Blue Fish News – May 15, 2023

What’s new at Blue Fish Canada: As the chair of the Great Lakes Fish Health Network. I’m pleased to report that several of us network members and others recently submitted a powerful academic review of the application of fish consumption advisories on the Upper St. Lawrence River. As soon as it’s published it will be shared along with supporting interviews with several of the key authors. In the meantime, Blue Fish Canada has also been asked to join the working group responsible for the “Fish Health Tracker Tool.” Development and application of the tool is the topic of this edition’s editorial and podcast. Such an amazing citizen science tool – we should all be using this.

Photo of Doris Leung, Interim Director, Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System

This Week’s Feature – Fish Health Tracking Tool

By L. Gunther

We all have caught a fish at one point or another that we couldn’t identify, or one that had an unusual growth or wound. Some of us have even witnessed a fish kill. The first thought is, “who should I report this too”, or maybe, “how can I find out more?” Well, a group of Canadian scientists and regulators have invested considerable effort and resources to create a tool to report unusual fish species or fish health events. But wait there’s more, the tool also provides anglers with feedback on our discoveries and questions. Talk about empowering citizen science!

The Fish Health Tracker Tool provides anglers with the ability to report their observations while on the water using their portable smart device, or later from their desktop. Once the report has been received and verified, abnormal observations are forwarded to people with the authority to take appropriate action. The Tool was developed in collaboration with the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

You would think a tool like this would quickly gain broad support among the angling community. With six million anglers purchasing licenses each year in Canada, not to mention the youth, seniors and other groups that can fish license free, there surely must be plenty of odd fish health and species incidents being observed every day. So why has there only been 17 submissions since the tool was first launched in January 2022?

The slow take-up of the tool is a concern. I doubt very much that anglers just don’t care. It could, however, be playing into every angler’s deep-rooted fear that their secret fishing spot will be widely shared. Or it could just as easily come down to people simply not knowing about the tool. Well, hopefully that’s about to change thanks to all you loyal readers of the Blue Fish News.

I first learned about the Fish Health Tracker Tool while searching the web for news-worthy articles for the Blue Fish Newsletter. My heart rate actually jumped. As always in such cases, I reached out to arrange an interview for an episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show. It’s how I was introduced to Doris Leung.

Doris Leung is the Interim Director of the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System, a group that functions as part of the newly minted “Animal Health Canada” organization. The impressive team Doris helped assemble to develop and manage the Tool meets monthly, and I’m happy to report, now includes Blue Fish Canada. Even more impressive is the extensive list of scientists who have stepped up to review, take action, and respond to observations submitted by anglers across Canada. Link below to listen to my conversation with Doris Leung on The Blue Fish Radio Show:

I suspect many of you are thinking, how does this app track my movements? A fair question since pretty much every other angler app out there does just that. In fact, the Tracker does not use the GPS technology built into your smart device. If you choose to report your location, you’re going to need to manually input your longitude and latitude coordinates. Or you can simply name the water body where the fish incident took place. That simple and that secure.

The sort of reports you can post include healthy fishes, fishes that look abnormal or that are acting unusual, the presence of invasive aquatic species, or fishes affected by environmental issues such as chemical contamination. If a problem is suspected, one of the Tracker’s many supporting scientists may contact you for further information, or if warranted, will alert local authorities to conduct a more in-depth investigation.

Blue Fish Canada is all about the future of fish and fishing. Having said that, you know we aren’t going to let this drop. Somehow, we are going to find a way to incent as many anglers in Canada as possible to report their unusual fish sightings, starting with a podcast and this editorial, and a commitment to support the team responsible for the Fish Health Tracker Tool’s on-going deployment and future enhancements.

In the meantime, you can find the app on your devices app store by searching for,” Wildlife Health Tracker” – look for the “bird” graphic (a more suitable meme is in the works.) You can also access the tool directly from your desktop through the following link: Wildlife Health Tracker

Increasingly, fishing apps are becoming highly specialized. What started as tools for documenting and sharing caught fish with friends and family, have now evolved into so much more. We have apps that tell us what fish can be sustainably caught and consumed, where and when we can fish and for what, tools for hosting virtual tournaments, for tracking tagged fish, and reporting fish numbers and size. Tools that record and report water quality test results, and compile data on behalf of biologists conducting field research. Regulators are also beginning to use apps as a requirement for anglers to report their catch, and who knows, may someday be used to report illegal activity. But, until now, we never had a tool that allow anglers to report fish health incidents, or to acquire information such as species identification.

The Fish Health Tracker Tool truly represents a significant step towards empowering anglers to engage in citizen science, and to exercise our stewardship responsibilities. It’s definitely an app every angler should be adding to their “must-have” technologies, and it’s free.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Manitoba sport anglers want to see some changes to fishing regulations for tournaments / CTV
As part of the new regulations – which were announced by the province in February – year-round fishing is now allowed for certain species, licence changes were put into effect, and size restrictions were put on specific species to determine if they are allowed to be kept or not. Concern is if fish are caught during a tournament and they are over a certain length, anglers have to take a picture of them and then release them, they can not be brought back to an official weigh-in station.

Concern for trade as European Commission advised to act on lead / Angling International
If the European Commission agrees to the recommendation, it will mean that companies will have to apply for authorisation to use lead in their products. Substances can be banned if the risks are considered unmanageable. Such a move would have enormous repercussions for an angling industry in which the use of lead in manufacturing is widespread.

2 Fishermen Found Guilty of Cheating During Walleye Tournament Sentenced to Jail / FishingWire
Two men who pleaded guilty in March to cheating in a fishing tournament were sentenced to 10 days in jail on Thursday. Jacob Runyan, 43, and Chase Cominsky, 36, were also each ordered to pay a $2,500 fine. Half of that money will be donated to a fishing charity for children. As part of a plea deal, the two men pleaded guilty to cheating and unlawful ownership of wild animals. Cominsky also agreed to give up his bass boat worth $100,000. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop charges of attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools. Both men also agreed to a three-year suspension of their fishing licenses.


Lake Huron’s Chinook salmon used to be king. 20 years after rapid decline, native fish back on top / CBC
Once plentiful in Lake Huron, the Chinook salmon fishery collapsed after its main food source, the herring-like alewife, dried up in 2003. The salmon — a species that is not native to the Great Lakes — never fully recovered, and although many fishermen competing at the derby prefer it, it’s unlikely to fetch the weights of 20 years ago.

Millions of salmon heading home to B.C. caught by Alaskan fishers / Focus on Victoria
“It is infuriating that, this year, Alaska is closing the fishery on the inside waters of the Alaska Panhandle because of conservation concerns, but the fishery will go ahead on the outside waters, says Watershed Watch’s Dave Mills. “Data has shown that 97 per cent of those fish are not from Alaska.”

New Research Asks, “Can Pacific Salmon Keep Pace with Climate Change?” / NOAA
A recent study — the largest of its kind — showed unpredictable changes in juvenile salmon migration timing in response to climate change. The study’s findings highlight the need for more research on how climate change affects salmon migration. It also underscores the importance of protecting salmon habitats and ensuring that salmon have access to food.

Is the new salmon on Canada’s East Coast friend or foe? / National Observer
A press release from the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization says it “considered with alarm the threat that Pacific pink salmon, an invasive species, spreading throughout the North Atlantic, is now posing to wild North Atlantic salmon.” Pink salmon pose possible threats to wild Atlantic salmon: diseases and parasites from the pinks, as well as more competition for habitat and food.

Ontario man works to remove ‘sea of goldfish’ from natural wetland / CBC
Curt Beleutz has been catching invasive goldfish in a Sparta, Ont., waterway and releasing them into an isolated pond. In the long run, he’s not likely to make much of a dent, Beleutz admitted. But he hopes he might be able to reduce the goldfish population for at least this season. Plus — and maybe more importantly — he’s telling everyone who will listen not to let unwanted goldfish out into the wild.


Group says action needed to stop economic disaster from invasive species / Spare News 
Eric Cleland, Nature Conservancy of Canada’s director of invasive species program in Ontario, says right now invasive phragmites — also known as the European common reed — stretches along the Trans Canada, in Marathon, Nipigon, Thunder Bay, Dryden, Kenora, and the Lake of the Woods area. He said it’s mostly contained in the highways right now. “Our opportunity to act is now because if it spreads to the wetlands, the lakes, the rivers of beautiful northern Ontario, we are going to be without the tools needed to deliver this,” he said. “It’ll be too large a problem.” He said they’ve learned from experience in Southern Ontario, where the weed is getting well established and costs tens of millions of dollars to manage.

River Notes / ASF
Once again, many of Nova Scotia’s rivers did not have the benefit of a true spring freshet this year. Kicking off the season in low water conditions has become an unwelcome trend in Nova Scotia. DFO stopped counting adult salmon on the St. Mary’s as part of budget-cuts during the Harper era. Yet the number of fish being captured for tagging and observed by locals puts the St. Mary’s leaps and bounds ahead of others. With arguably the largest population of salmon in mainland Nova Scotia, the St. Mary’s should be a DFO priority for adult salmon assessments.

To feed endangered orcas, Alaska ordered to stop intercepting B.C.-bound salmon / Times
Watershed Watch’s fisheries advisor Greg Taylor says the latest ruling is huge, as the interception of Chinook in southeast Alaska has been their biggest single source of mortality.

Coastal GasLink hit with more stop work orders over water pollution concerns / CBC
Coastal GasLink has been issued stop work orders on a stretch of pipeline construction for the second time in just over a week, the latest in a pattern of environmental violations for polluting sensitive waterways.

Canada opens Fisheries Act investigation into Kearl leak / CTV
Environment Canada is opening an investigation into whether Imperial Oil broke federal laws with two releases of tailings from its Kearl oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

Five invasive species that cost Ontario the most money / ISC
For the amount of damage they cause, invasive species punch above their weight. The spread of invasives can have enormous consequences on natural ecosystems, recreation, and economic industries. Now, a study by a team of international researchers has revealed that the global economic cost of invasive species is as steep as the costs for natural disasters such as storms, earthquakes, and wildfires

‘Very rare’ white-morph crayfish being pushed out of Lake Simcoe / Barrie Advance
Can you help Premek Hamr find one of the “most interesting and rare” crayfish in Canada? “The species is not rare; what’s rare is this population is white,” Hamr said. “It would be good to know if there’s any sightings and whether they’re still in the lake. Pretty soon you’re just going to have rusty crayfish in Simcoe; they out-compete them, have a higher appetite and are a little less afraid of predators. They breed prolifically, lay lots of eggs, reproduce very quickly and smother the natives. The ‘rusties’ are bigger.”

Avian Flu Outbreaks in Marine Mammals Mark New Era for Deadly Virus / Yale Environment 360
A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza has killed thousands of wild birds and is now infecting seals and other marine mammals. Researchers know the virus can jump from birds to mammals, but they are on alert to see if it can be transmitted from mammal to mammal.


Salmon alliance shares salmon crisis plans at Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association annual meeting / Yukon News
The Yukon First Nation Salmon Stewardship Alliance attended the annual preseason meeting of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association where it shared its plans to address the salmon population crisis along the Yukon River which is home to the longest salmon migration in the world.

Ceremonial release of Okanagan sockeye fry in Penticton touches on more than just restoring the salmon population / Penticton News
Dozens of community members of the Syilx Okanagan Nation and school children gathered along the Penticton channel riverbanks Thursday to take part in an important ceremony, releasing thousands of sockeye salmon fry.


Recreational Fishing Industry Ranks the Safety of Right Whales Below Profit / Hakai
The primary worry, according to Mike Leonard from the American Sportfishing Association, comes down to the economic impact. many ASA members left public comments warning that including their boats in the speed rules will negatively affect their livelihoods (the new rules would affect boats larger than about 11 meters). One commenter, a charter boat operator in North Carolina, wrote that “the speed limit would effectively double” their travel time and that “[their] customers are paying to fish, and catch fish, not just for an extended boat ride.”


New Boat Trader survey reports on Millennial boater upgrades / Boating Industry
According to the latest market report from Boats Group, buyer interest shifted last year, leading to a normalization of the industry. As a result, the total number of boats sold worldwide decreased for the first time since the pandemic-induced boom. However, two in five (40%) of millennials that purchased their boat during the pandemic boating boom reported intent to upgrade their vessel, according to a recent private seller survey conducted by Boat Trader, America’s largest boating marketplace. The study performed on the marketplace’s For Sale By Owner (FSBO) platform found that out of all the private sellers that purchased boats within the past one to three years, close to half (49%) of the participants expressed a desire to upgrade, with millennials being the largest generational group.


Surf & Turf: a seafood justice podcast / LocalCatch.Org
This new podcast series explores the intersection of seafood, equity, and justice, covering a range of issues related to seafood production, distribution, and consumption. The podcast centers voices from the Local Catch Network and in season one (six episodes), we explore themes related to food security, sovereignty, innovation, and alternative economies. This podcast is an excellent resource for to learn more about how people involved with Community supported fisheries are creating a more just and equitable seafood system.

Special Guest Feature: Ask an expert: What is on this perch?

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Q: We caught this perch (click the link for a photo) on Lake Nipissing in North Bay. A friend believes it’s a parasite. Note that the fin is also wonky. Any thoughts? Is this common? What should someone do when they catch a fish with a variant like that? We weren’t sure what to do.

A: Adam Weir, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Fisheries Biologist responds: The OFAH is a member of the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System (CAHSS) Aquatic Network and I was able to connect with professionals across the country to help determine what is wrong with this perch. There was general agreement this is a lesion that developed because of trauma or injury. The pectoral fin is also damaged, which may be a result of a bacterial infection and, since it’s on the same side as the lesion, they may have occurred at the same time. The trauma could have come from a predation attempt, the fish ate something that protruded out of the body wall from the inside or was injured by an outside source. Several members of the network commented on the possibility of it originating from a lamprey attachment point. There are native silver lamprey in Lake Nipissing that do parasitize a variety of fishes, feeding on their blood via their rasping tongue teeth and sucking mouth.

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