Blue Fish News – March 20, 2023
What’s new at Blue Fish Canada: As ice fishing winds down and thoughts turn to getting boats ready for fishing, we thought it was a good time to review the role anglers play in preventing the spread of invasive species. Understanding the many ways we can help stop the spread is especially relevant following a year of research reports and rule changes brought about due to a growing realization that anglers are unwitting conveyers of invasives. On another note, public access to recreational salmon fisheries on Canada’s west coast is heating up – more of that to come in our next issue of the Blue Fish News, as well as a more comprehensive examination of our “one health” relationship with fish. Of course, we have all the latest fish and fishing news as always…
This Week’s Feature — Actions anglers can take to halt invasive species
By L. Gunther
Preventing the introduction of invasive species is just one strategy for protecting native aquatic life. There is a lot more recreational anglers and fishing clubs can do to mitigate the threats posed by invasives. Everything from preventing further spread of invasives, monitoring and reporting impacts, educating the public about invasive species prevention, teaching fellow anglers identification and elimination best practices, supporting scientific research, and providing input to government policy makers and regulators. In this editorial, let’s go over the different types of invasive species now in Canada, how they got here, their impact on native fishes, and how you can take action to mitigate their impact.
Invasive species are a serious problem in a growing number of Canada’s lakes, rivers, and along our longest coastline of any nation in the world. Invasives can also have a significant impact on native fishes and the future of our favorite fisheries. Impacts include the disruption of ecosystems and competing with native fishes.
There are numerous examples of invasive species that are already threatening native fishes where their impact has yet to be mitigated, other than measures being introduced to prevent their continued spread. Three of the most common invasive aquatic species that remain unchecked are zebra mussels, round goby and spiny water flea.
Zebra mussels are a freshwater mussel that is native to the Caspian Sea region of Eurasia. They were first introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since spread throughout much of Canada. Zebra mussels compete with native species for food and habitat, and they can attach to and damage water intake pipes and other structures. They also filter water, which can disrupt the food chain and reduce the amount of food available for fish. New evidence shows that they are also contributing to blue green algae.
Round goby are a small fish that is native to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions of Eurasia. They were first introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1990s and have since spread throughout much of Canada. Round gobies are aggressive and can outcompete native fish for food and habitat. They also prey on the eggs of native fish, including smallmouth bass and yellow perch. New scientific evidence also shows they are responsible for passing on viruses to other fishes such as Muskie.
Spiny water flea is a crustacean that is native to Eurasia. They were first introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since spread to many other bodies of water in Canada. Spiny water fleas are predatory and can consume large quantities of zooplankton, which disrupts the food chain and can reduce the amount of food available for fish.
A fourth relatively new invasive aquatic specie is goldfish. People are releasing their unwanted aquarium pets into storm drains, creeks and ponds, and they are becoming a growing problem in waterbodies nearby urban centres. In the early 2000s, thousands of goldfish were discovered in Burnaby Lake, a small urban lake near Vancouver. In 2015 a population of over 2,000 goldfish were discovered in a stormwater retention pond in St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton. In 2014, a population of goldfish was found in Trout Lake, a large lake in northeastern Ontario near North Bay. Since then, numerous municipalities have reported goldfish infestations in nearby watersheds, and in all cases the goldfish were found to be damaging aquatic ecosystems by uprooting native plants and outcompeting native fish species for food and habitat.
Anglers have a role in educating pet owners not to release their pets into the environment. Unwanted aquarium pets can be found new homes, returned to local pet stores, donated to public aquariums, or euthanized humanely.
Other examples where invasive species have taken over aquatic ecosystems and severely impacted the health of native fishes in Canada include:
Lake trout: In the early 20th century, sea lampreys were introduced into the Great Lakes, where they preyed heavily on lake trout. As a result, the lake trout population declined dramatically, and the fishery collapsed. It wasn’t until the sea lamprey control program was developed that the lake trout population began to recover.
Yellow perch: Round gobies, an invasive fish from the Black and Caspian seas, were first discovered in the Great Lakes in the 1990s. Since then, they have become a dominant species in many areas, outcompeting native fish including yellow perch. Yellow perch populations have declined dramatically in some areas, and some researchers believe they may be on the verge of collapse.
Eelgrass: In the 1930s, European green crabs were accidentally introduced into the waters of Nova Scotia. Since then, they have spread along the Atlantic coast and have become a significant predator of eelgrass, a critical habitat for many fish species. More recently, they have been found along Canada’s west coast.
Thankfully, not all invasive aquatic species continue to range unchecked. For example, sea lamprey, rusty crayfish and common carp are all invasives that we have learned to manage, but it can involve considerable effort and expense. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
It’s not just fauna causing havoc, flora is also harming native fishes. Invasive plants alter fish habitat, reduce water quality and oxygen levels, and limit access to food and spawning sites.
Eurasian watermilfoil is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa and was introduced to North America in the late 1800s as an ornamental pond and aquarium plant. It is a highly invasive species that can form dense mats on the surface of water bodies, blocking sunlight and reducing oxygen levels. It also impacts spawning and nursery habitat for native fishes.
Purple loosestrife is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America in the 1800s as an ornamental plant. Its dense stands can reduce open water areas for fish to swim and feed, and the plant’s seeds can fill in spaces between rocks and gravel, reducing suitable fish spawning habitat.
Japanese knotweed is native to Japan and was introduced to North America and Europe in the 19th century. It alters stream and riverbank ecosystems. The plant’s large dense stands can create barriers to fish movement, and its extensive root systems can destabilize streambanks leading to erosion and sedimentation of aquatic habitat.
Safeguarding Canada’s natural assets from the impacts of invasive species begins with preventing their introduction, but it doesn’t end there. According to Jenna White, program development coordinator for the Invasive Species Centre, anglers can also play a role in preventing the spread of invasives by reporting when an invasive has been captured or observed, monitoring spread, participating or leading initiatives to remove invasives, supporting invasive species research, and providing input to officials responsible for invasive species policy and regulations. And let’s not forget education and awareness. Link below to hear my discussion with Jenna White from the Invasive Species Centre: https://www.spreaker.com/user/5725616/e389-actions-anglers-can-take-to-halt-in.
The Invasive Species Centre is a non-profit organization that works to prevent and manage invasive species in Canada. They have a reporting tool on their website that allows individuals to report invasive sightings. The Invasive Species Centre also offers training programs, funding opportunities, and technical support to help individuals and groups identify, manage, and prevent invasive species.
Other programs and initiatives available in Canada to support recreational anglers who want to do more to halt the spread or remove invasive species include:
The Government of Canada supports a mapping initiative called EDDMapS (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System), which allows individuals to report invasive species sightings. The tool can also be downloaded and installed as an app.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) operates a website where individuals can report sightings of invasive species in the marine environment. The website also provides information on how to prevent the spread of invasive species. DFO also provides funding for projects that address invasive species available for individuals, groups, and organizations who want to take action against invasive species.
The Canadian Council on Invasive Species is a non-profit organization that works to prevent and manage invasive species in Canada. They provide resources, funding opportunities, and training programs for individuals and groups who want to take action against invasive species.
Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program, operated by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, runs the Invading Species Awareness Program, which provides resources and support to individuals and groups who want to prevent the spread of invasive species in Ontario. This program offers training, educational materials, and funding for invasive species management projects.
The Alberta government operates the Aquatic Invasive Species Program, which provides funding and support for projects related to invasive species prevention and management. This program offers funding for research, monitoring, and control projects, as well as education and outreach initiatives.
The Manitoba government’s Fisheries Branch provides funding and support for projects related to invasive species management and prevention. This includes funding for research, monitoring, and control projects, as well as education and outreach initiatives.
Many local conservation authorities across Canada often have programs or initiatives in place to support individuals and groups who want to take action against invasive species in their area. These programs may include funding opportunities, training programs, or technical support.
If you or your fishing club are considering taking action to prevent the spread or the removal of invasive species, it’s important to work with experts and follow best practices. Sound planning also includes involving local community members and indigenous groups in the area to provide input and build support for the initiative.
Let us know about your program so we can share with others what you have learned and accomplished. Send us an email at BlueFishCan@gmail.com.
The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News
Minnesota becomes latest US state to face lead ban / Angling International
The bill would prohibit the manufacture, sale or use of lead sinkers or jigs weighing one ounce or less or measuring under two-and-a-half inches. It follows others in recent years levelled against lead’s affect on wildlife.
Consultation on potential revisions to the rules for catch and release of fish during recreational fishing / Environmental Registry of Ontario
Ontario is proposing changes to recreational fishing rules to provide clarity on when anglers can photograph, measure, and weigh fish before they are released. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is proposing changes that would: allow anglers to delay the release of a fish caught during the open season for that species only long enough to photograph, measure and weigh, if the fish is of a restricted size or over daily catch and possession limits; and, require the immediate release of fish that are out of season, are species at risk or are otherwise prohibited under the existing recreational fishing rules.
Monster Lake Trout caught in Red Lake area / KenoraOnline
Two anglers from northwestern Ontario were close to breaking an over-70-year-old record over the weekend after catching a nearly 60lb lake trout in the Red Lake area. Sam Boucha says she and her friend Brad Molloy were out on the ice Saturday when the pair reeled in the monster fish, which has been measured at 47.75” long and 31” in girth – weighing in at over 57 lbs.
Atlantic fishing industry watching as decisions loom for federal fisheries minister / CBC
Big decisions that could affect fishing communities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec are looming for federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray after rubbing shoulders with seafood companies at North America’s largest industry trade show in Boston this week. First up, Murray will have to decide whether to extend a regional mackerel moratorium for a second year, in an effort to rebuild the depleted population. That call has been complicated because the United States authorized a mackerel fishery in 2022 — at a reduced capacity — and will again this year. Americans are fishing the same stock before it gets to Canada.
Sportfishing Industry Highlights Importance of Fishing Access and Conservation / FishingWire
The American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) Southeast Fisheries Policy Director, Martha Guyas, testified on the importance of sound fisheries policy before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries. Guyas began by showcasing the various ways that fishing benefits conservation, jobs and the U.S. economy. In 2021, 52.4 million people went fishing in the U.S., supporting 826,000 jobs and contributing $129 billion to the economy,. Through fishing license purchases, excise taxes and direct donations, the recreational fishing community contributes approximately $1.7 billion toward aquatic resource conservation each year.
The tiny fish creating big problems in B.C. waterways / CTV
They’re a popular fish for aquariums, but they’ve become a growing problem in the wild. Unwanted goldfish, illegally dumped in B.C. waterways, are threatening native species and there are calls for the province to take action.
Grass Carp is one of four species of invasive Asian carps threatening to invade the Great Lakes / Asian Carp Canada
Recent evidence of reproduction in two U.S. tributaries of Lake Erie makes them the most immediate threat of the four species to Canadian waters. Grass Carp can grow to be more than 80 lbs and over 5 ft in length and eat up to 40% of their body weight daily in aquatic plants. They have the potential to destroy wetlands which could have major ecological and economic consequences.
Up to the gills in goldfish: Large invasive fish a problem in B.C. waters / The Star
Brian Heise, an associate professor in the department of natural resource sciences at Thompson Rivers University, says thousands of large, invasive goldfish have multiplied in bodies of water throughout BC. “They’re not the little fish you see in the pet store. They actually get quite large, and they have the potential to get even larger, especially probably in some warmer, more productive waters,” he said.
Noisy sealife moves off Oak Bay shores, but hope for healthy herring return remains / Oak Bay News
Pacific herring spawn off Esquimalt Lagoon last March heralded as the first in a decade.
N.L.’s Atlantic salmon stocks still struggling, says DFO in latest assessment / CBC
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada says Atlantic salmon stocks declined in most Newfoundland and Labrador rivers in 2022.
Efforts to free Kokanee salmon from ‘predator pit’ continue / Castanet
For Kootenay Lake’s kokanee salmon population to rebound, the kokanee first need a break from being devoured by the over-abundant rainbow and bull trout, say Ministry of Forests officials. So, in the coming year, the ministry will be ramping up measures to reduce the number of predatory trout in the lake.
The Next Threat to the Great Lakes / Fishbrain
There are currently no established populations of Asian carp in Canada. There have been a few rare individual captures of Asian carp in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes. In terms of Bighead Carp, only three single specimens have been collected, all in western Lake Erie, between 2000 and 2003, and these are believed to have been intentionally released. In terms of Grass Carp, there have been 29 captures since 2012 in the waters or tributaries of lakes Huron, Ontario, and Erie. Of those tested, nine were determined to be fertile. It is likely that these fish were escapees from areas where populations were being used for aquatic plant control, or live releases. No Silver Carp or Black Carp have been found in the Great Lakes to date.
Salmon are feeling the heat after decades of logging / Narwhal
As a cold-blooded species, salmon are at the mercy of the waters they swim in. New research finds logging restrictions along small, unprotected streams could go a long way to keeping water cool and safe for the at-risk fish.
Release of captive-bred native fish negatively impacts ecosystems, study finds / Phys.org
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that large-scale fish releases negatively impact ecosystems as a whole, while offering little benefit and some harm to the species they seek to support.
One of North America’s most dangerous invasive species is hitchhiking on fish / AAAS
Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are one of the most catastrophic aquatic invasive species in North America. Now, researchers have discovered a new way they invade—by hitchhiking on fish. Scientists made the observation while assessing fish communities in a lake in southeastern Quebec last year. They found a zebra mussel attached to a lake chub (Couesius plumbeus), a species of minnow typically about 12 centimeters long. The observation, reported this month in Biological Invasions, is the only time a nonlarval freshwater bivalve has been seen attached to a fish. The mollusk had latched onto the hapless minnow using protein fibers called byssal threads, which they also use to attach to plants, rocks, and concrete.
International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species / ISC
The 23rd International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, from May 12 – 16, 2024. The conference theme is ‘Meeting Challenges with Innovation’.
Seals and salmon among issues highlighted in Commons report on DFO science / SaltWire
Seals, salmon, science and climate change. It’s all mentioned in a report made public March 9 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Bob Hardy, a fisheries consultant from Newfoundland and Labrador, told the committee DFO was reluctant to accept the idea that seals were affecting fish stocks, and ignored evidence from fishers, Indigenous peoples and seal science from other North Atlantic fishing nations.
Climate change, invasive species and the Great Lakes / Manitoulin Expositor
From February 7 to 9, more than 900 attendees participated in the virtual 2023 Invasive Species Forum, which focused this year on invasive species action in a changing climate. Keynote presenter Dr. Gail Krantzberg, spoke about the link between climate change and invasive species in a Great Lakes context, “there is much uncertainty about invasive species and changing climate”. What is known is that we’re going to see more frequent extreme weather: an increased severity of storms, more floods and prolonged periods of drought. These changes could result in the loss of nearshore zones throughout the Great Lakes, leading to displacement or disappearance of coastal wetland species and the potential increase of alien species coming in because of thermal shifts: where the water was once too cold and the winters too brutal, it’s now possible for them to survive. We will see a shift towards warm water species, including alien invasive species, and they are very damaging.
B.C. announces $100 million investment in watershed strategy / PSF
On March 6, 2023, the Government of British Columbia and the B.C.-First Nations Water Table announced a $100-million investment in healthy watersheds and the launch of engagement on a new co-developed watershed security strategy to help ensure safe, clean water is available to communities throughout B.C. for generations.
Fish-friendly flood infrastructure in the Fraser / PSF
More than150 flood control structures in the Lower Mainland block an estimated 1,500 kilometres of potential salmon habitat. A collaborative project called Resilient Waters seeks to reconnect vital wild salmon habitat by modernizing aging flood-control infrastructure to restore fish passage. The project assesses habitat quality and fish passage at 25 high-priority sites scattered across the Lower Fraser basin including sloughs and creeks in Delta, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Langley, and Chilliwack. PSF’s Community Salmon Program proudly supports this project.
First-of-its-kind study on salmon and habitat / PSF
In collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Watersheds Program has assessed the relationships between habitat degradation and Pacific salmon population trends in B.C. This first-of-its-kind study, published in Ecological Indicators, uses province-wide datasets on freshwater habitat pressures to better understand the links between habitat and salmon populations to help inform conservation planning.
B.C. First Nations leaders want Fisheries and Oceans science reviews put under the microscope / CBC
First Nations leaders in B.C. are calling for an investigation into Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s scientific review and decision-making processes after a group of scientists pointed out flaws in a recent report on salmon farming and parasites.
VIDEO: Chiefs of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance press conference / APTN
Chiefs of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance from across British Columbia are in Ottawa to advocate for the transition of open-net cage fish farms from B.C. oceans to land-based farms.
First Nations at loggerheads over salmon farming / Castanet
Two B.C. First Nations groups were in Ottawa today giving anyone who would listen diametrically opposed views on salmon farming in B.C.
New report reveals true size of fishing market in the USA / Angling International
Invaluable data for the recreational fishing industry is contained in a new report just released by the American Sportfishing Association. Findings include the fact that 52.4 million anglers contribute $148 billion in economic output and support 945,500 jobs across the country, as well as contributing $1.8 billion to conservation.
Scientists and Local Champions:
View SkeenaWild’s full job descriptions at www.skeenawild.org.
SkeenaWild is looking to bring a Fisheries Biologist and a Communications Specialist onto their team to advance the conservation work they undertake in support of wild salmon and their habitat in the Skeena Watershed.
Special Guest Feature
Here’s a short list of five things anglers all should be doing to prevent, identify and eliminate invasive species:
- Learn to identify invasive species: It’s essential to know which species are invasive and which are not. Take the time to educate yourself about the different types of invasive species in your area, including plants, animals, and algae. Surprisingly, many of these invasive species came to Canada and were sold as aquarium pets, ornamental fish for ponds, garden plants, and exotic foods.
- Clean your gear: Make sure to clean your gear, including your boats, trailers, and fishing equipment before leaving the water. Invasive species can hitch a ride on your gear, and you can inadvertently spread them to other bodies of water.
- Don’t dump bait: It’s illegal to dump live bait into the water in many areas, and it’s a common way for invasive species to spread. Dispose of bait properly and never dump it into the water. This includes aquarium pets that are no longer wanted.
- Report sightings: If you see any invasive species, report them to the appropriate authorities immediately. Early detection and rapid response are essential in preventing the spread of invasive species.
- Remove invasive species: If you do catch an invasive species, it’s essential to remove them from the water and dispose of them properly. Don’t release them back into the water, as this can further spread the problem.
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