sized fish. I find this perplexing for a number of reasons. First off, these same fish that make it on to the list of fish to be harvested are often the same fish found on fish consumption advisories due to the danger they represent to humans if consumed. Further, the trophy sized fish available for harvest are also the same fish responsible for a majority of the successful spawning that occurs each year. So, one need ask, why condone the harvest of trophy-sized fish? I asked this of a Ministry official in one of my very first Blue Fish Radio podcast episodes produced in April 2013, and the answer is tourism. People are worried that without the opportunity to harvest a trophy, tourists may not come to a region to enjoy the capture of such fish. It’s an argument that may have carried weight ten or more years ago, but with advances in digital photography, videography, and replica mounts, is less relevant today. Others argue that without direct evidence of a record capture, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) will not accept a claim submitted by an angler looking to set a new record.
The IGFA recognises that their record verification protocols may be contributing to the decline of certain fish species, and now makes it possible for other supporting evidence other than a dead fish to be used to claim a new record. Regardless of the IGFA, regulators could allow the harvest of a potential record fish acceptable instead of setting a length or size limit. It would mean setting the harvest size requirement to reflect the IGFA record for that species. Or, simply make the harvest of certain species such as muskie illegal but continue to allow catch-and-release angling to take place.
Many successful and sustainable catch-and-release fisheries now exist around the world, so why not Canada? I’m not suggesting that the public fishery on Lake Nipissing move to catch-and-release fishing exclusively, as this would represent a clear conflict with the historic practice of fishing by hook-and-line. What I am suggesting is that we revisit regulations that allow trophy sized fish to be harvested. Link below to listen to episode one of The Blue Fish Radio Show featuring my discussion with Ontario’s fisheries policy advisor Dan Taylon about the harvest of trophy muskie: https://bluefishradio.com/evolution-of-ontario-fishing-regulations/
Equitable access: First Nations fishers, such as those who’s territory includes Lake Nipissing, have regained their legal right to harvest fish for either Food, Social or Ceremonial (FSC) purposes, or to earn a moderate livelihood [commercial]. The rights of the Nipissing First Nations (NFN) community supersede the rights of recreational anglers and other commercial fisheries but are subordinate to conservation. Sorting out who sets the rules that apply to NFN fisheries has been captured in an agreement between the Ontario government and the NFN. The NFN also has jurisdiction over regulating NFN fisheries including setting seasons for the commercial gillnet fishery, issuing licenses, setting net sizes and the number of nets that each NFN commercial fisher can use, and determining when such fisheries need to be closed early due to over harvesting. This does not apply to NFN members who fish for FSC purposes, which can take place year-round. The only exception being a ban on the sale of fish caught by NFN members without a commercial license.
The NFN website offers few details about the scope of their commercial and FSC fisheries, but does mention that, “in 2018 NFN had 23 registered commercial fishers and our overall harvest was within target limits to ensure sustainability.” How accurate is the NFN commercial harvest tracking system is difficult to assess as the website would suggest that reporting is voluntary? However, the NFN is actively engaged in monitoring fish stock levels by conducting annual surveys using gillnets of various sizes. Read more about the NFN commercial and FSC fisheries on the NFN website: https://www.nfn.ca/natural-resources/fisheries/
Tourism: There exists a significant tourism industry built around angling on Lake Nipissing. Fishing related tourism operates year-round with as many as 3,000 licensed ice fishing shacks in operation each winter. Knowing the number of fish harvested by anglers annually is difficult to assess as “creel surveys” of anglers are expensive, limited, and normally last no more than two weeks in the summer. Anglers who rent ice shacks do so primarily to harvest walleye, as do those who book stays at fishing lodges and resorts during the open water season. There’s also a large number of cottage owners, renters, and RV trailer parks populated by people who enjoy fishing on Lake Nipissing. These stakeholders represent sizable economic investments and generators in the region.
Conclusion: Consulting with stakeholders over regulatory changes is essential to building buy-in. It also ensures transparency and reflects a commitment to democracy. What’s missing is the bigger round table where all stakeholders can exchange views, access the same information, and build consensus on the path forward. The lack of inclusivity and transparency is made obvious by what isn’t included in the consultation documents the Ontario government released concerning newly proposed tightening of Lake Nipissing angling regulations. Anyone reading the documentation would conclude, wrongly, that the fait of Nipissing’s fish stocks rests solely in the hands of the public fishery. It’s obvious to all involved that this is not the case.
Whether fish sustainability can be managed by the NFN and Ontario government using current survey tools and the proposed new regulations seems unlikely. Without actual data on the number of fish being removed from Lake Nipissing each year, a race to the bottom seems likely. Fishing pressure will increase until fish stocks collapse. Stakeholders will continue to blame each other for the declining fish populations. The only ones left fishing in the end will be NFN FSC fishers. Given how important Lake Nipissing’s fisheries are to the region, the collapse of fish stocks will be followed by a general downturn in the local economy.
Given the position of many FN communities that catch-and-release angling goes against their values, it’s unlikely that further shifting away from harvesting by the public fishery would be supported by the NFN. Without stakeholders coming together and negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement that supports sustainable fishing, expect that the current round of proposed tightening of angling regulations to be followed by many more.
The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News
Anglers who fish Canadian waters can participate in the online Canadian Fishing Network (CFN) Fish Off tournament on Facebook. Congratulations to the top 3 CFN Fish Off 2021 Spring tournament winners:
1st place: Mitch R. Finally, Esquire & Brandon K. Kadoski Esquirè of Team Drag Pullers
With 121 pts, 56 species
2nd place: Jesse Whalen & Ben Pugh of team Fishing with Ginger
With 61 pts, 30 species
3rd place: Brad Torry & Troy Richardson of Team Left Coast
With 57 pts, 18 species
Watch the winners compete in the 2022 CFN Fish Off TV Show airing on Sportsman Channel Canada and WFN – World Fishing Network. Fans can also watch the action on YouTube: Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3.
The Recreational Fishing Industry Reconnects at ICAST / NPAA
With Orlando, Fla. as the backdrop, the 64th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST, will be in-person and onsite this July 20 – 23, in the North Building of the Orange County Convention Center. ICAST is produced by the American Sportfishing Association.
Northern Ontario fly-in adventure: 3 kayaks, 6 days and 400-plus fish / Outdoor Canada Magazine
During a long pandemic winter, a group of kayak anglers planned a dream trip: flying their little plastic boats into a remote Ontario Lake. The result was a wilder and more incredible adventure than they ever imagined.
This stretch of the Babine is popular with humans. And grizzlies / The Tyee
A new conflict hotspot is a stretch of the Babine River close to a Fisheries and Oceans Canada weir that’s seen a recent rise in recreational fishing.
Coded Wire Tags Assist Fishery Management / FishingWire
When adult salmon or steelhead are caught, return to a hatchery, or return to rivers to spawn, the coded wire tag is recovered with the aid of a coded wire tag detector, which is a device similar to a metal detector. For more information visit the Pacific Salmon Commission: The governing body for administering the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada.
Future of Stripers Is in Anglers’ Hands / FishingWire
According to the most recent Striped Bass Stock Assessment released in 2019, the U.S. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission estimates 9% of stripers unintentionally die from catch-and-release angling – more than the percentage of fish caught and harvested. When doing the math, Sascha Clark Falchuk, executive director of Keep Fish Wet, reminds us that if we decrease release mortality by just one percent (something that is very doable using best practices), then over 250,000 more stripers would remain in the fishery.
Fish Factor: New phone app helps fishermen report climate change impact / Cordova Times
Now a new phone app is making sure fishermen’s real-life, real-time observations are included in scientific data.
Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. hosting summer fishing challenge for kids and teens / Cranbrook Daily Townsman
The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC is once again hosting their summer fishing challenge, on now until August 3rd.
Orca whales splash cod fishing excursion near St. Philip’s / CBC News
While cod fishing between Bell Island and St. Philip’s in Newfoundland anglers were greeted by the show of a lifetime.
Miramichi smallmouth bass awareness campaign launched / ASF
People who fish the Miramichi River system are asked to retain and report invasive smallmouth bass, which were illegally introduced in a headwater lake more than 12 years ago.
Should DFO reel in sport fishing to help save salmon? / The Star
The federal government failed to address the recreational fishery, which also impacts salmon returns, despite making historic and dramatic reductions to the commercial fleet. Conservation groups want Ottawa to dramatically curtail the recreational fishery as it did with the commercial fishery last week in order to save wild salmon on the West Coast.
Fisherman reels in sixgill shark off Nanaimo, B.C. / CTV News
A Nanaimo fisherman has a wild tale to tell, but unlike most big fish stories, he’s got the video to back it up.
Why you need to check your dog for ticks after every outing / Outdoor Canada
As the weather warms and you spend more time outdoors, both you and your dog are likely to encounter ticks that can spread dangerous illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Here’s how to keep your dog—and yourself—safe during your forays afield.
DFO salmon protections sink dreams of Pacific fishers / National Observer
The closures, the government says, will last “multiple generations” of fish to save tumbling salmon populations.
Canada announces big cuts to commercial fishing to protect wild salmon that Washington’s orcas eat / The Seattle Times
Canada is slashing and closing commercial coastal fishing on more than 100 salmon stocks in an urgent effort to protect wild salmon from extinction.
More than a billion seashore animals may have cooked to death in B.C. heat wave / CBC News
A marine biologist at the University of British Columbia estimates that last week’s record-breaking heat wave in B.C. may have killed more than one billion intertidal animals living along the Salish Sea coastline.
Heat wave could have huge impact on Thompson-Okanagan fish / INFO News
The warm waters are causing fish to seek refuge in deeper waters and may impact returning spawning salmon.
Fish kill bigger and earlier in Alberta this year but also a sign of healthy populations / Edmonton Journal
Some of the people who keep an eye on Alberta’s fish population call the last week in July “fish kill week.” A dead white fish washed up on the beach at Pigeon Lake on July 9, 2021. Dead fish are washing up on Alberta Lake shores due to the recent heat dome which in some cases has caused rising water temperatures, and an algae bloom that diminishes oxygen levels for the fish.
Court says feds breached charter in P.E.I. fish kill investigation / CBC News
Federal investigators failed to understand they needed search warrants following a fish kill on the Clyde River in P.E.I. in 2016.
Sockeye salmon finally back in Okanagan Lake / Gaming Post
Thanks to conservation efforts, the body of water is now once again home to the long-lost species.
Greg Taylor’s 2021 salmon forecast amongst widespread closures / Watershed Watch Salmon Society
“It is a bold and courageous decision, made necessary by the cascading impacts of the climate emergency on salmon and the ecosystems they inhabit. But it is also a declaration of past failures.”
Goldfish are invading our waterways, and they must be stopped!!! / Outdoor Canada
One of the most prevalent and destructive invasive species spreading across the Canada may also be swimming around in your home: the common goldfish. Though they seem harmless, goldfish have become giant problems for our fisheries, making their way into lakes and rivers across the land, via suburban ponds and toilet bowls.
Will different salmon species adapt before the climate votes them off the island? / Hakai Magazine
Warmer waters are one of the factors that are challenging ocean inhabitants. Hakai Magazine explores how tolerance to high temperatures could turn different species of Pacific salmon into climate change winners or losers.
Cabinet shuffle raises questions about future of Ontario’s natural resources / OFAH
In late June, the Ontario government announced a cabinet shuffle that resulted in profound changes for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Out went incumbent minister John Yakabuski and in came Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora Rainy-River. With the change that blends the MNRF with other ministries, the OFAH has been hearing from concerned anglers and hunters. The most common question asked? Will these changes push natural resources down the government’s priority list?
Grieg Testing for the ISA Virus in Newfoundland Labrador / ASF
A tank with 118,000 Atlantic salmon parr had a positive initial test for virulent Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA). Grieg is following up with further testing. There have been five confirmed cases of virulent ISA in NL in 2021 so far, and 13 in NB.
Critical Miramichi salmon data lost to pandemic /ASF
Important fish counting devices were not deployed through 2020, which could hinder future salmon conservation efforts. Read more
Lawmakers in Alaska and Washington state push B.C. on mining regulations / News Nation USA
American lawmakers have renewed calls for B.C. to strengthen its mining regulations to protect shared waterways.
NL Government Defends their Aquaculture Regulations / ASF
In the wake of a major escape event, Don Hutchens questions minister’s claim that NL has the strongest aquaculture regulations in the country.
How Ocean Plastic Pollution Impacts Our Fishing Heritage / AFTCO
Land based plastic, often single use plastic, is ending up in our oceans at alarming rates. Roughly a dump truck full of plastic is “dumped” into our oceans every single minute. It’s causing harm to the fish we love to catch.
Land-based salmon farm being considered for Nova Scotia’s Chebogue Point / Perishable News
The Municipality of Yarmouth is considering an application from Boreal Salmon Inc. to establish an open flow land-based salmon farm at Chebogue Point.
Sumas First Nation in Abbotsford launches 2nd conservation and harvest plan / Chilliwack Progress
Intent is to rebuild Sumas, Chilliwack, and Cultus Lake salmon populations and enhance Indigenous fisheries management. “The harvest and stock assessment activities will provide some of the food, social and ceremonial needs of the community but, just as importantly, much-needed data collection to guide our future conservation and management decisions,” said Count. Murray Ned.
Chinook salmon fishing on Yukon River closed again this year / CBC News
Yukon First Nations are being asked to forgo fishing for chinook salmon again this year, because of low numbers coming up the Yukon River. The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee, a non-government advisory body, made the recommendation.
IGFA Hall of Fame Induction Slated for Wonders of Wildlife / FishingWire
The annual IGFA Hall of Fame induction dinner will be held this year at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, and tickets are now available.
Electric Boat Targets 100 MPH Record / FishingWire
Vision Marine Technologies has teamed up with Hellkats Powerboats to showcase the capabilities of its proprietary technology by rigging a Hellkats 32′ Super-Sport Widebody Catamaran with a twin application of its ground-breaking E-Motion powertrain system.
Special Feature – NO-FISHING MPAS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION
By Bill Shedd. AFTCO Chairman & CEO
Similar to Canada, the U.S. has committed to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s land and ocean areas by 2030. It signaled a desire to participate in the global 30×30 initiative. While we remain optimistic about the outcome, with the details still not yet fully revealed, the jury remains out for the recreational fishing community. We continue to look for answers from the federal government on their definition of conservation and if the 30 percent will include the protections currently in place. Will the 30×30 plan prove a great plus for the resource and the sport, or will it include a network of areas that unnecessarily restrict angler access?
“Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. There are approximately 1,000 marine protected areas, or MPAs, located throughout the United States. MPAs cover about 26 percent of U.S. waters.” — NOAA Canada has 14 MPAs at present that cover over 350,000 square kilometers or about 6% of Canada’s marine territory.
To explore why habitat protection and the goals of 30×30 should not restrict angler access, scientific research on the topic can best be summarized by these 3 statements:
- No-Fishing MPAs do not Increase Fisheries Productivity: The science suggests no-fishing MPAs (at times referenced as no-catch MPAs, no-take MPAs, or fully protected MPAs) do not produce a meaningful increase in fishery productivity in the U.S.
- Proven Fisheries Management Does Increase Overall Fisheries Productivity: Science-based fisheries management is the key to protecting ocean fishery health. Looking at NOAA’s data on the status of fishery stocks shows the state of improving U.S. fishery health thanks to effective fisheries management. Fisheries management has rebuilt and continues to rebuild fish stocks in our oceans.
- Recreational Anglers Support Biodiversity and Habitat Protection: Recreational anglers understand the need to protect and conserve our fish populations and the habitat they depend on. We support 30 by 30 policies that are not merely aspirational, but that recognize existing management levels/actions that currently afford protections and work to identify additional conservation needs and actions through an objective, science-driven, stakeholder-engaged process to determine the appropriate level of management actions necessary to meet biodiversity conservation goals.
MPAs actual value to fisheries is being oversold by no-fishing MPA advocates. In fact, no-fishing MPAs have been shown to provide often-insignificant value to U.S. fisheries value that pales in comparison to current proven U. S. fisheries-management practices. Yet, many supporters of no-fishing MPAs have used generous funding to find science that draws inaccurate, broad-stroke conclusions that these MPAs benefit fisheries, conclusions often offered to the public as fact. This MPA misrepresentation makes successful U.S. 30×30 development problematic.
The sportfishing community perspective comes from users of the ocean resource with a storied history of marine conservation. It comes from community members who recreate on, in and around the ocean. That includes a desire to leave our fisheries in a better state for the next generation.
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