Blue Fish News – June 14, 2022

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: A few months back Blue Fish Canada was informed by Nature Canada that they were pursuing the establishment of a National Marine Protection Area in the Canadian waters of Lake Ontario’s eastern Basin. Our first question to Nature Canada was specific to recreational fishing access, and we were told that this was not an issue. Being at the table when important designations such as this are being considered is important. Giving voice to the views and concerns of recreational anglers is imperative. This includes penning the following blog, “Learn about Lake Ontario’s fisheries and how a new National Marine Conserved Area will protect them.”

In this June 14th, issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we begin with a focus on fishing regulations and consumption advisories. As always, we include links and summaries to the latest fishing, fish health, Habitat and other news you need to know. Our closing Special Guest Feature chosen to inform our readers focusses on how to identify harmful algal blooms.

Photo of Editor Lawrence Gunther with a 67 cm St. Lawrence Walleye

This Week’s Feature – Fishing Regulations and Consumption Advisories

It wasn’t that long ago that governments actually printed the fishing regulations each year along with associated fish consumption advisories. As we all moved online, governments reduced and, in some cases, eliminated the printing of fishing regulations altogether, but at what point did they stop including the consumption advisories? I’m asking as I’m concerned that anglers may have concluded that “no news is good news”.

The fact that anglers are expected to consult fish consumption advisories prior to consuming, or hopefully even the actual harvesting of fish, is concerning. So much so that in 2017 and again in 2018 I raised the issue of fish health at several water quality consultation exercises that took place in Ontario. The exercises were led by the Healthy Great Lakes Initiative upon which I have the pleasure of serving as an advisor. The over-80 water quality experts that we consulted had much to say about all manner of issues impacting the state of the Great Lakes waters that constitute 20% of the world’s freshwater. Interestingly though, there was far less awareness of how the many issues raised impact the different fishes native to the Great Lakes. This led to Blue Fish Canada being asked to conduct stakeholder consultations on the topic, which was followed by the establishment of the Great Lakes Fish Health Network for which I serve as Chair. Link to read the stakeholder report: Fish Health in the Great Lakes and Upper St. Lawrence River

For the past several years the Great Lakes Fish Health Network has been digging into fish consumption advisories. Everything from “toxins of concern”, testing methodology, the validity and reliability of test results, and how information is being shared and with whom. Reports and academic articles are in the process of being written so I won’t get into the details of what we are learning here just now. Let’s just say that the data collection, analysis and sharing systems in place are less robust than one would expect.

One of the researchers involved in tracking down answers about fish consumption advisories is Neil Dempster. Neil’s efforts resulted in the Ontario Government releasing data used to set consumption advisories across Ontario, and what we learned from this alone was more than interesting, it’s concerning. Neil Dempster is our guest on this new episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show. Link to hear what Neil uncovered

The importance of knowing of and applying fish consumption advisories was underscored during my recent participation in an Ottawa Region Walleye League event on the opening day of Walleye season on the Upper St. Lawrence River. This is a significant day for many of us anglers, and it’s not unusual for boats to be launched and in position to begin fishing at 12:01 a.m. The walleye being caught are mostly all large. My personal best that morning was 69 cm in length (27 inches). All my other fish were over 50 cm in length – a great day on the water by anyone’s standards.

The harvest regulations for the Upper St. Lawrence River on the Canadian side, as set by the Ontario Government, allow for up to four Walleye to be harvested between 40 and 50 cm in length; none of the fish I caught that day fit the slot. The same Government responsible for setting harvest regulations recommends that people eat no more than 16 meals per month of Walleye caught in the area that measure 30 to 55 cm in length, and no more than 12 meals per month of walleye measuring 55 to 60 cm in length. Discrepancies between harvest regulations and consumption advice aside, that’s a lot of walleye dinners. Further, for those deemed “sensitive”, defined as women of child-bearing age and children under 15, Ontario recommends eating no more than eight meals a month of Walleye caught in the area that measure between 30 and 45 cm in length, and no more than four meals per month of Walleye measuring between 45 to 60 cm in length. That’s still one-to-two meals per week. The New York State government on the other hand, while allowing for an angler to harvest up to five fish measuring over 38 cm in length, advises that men over 15 and women over 50 consume no more than four meals per month, and that men under 15 and women under 50 consume no more than one meal per month. Why the New York state consumption advice is significantly more restrictive than Ontario’s for the exact same fish living in the same stretch of the St. Lawrence River would suggest that either one of these governments is using faulty science-based health thresholds, or they’re testing for different toxins.

Based on my conversations with fellow anglers that morning on the St. Lawrence, while everyone seemed to be following the harvesting regulations, not many of the anglers who were harvesting fish expressed concern about following fish consumption advisories. Not wanting to sound alarmist, I was reminded of a time not so long ago when people first started to hear about the possible health risks associated with smoking. In the end, it took more than the simple sharing of scientific evidence to get people to stop smoking, and yet as many as 13% of Canadians continue to use tobacco to this day.

According to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, the Great Lakes represent the most valuable freshwater fisheries in the world. Some even suggest that these fisheries are being underutilized. Even so, I’m concerned that people who purchase these fish for resale in supermarkets or restaurants might also be forgetting to include fish consumption advice on their labels or menus’.

I’m not advocating that people stop fishing for fish that can’t safely be consumed – fish aren’t cigarettes. Besides, such a move would pretty much shutter the Great Lakes freshwater fisheries valued annually at $8.5 billion. What I’m hoping is that anglers start asking questions about why such an important and valuable food source is toxic to one degree or another. Also, to demand answers about what is known about how toxins are impacting fishes in general – their welfare as well as their health.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Great Lakes fishes were free of toxins and their consumption risk free? That’s how it used to be. Let’s all agree to make that our goal – toxin-free fish across Canada. Let’s not wait for the other boot to come down on the health of recreational anglers and indigenous fishers. Time to speak up for fish and the health and socio-economic sustainability of our communities.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Learn about Lake Ontario’s fisheries and how a new National Marine Conserved Area will protect them / Nature Canada
The Great Lakes support the most valuable freshwater fisheries in the world. According to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC), the value of the combined Great Lakes fisheries is almost $9 billion, of which approximately $250 million is from commercial fishing. Protecting natural ecosystems by establishing a marine protected area in Lake Ontario can help ensure the health of the fisheries for the long term.

Do Low-Flow, High-Temp Trout Fishing Closures Work? / Field & Stream
During the hottest parts of the year, fish and wildlife agencies in western trout fishing states often initiate hoot-owl restrictions, closing fishing during the afternoon hours. In some cases, they’ll even close entire streams to fishing temporarily. These rules are enacted to protect trout, which struggle in warm water conditions that are often caused by low flows. However, Idaho doesn’t enact summer fishing restrictions and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) recently released a study demonstrating why.

Charter tuna boat captains in P.E.I. hope for mackerel closure exemption / Canada Press
Troy Bruce, chairman of the P.E.I. Tuna Charter Association, says the commercial closure is a problem for charter boat captains on the Island who rely on mackerel as live bait to catch Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Skeena Fishers Told to Stand Down by DFO While Alaska Increases its Chinook Catch / SkeenaWild
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have announced that fishing for Chinook Salmon will be closed for the 2022 season in the Skeena Watershed. This is for all lakes in Region 6, but does not include the Kitimat River or the Nass River watershed. As DFO announces this closure for the second year in a row, Alaska has expanded their Chinook catch by about 60,000 fish! Do you know that most of the Chinook caught in Southeast Alaska don’t actually come from Alaska? They come from rivers in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The very fish we are trying to protect by closing our Chinook fisheries are being scooped up in Southeast Alaskan fisheries!

Using The Whole Salmon / BC Outdoors
So, you have caught the salmon. Now the question remains, how do you use the absolute most of the fish? If you want to honour the salmon in its entirety, here are a few ways you can do so.

Colombia Bans Catch-and-Release Sportfishing / Fishing Wire
The decision was not made by elected leaders in Colombia but by the Constitutional Court in Columbia. The court took the step because catch and release fishing, like bull fighting, involves what it calls unnecessary cruelty to animals. The pain of hooking a fish is not justified, the judges opined, unless you are going to eat the critter.

To fight illegal fishing in the Galapagos, Ecuador turns to Canadian satellite and sensing technology / CBC
June 5 was the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing. About one in five fish is caught illegally, and foreign shipping fleets often prowl near conservation areas and deprive local fishermen of stock. In Ecuador, the government has enlisted the help of Canadian tech companies to provide satellite tracking, remote sensing, and big data analysis to stop fish poaching near the Galapagos Islands.

ASA Addresses Lead-Free Draft Rule by U.S. Fish & Wildlife / NPAA
In response to a draft rule published Thursday, June 9, by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that will prohibit lead fishing tackle on certain National Wildlife Refuges, the American Sportfishing Association released a statement that says, “This proposal provides no evidence that led fishing tackle is harming any specific wildlife populations in the proposed areas. Anglers should have the option of choosing non-lead tackle alternatives, but it is important to recognize that these alternatives generally come with the trade-off of higher cost or poorer performance.”


Revelations of Genetic Diversity of Bass Species / Fishing Wire
A new study by Yale ichthyologists provides a clearer picture of species diversity among black basses.

Father’s Day weekend fishing derby will support recovery of Cultus Lake sockeye / Chilliwack Progress
Folks fish for invasive smallmouth bass, and pikeminnow, which prey on juvenile sockeye.

Like it or not, great white sharks are wending their way north to begin their annual visit in Atlantic Canada and feast on their favorite snack—the region’s abundant seal population. The forbidding predator—best known for terrifying a generation of beachgoers with its outsized portrayal in the film Jaws—typically returns to the region from July to November and has seen its profile rise in recent years due in part to efforts to tag and track the movements of great whites.

Higher Fish Consumption Associated with Increased Melanoma Risk / Fishing Wire
Eating higher amounts of fish, including tuna and non-fried fish, appears to be associated with a greater risk of malignant melanoma, according to a large study of U.S. adults published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control.

The last hunt? Future in peril for ‘the unicorn of the sea’ / Guardian
Narwhals in eastern Greenland have suffered a precipitous decline, and to protect them scientists are calling for a ban on hunting. Hunters and other opponents of the ban, however, cite the cultural, nutritional, and economic importance of narwhal meat for remote communities.


Invasive Carp Eye the Great Lakes / The Regulatory Review
Fear of sharks? So passé. The new underwater terror is far less sexy, and far more ferocious than its top-of-the-food-chain friend. That terror is the invasive carp. These fish are now considered the “poster child” for invasive species because of the devastating effects they pose for the ecosystems they inhabit.

Algoma Public Health warns people not to drink water from St. Mary’s River after oil spill / CBC
The health unit says if your drinking water intake is located east (or downstream) of the Algoma steel mill and the Great Lakes Power plant, there is a risk of contamination. It is warning people to not drink or bathe in the water, or go swimming, kayaking, or fishing in the river.

Estuary restoration to save salmon habitat from climate change in Campbell River, B.C. / CTV
More than 38,000 cubic metres of fill was shifted or trucked in the first phase to create habitat for all five species of salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout that use the estuary at various points in their life cycles.

Alberta’s oilsands tailings ponds are leaking. Now what? / Narwhal
There are more than a trillion litres of toxic oilsands waste stored in tailings ponds near Alberta’s Athabasca River — and they’re leaking.

Restoring a historic trout spawning bed on Diamond Lake, Ontario / Watersheds Canada
Diamond Lake, located near Combermere, Ontario, is one of only twelve trout lakes in Renfrew County. Over several months, a community-led effort ensured the historic lake trout spawning bed was restored. The Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund donated critical funds to launch the restoration process of the trout spawning bed.

Canada’s nuclear waste liabilities total billions of dollars. Is a landfill site near the Ottawa River the best way to extinguish them? / Globe and Mail
Building 250 is one element of a multi-billion-dollar headache for the federal government. It’s among the oldest buildings at Chalk River Laboratories, 200 kilometers northwest of Ottawa, which long served as Canada’s premier nuclear research facility. Today the facility’s operator, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), is addressing the resulting radioactive waste. It has already torn down 111 buildings, but Building 250 is among the most hazardous: it contained radioactive hot cells and suffered fires that spread contaminants throughout.

Alberta oilsands tailings ponds are larger than Vancouver / Narwhal
Inside those ponds is a toxic mix of by-products from the mining of oilsands, including arsenic, naphthenic acids, mercury, lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — all of which can impact ecosystems, wildlife and humans. The Alberta Energy Regulator told The Narwhal that no tailings deposits have yet been certified as reclaimed. According to the regulator, the estimated liabilities for cleanup of the oilsands is $33 billion. Only $1.5 billion has been collected for security as of June 2021.

Learn about the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River with this New Interactive map / Conservation Ontario
Conservation Ontario’s interactive map provides you with an opportunity to explore the natural features, ecosystems, and benefits of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, as well as the stressors facing them today, and actions we can take to protect them.


Will B. C’s Supreme Court set new First Nations title precedent? / Narwhal
The case, which will resume for final arguments in front of Judge Elliott Myers in late September, is among the first to apply the precedent-setting 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, which granted the Tsilhqot’in Nation title to 1,750 square kilometres of territory. The Nuchatlaht case is also the first title case to test the province’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Frustrated B.C. chiefs unload on cabinet ministers over fate of salmon / Vancouver Sun
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ leadership pushed federal and provincial cabinet ministers on Friday for more urgent action on salmon conservation.

First Nation reclaims territory by declaring Indigenous protected area / Mongabay
The Mamalilikulla First Nation in British Columbia has reclaimed part of its traditional territory as an Indigenous protected and conserved area. Plans include calling for a five-year moratorium on logging and immediate protection of a marine area important for rare corals and sponges.


The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) will host on Tuesday, June 21 at 12 p.m. EDT a virtual panel event, The Future of Marine Propulsion Technologies, featuring four industry experts who will discuss the political and economic impacts of electrification implementation into the recreational marine industry, what to expect in the near future, and the industry safety standards on the horizon. As the recreational boating industry looks to the future and considers the practical implications and realities of electrification and next generation marine propulsion systems.

State, Federal, and Canadian Partners Remind Boaters to Abide by Be Whale Wise / NOAA
To help protect the Southern Resident killer whale, the Government of Canada is putting in place concrete protective measures developed in partnership with Indigenous partners and regional stakeholders. A key finding from research that NOAA Fisheries published in 2021 indicated the effects of vessel noise are especially prominent for females, which often cease foraging when boats approach within 400 yards. Research shows this tendency to stop foraging when boats are nearby may be most concerning for pregnant or nursing mothers that need to find more food to support calves.

How Boating and Fishing Manufactures Support Conservation and Recreation in the U.S. / Fishing Wire
For more than half a century, U.S. fishing equipment manufacturers have shared a partnership with state and federal biologists through the Dingell-Johnson Act — a partnership that uses excise tax to fund remarkable fisheries conservation and recreation. Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) distributes millions of dollars in grants funded through this excise tax paid by manufacturers. Revenue for these grants is generated from manufacturers’ excise taxes on sport fishing equipment, import duties on fishing tackle and pleasure boats, and a portion of the gasoline fuel tax attributable to small engines and motorboats. The tax is included in the gear price and is collected and paid by the manufacturer at the point of sale, which is usually at local sporting goods stores or distributors.


Skeena Salmon Art Show Call for Artists / SkeenaWild
Calling all artists! The Skeena Salmon Art Show is back for its 5th annual exhibition! The 2022 exhibition will start at the Terrace Art Gallery and then tour to the Nisga’a Museum. The Skeena Salmon Art Show is an annual exhibition dedicated to the cultural and ecological importance of the salmon. For 2022, the organizers are calling on artists, working in all mediums from across the Skeena and Nass Watersheds and beyond to create works that are inspired by the critical importance of salmon to our cultures, communities, and ecosystems.


Skeena and North Coast Fisheries Outlook 2022 / SkeenaWild
Watch SkeenaWild’s Executive Director, Greg Knox, as he provides a brief overview of the preliminary outlook for fisheries and salmon returns to the north and central B.C. coast for the upcoming 2022 season.

Massive fish kill in N.S. river blamed on inadequate ladder / CBC
Thousands of gaspereau recently died while trying to swim upstream along the Tusket River in Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth County. Fishers are placing the blame on a fish ladder at a nearby provincial hydroelectric dam that’s only designed for salmon to pass through.


Microplastics pollution June 14th Rivers to Oceans Week!
Plastic pollution in the Laurentian Great Lakes is a big problem. Over the past decade, researchers from Canada and the United States working in all five Great Lakes and their watersheds have found tiny pieces of plastic, called microplastics, nearly everywhere they’ve looked – in water, sediment, and even in wildlife. Luckily, there is hope.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Want to be an OFAH NXT-GEN Ambassador? / OFAH
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters are looking for the next group of passionate conservationists to join the OFAH NXT-GEN program as an Ambassador. Some of these NXT-GEN Ambassadors are sticking around to help the OFAH grow this important program by working with incoming Ambassadors in year two. The call is now open for anyone between the ages of 18-29 to apply by submitting an expression of interest explaining why you would make a great OFAH NXT-GEN Ambassador.

Northwest Student Chapter of the Society for Marine Mammalogy Annual Conference was a Huge Success. / Marine Mammal Research Unit
On April 30th, the UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit (MMRU) hosted the 25th Annual Northwest Student Chapter of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (NWSSMM) Student Conference co-chaired by Julia Adelsheim and Taryn Scarff. It was a full day—with 26 oral presentations, 10 poster presentations and over 60 attendees from across North America.

Coming Up:

Register now for the 2022 OTN Symposium
Register and submit and abstract for the 10th Ocean Tracking Network Symposium taking place in person in Halifax with select sessions streamed live for a virtual audience on November 7-10, 2022! The Symposium will feature a variety of presentations, panels, and workshops, and is open to researchers, students, and those interested in aquatic telemetry research at no cost.

Special Guest Feature – Great Lakes HABs Collaborative releases two fact sheets on human health and harmful algal blooms / Great Lakes Commission

The Great Lakes HABs Collaborative today released two new fact sheets on the impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs) on human health. The GLC released the fact sheets in advance of HABs season in the Great Lakes basin; early season projections for the annual bloom in Lake Erie began in May and are accessible on NOAA’s website and also shared on Blue Accounting’s website.

The first fact sheet summarizes emerging research on chronic HABs toxin exposure on the body, including on the respiratory, neurological and cardiovascular systems. According to recent lab studies, HAB toxins may cause inflammation in the lungs and disrupt lung cell structure; may damage neurons and disrupt normal brain cell function; and can lead to cardiac inflammation and tissue scarring. Frequency of exposure, dose, and personal health conditions play an important role in how any of the various toxins that may be produced by a HAB can affect a person’s health. When spending time along Great Lakes coasts and inland waters, it is important to be aware of any signs posting local health advisories, which may include warnings related to the presence of a HAB.

The second fact sheet summarizes the current understanding of the effects of inhalation of HABs aerosols: when a HAB is agitated (by waves, wind, or boat traffic), it may release aerosols into the air, and aerosols generated from water with HABs have been found to contain HAB toxins. Some animal studies have demonstrated negative health consequences such as inflammation from the inhalation of HABs aerosols and some water users have reported respiratory irritation. An epidemiological study found respiratory symptoms were more likely in humans exposed to high levels of HAB aerosols.

“We already knew that the annual bloom in Western Lake Erie, and other HABs across the Great Lakes, have adverse effects on the environment and economy in communities across the basin,” said Todd L. Ambs, chair of the Great Lakes Commission, which leads the Great Lakes HABs Collaborative in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center. “Now emerging science is showing us that the human health effects of HABs can be broad and serious as well. This is more evidence that we need to act now on a federal, regional, jurisdictional, and local level to combat HABs in the Great Lakes basin.”

Freshwater HABs are an annual occurrence during the summer and fall in the nearshore areas of the Great Lakes, as well as in inland waterbodies, and have the potential to disrupt ecosystems, impact water and air quality, and deter recreation. The Great Lakes HABs Collaborative is working to establish a common agenda on science and management needs to help the region work together to prevent and manage HABs.

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