Blue Fish News – March 29, 2021
April 15 is coming soon
Blue Fish Canada is hosting the premier streaming of the Canadian documentary “What Lies Below”. Fresh off it’s 3-year run on CBC’s Doc Channel, What Lies Below explores ten stories of threats to fish and fishing, including the guides who came to the defence of Fraser River Sturgeon. Please let others know about this “must-see” event!
In the March 29, 2021 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News, we begin with a focus on Fraser River sturgeon including the latest analysis, research and local knowledge. As always, we include a specially curated list of summaries and links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news, and close with a spotlight guest article by sturgeon champion Kevin Estrada guaranteed to inform and inspire our readers.
This Week’s Feature: Angler Champions of Fraser River Sturgeon
My first mission when filming the documentary What Lies Below was to meet the anglers behind the conservation movement to conserve and protect Fraser River sturgeon. This iconic freshwater giant has come close to meeting it’s demise numerous times over the past 100 years due to unregulated and often illegal commercial fishing. The sturgeon being harvested in the early 1900’s were so big that they used steam-driven giant winches on shore to haul in these behemoths measuring up to five meters in length and weighing as much as 700 kilograms. The conservation movement was born in the 1990’s when high profile anglers such as the “Man in Motion” himself, Rick Hanson, rallied anglers when upwards of 34 adult white sturgeon were found dead along the banks of the Fraser River.
The angler-driven conservation movement is one of Canada’s premier citizen science success stories. One of its leaders is Kevin Estrada, owner of Sturgeon Slayers guided fishing. Kevin is one of over 100 guides focussing their operations on “Catch, Record, Release”, collecting valuable data on both adult and juvenile sturgeon. A former board member of the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society, and now Director of the Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association, Kevin’s leadership includes gathering 60,000 signatures in support of the first-ever parliamentary bill on sturgeon. The bill calls for the transition away from using gill nets in the Fraser River by non-recreational salmon harvesters, to more sustainable forms of salmon harvesting that prevent indiscriminate harm to fish like juvenile sturgeon and steelhead. Kevin is also leading a new citizen science initiative that involves guides supervising high school students to tag and track juvenile sturgeon. Link below to hear Kevin speak about his passion and work to conserve Fraser River sturgeon on The Blue Fish Radio Show: https://bluefishradio.com/fraser-river-sturgeon-champion-kevin-estrada/
Lots has happened since I was in B.C. in 2011 filming with guides on the Fraser River catching, tagging and tracking adult sturgeon. At the time, tagging equipment was costly and in short supply. Guides focussed their limited resources on tagging adult sturgeon, which meant juvenile fish such as the half-dozen I caught my first day on the Fraser went unreported. Never-the-less, it’s through their citizen science that these same guides, often independent of government, have established seasons and sanctuaries, and fish handling best practices. For example, captured sturgeon measuring over 150 cm can no longer be lifted out of the water at any time including during hook release, measuring, scanning or tagging, even when the guide and angler are standing in the water with the fish. Specially developed boat-side cradles now keep fish calm and submerged until their release.
Thankfully, data gaps such as the tagging and tracking of juvenile sturgeon is now being addressed by the guides. Evidence has been collected showing why sturgeon in-around the 100 cm length are lower in number compared to smaller and larger fish. However, numerous other threats outside the control of these dedicated conservationist anglers remain. Gravel extraction at sturgeon spawning sites, habitat destruction throughout many of B.C.’s rivers, dams and forestry causing siltation and erosion, development and hardening of shorelines, climate change, and more continue to threaten sturgeon survival throughout much of B.C.
Whether the conservation and citizen science being demonstrated by anglers along the lower Fraser is responsible for preventing the demise of sturgeon in this free-flowing section of the river is difficult to say. What is certain though, angler advocacy and actions prove that the fait of sturgeon is not written in stone. There is now science and substantial local knowledge on how best to study and conserve sturgeon, thanks to these dedicated anglers who refuse to accept defeat.
The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News
Fraser fish finders: Chilliwack kids join in sturgeon data collection – Vancouver Sun
Conservation, education and science tied into one – students were out on the water with volunteers from the Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association. A two-decades-old group, the FVAGA are guides who are passionate about keeping the fishing of Pacific salmon, steelhead trout and sturgeon sustainable.
Attempting to explain a lifelong passion – Salmon Arm Observer
“Fishing was a part of my growing up. It is a part of who I am. I make no excuses for finding a simple pleasure in the catching of a fish.”
Pressure on B.C. gov’t to fix trespassing laws that favour landowners – Vancouver Sun
A B.C. Court of Appeal ruling allows one of the world’s richest men to continue to stop anglers from accessing two lakes on his mammoth cattle ranch near Merritt even though the lakes are publicly owned. “Unlike other jurisdictions, British Columbia does not have public access legislation,” says judge, inspiring people to call for action.
Sturgeon Retention Closes on Columbia’s John Day Pool – Fishing Wire
Sturgeon retention fishing closed in the John Day Pool of the Columbia River (John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam) on March 18.
Sturgeon Fishing Opens May 10 in Columbia River Estuary – Fishing Wire
Starting May 10, anglers will have an opportunity to catch and retain legal-size white sturgeon in the lower 40 miles of the Columbia River.
Michigan’s Black Lake Sturgeon Season Over in Hours – The Fishing Wire
After only two hours of fishing, this year’s sturgeon season on Michigan’s Black Lake ended slightly after 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. The season, which included spearing and hook-and-line fishing, was scheduled to run Feb. 6-10, or until the harvest limit quota of six lake sturgeon had been reached. More than 500 registered anglers, including a good number of supervised youth, took part in the 2021 fishery.
N.L. fisheries minister calls for pause of south coast fishery decision as feds float idea of moratorium – CBC News
Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister is calling on the Federal Fisheries Minister to pause the decision to possibly shut down the 3Ps cod fishery, citing concerns over modelling and the science used.
New event: The Presidential Women’s World Virtual Fishing Challenge
While dates have not been set at this time, it’s scheduled to occur in early 2022 and will be open to women anglers around the world, with no age limit. Since the event is virtual, scoring will take place using the CaptApp application, which verifies catches using video and geo-location. Eligible species will include all billfish species (100 percent release) as well as mahimahi and tuna, which may be weighed or measured. To encourage females of all skill levels to participate, the rules will include a “hook and hand” provision. According to coordinator Joan Vernon, “each team will fish for a set number of hours in their home waters anywhere in the world”. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Salmon society calls for moratorium on vehicle access to gravel bars near Chilliwack – Chilliwack Progress
The Fraser Valley Salmon Society is calling for a moratorium on vehicle traffic on two gravel bars that have seen a barrage of use and environmental abuse.
Lillooet, B.C. ‘fishway’ project pushes forward despite some snags – Journal of Commerce
Construction crews have begun laying the groundwork for a 100-metre-long covered highway for salmon that is to be installed along the Fraser River at the site of the Big Bar landslide. The structure, aptly called a fishway, will enable salmon and steelhead populations to swim northward through a concrete and steel tube to reach their spawning grounds in the upper part of the river.
Miscounted Fish May Be Skewing Population Sizes – Hakai Magazine
By catching and counting the same tagged fish multiple times, researchers may be overestimating how many fish there are.
Herring integral to B.C.’s ecological health and preservation of Nuu-chah-nulth traditions – The Star
Out of five regions on B.C.’s coast where the fish are monitored, only the Strait of Georgia experienced a biomass volume capable of having a commercial herring fishery this year.
Returning Fundy’s Fish to the Wild – Hakai Magazine
From the gene bank to the wild, a novel conservation effort has brought the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon back from the brink.
Canada is failing its freshwater fish populations – Globe and Mail
Canada needs to better value freshwater fish and recognize their roles in ecosystems and the diverse ways in which they benefit residents, experts say.
Sacrificing wild Atlantic salmon for gold – Halifax Examiner
A PROJECT THAT IS UNDOING ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE FROM ACID RAIN FINDS ITSELF UNDER THREAT FROM A GOLD MINE PROPOSED on Nova Scotia’s Moose River about 30 kilometres from Beaver Dam.
NB maps out protection for Atlantic salmon habitat – ASF
Conservationists are feeling hopeful that the new Nature Legacy initiative will lead to protection of ten per cent of the province’s land, up from the current 4.6 per cent. It’s good news for wild Atlantic salmon, as many important headwaters and cold-water features are slated for protection.
Anglers tell aquaculture industry to prove it doesn’t harm wild salmon – ASF
The Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland wrote to the NL aquaculture industry’s association asking their members to fund studies of salmon rivers surrounding Placentia Bay, to gauge the impact of the net-pen industry.
Industry body backs move to close last US driftnet fishery – Angling International
The US sportfishing industry is backing efforts to bring an end to the last remaining driftnet fishery in the US. The Californian fishery ranks among the most destructive in the nation, says the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). The mile-long, large mesh nets still being used in California waters indiscriminately catch anything in their path. Less than half the catch is non-marketable and is discarded back into the sea as dead waste.
Diversity of Fish Species Support Killer Whale Diet Throughout the Year – NOAA Fisheries
Endangered Southern Resident killer whales prey on a diversity of Chinook and other salmon. A new analysis shows the stocks come from an enormous geographic range as far north as Alaska and as far south as California’s Central Valley. “If returns to the Fraser River are in trouble, and Columbia River returns are strong, then prey availability to the whales potentially balances out as the whales have evolved to move rapidly throughout their range,” said NOAA Fisheries wildlife biologist Brad Hanson.
A Coastal Squeeze – The Tyee
Where the Fraser River meets the Salish, Sea lies British Columbia’s largest—and most important—estuary. Caught between infrastructure built to counter sea level rise around the cities of Vancouver and Richmond to the east, and rising seas from the west, the estuary is facing what’s called a coastal squeeze.
Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako calls on restoration of the Nechako River – Terrace Standard
RDBN chairperson and Vanderhoof Mayor said, “Local communities, First Nations and non-Indigenous communities alike have suffered from the impacts of the Nechako water management regime which has prioritized energy production over a healthy river and fish populations.”
Salmon farm reapplies for three-year permit to dump sea lice pesticide in B.C. coastal waters – The Narwhal
Cermaq has applied for a new permit to dump almost 3,000 bathtubs of a sea lice pesticide in Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve waters, as companies head to court to challenge a federal decision to terminate salmon farming in the Discovery Islands.
NS to Pull Plug on Annapolis Tidal Power – ASF
A Nova Scotia tidal power plant that largely blocked fish migration has long been a source of concern for conservationists. Now it is likely to be removed.
Tsilhqot’in Nation fights B.C.’s approval of Gibraltar mine’s waste discharge into Fraser River – The Narwhal
A provincial permit allows the mine to discharge the equivalent of nearly 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools of wastewater into the river daily during select months.
Indigenous fishers charged during closure to argue in court – Williams Lake Tribune
Closures had been declared by the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council Fisheries Department and Tsilhqot’in Nation Council of Chiefs, who said the Big Bar landslide along the Fraser River had created a crisis for returning salmon. “It’s a communal right, not an individual right,” Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse told Black Press Media.
Industry:New Enviro-Friendly Fishing Lines – Angling International
Fishing tackle manufacturers bring new more environmentally friendly fishing lines to market. Green brands TUF-Line goes biodegradable and Rapala unveils 100% recycled mono line
Abandoned Boats webinar – FOCA
On Wednesday, April 7 from 4-6pm EDST FOCA’s partners at Boating Ontario are hosting a webinar about abandoned boats, including Transport Canada speaking about the ‘Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act’. No registration is necessary for this free event. Click here to join the webinar at the start time above
“Not on My Watch” By Alexandra Morton – The Star
“I have spent the past three decades exhausting every means possible to protect the wild salmon of the B.C. coast from what seemed like their inevitable demise from the impact of salmon farms. My research made it painfully clear: wild salmon were simply not designed to survive the level of pathogens seeping out of the floating salmon farms.”
Coastal Job: Fish Print Artist – Hakai Magazine
Visual artist specializes in making prints from fish, honoring a Japanese tradition known as gyotaku – meaning “fish” (gyo) and “rubbing” (taku). A technique developed around 200 years ago as a way for fishermen to document their catches.
Special Guest Feature: What Does Conservation Mean To You
By Kevin Estrada
(Extracts from the March 2, 2021 article in BC Outdoors Magazine)
In this modern era of aware fishermen and women, conservation has been re-defined. The Fraser River sturgeon fishery and the angling community have been a shining example of what leadership, change and conservation looks like.
Over the past 25 years, the angling community on the Fraser River have gone above and beyond in redefining what the word conservation means. Significant cultural change has taken place over the last decade, which has shown the upmost care and respect for sturgeon. In the meantime, sustained advocacy will continue to push forward for funding for science and change for the future.
There are some uniquely positioned individuals involved around sturgeon that have the influence and knowledge to push for change in the gill net fisheries. They have thus far turned a blind eye or at the very least downplayed the impacts. There is no more time available to play politics around their survival and that of our wild stock species. The public is becoming aware of the issues and if progress isn’t made, then it will be well known the tactics (failure) that have been taken to minimize their impacts.
The most recent attempt was the DFO Recovery Potential Assessment review for the listing of white sturgeon under the Species at Risk Act this past September. A group of individuals were asked to participate in reviewing science, and I was invited to this discussion. Despite gill nets being the scientifically most well-known cause of the decline in specific size classes, gill nets were given a medium threat level instead of high. This is a problem. Politics. In my opinion, we are too worried about social issues instead of the clear science. Nobody is saying stakeholders cannot have salmon, we are advocating to harvest them sustainably.
Like many issues we see today in our world, science gets drowned out by the loudest and most influential voice (publicly or behind closed doors). That is called politics, and a species that has survived 200 million years does not deserve the fate of politics. They supersede humans.
To be honest, I don’t know what the word conservation means anymore. It’s been twisted and turned as something government and the private sector can point to and say, “We’ve done something, look at how good we are.” For me, it’s probably more of a way of life, a guiding star, and maybe even a word to challenge people on. When the virtue signalling starts on conservation, I ask, “What have you actually done for the word conservation to mean something?” If the answer is just an Instagram post, then sorry, you don’t make the cut. Do more.
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