Blue Fish News – May 25, 2021

In this May 25, 2021 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News our focus is on increasing calls to end destructive gillnet fishing on the Fraser River. We include Links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news. The spotlight guest resource offers ten tips for taking kids fishing!

COMING SOON – Lake2Plate is back with a new video featuring produce, beverages, accommodations and an outdoor culinary feast featuring local, freshly harvested fish and forage. Lewis and I start with a visit to Ferme Pleine Lune where I learn about their certified organic vegetables. Then it’s off to the Little Red Wagon Winery to sample grapes on the vine and their wines made with heritage blackberries and grapes. We then check in at Domaine du Lac Bryson where I spend the next 24 hours capturing and harvesting wild walleye, brook trout and lake trout to be featured in our celebratory outdoor feast, all prepared with the assistance of Tristan Hertzog From the Ground Up Culinary. It’s an amazing adventure showcasing some of the best Quebec’s Pontiac region has to offer. Stay tuned for more details about the coming YouTube launch on May 27 at 7p.m. EDST.

Photo of Editor Lawrence Gunther and Guide Shari Topping with a large Rainbow

This Week’s Feature – Endangered B.C. Steelhead, Chinook and Sturgeon Sacrificed to Gillnet Fisheries

Just over 2,800 pages of government documents secured from Fisheries and Oceans Canada obtained through an access to information request by the B.C. Wildlife Federation revealed that DFO altered language about concerns raised by scientists over whether to list Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead under the federal Species at Risk Act. Such a designation would have given government fishery managers the powers to help mitigate the decline of these iconic wild steelhead species by taking action such as ending certain gillnet fisheries scientists have identified as significant contributors to the populations’ collapse.

Released documents show that a month before the altered report was published in November 2018, the chair of the Canada Science Advisory Secretariat’s steelhead review warned DFO in an email that changes to the advice given by scientists was undermining the scientific credibility of the process. Some in the BC government such as the director of fish and aquatic habitat for the BC Ministry of Forests, also expressed concern to DFO that the altered wording in the report did not reflect the scientific consensus. Members of the BC science team cautioned in another email that, “the report, as published, downplays the threats associated with salmon fisheries bycatch mortality”. Apparently, these opinions were also held among DFO scientists as well. A DFO internal email from one of their own scientists stated, “The ongoing involvement by people who were not part of the process, who have not been involved in the development of the materials or the advice, continues to compromise our ability to meet the deadlines as well as the scientific integrity of the process”.

BC’s own deputy minister of the environment expressed concerns over DFO’s changes to the conclusions in the report to “support status-quo commercial salmon harvesting”. Language in the original report recommended that “the lowest possible allowable harm should be permitted at this time” and that “exploitation be reduced below current levels of exploitation wherever possible”. The report was changed by DFO to read “allowable harm should not be permitted to exceed current levels”. The changes gave the green light for commercial gillnet fisheries that threaten endangered wild steelhead populations passing through the Fraser River and elsewhere to continue.

Many of the issues now laid bare in the retrieved documents were discussed in my October 2019 episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show featuring David Brown. Meeting anglers like David Brown who dedicate huge chunks of their lives to stewarding wild fish resources is always a remarkable learning experience. Dave is a local champion and founder of the BC Public Fishery Alliance. He knows more than most about Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead that run up the Fraser River. Coincidentally, his knowledge and advocacy were recognized in 2017 by DFO awarding Dave the “National Recreational Fisheries Award”. It was the fall of 2019 and I wanted to speak with Dave about his concerns with the joint DFO and BC Steelhead Action Plan that had just been released. Link below to hear my conversation with Dave Brown in the fall of 2019 about his frustration with steps being proposed to mitigate the decline of Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead on The Blue Fish Radio Show:

It was a month after I spoke with Dave Brown in the fall of 2019 that DFO decided not to protect Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead under the Species at Risk Act, a decision that went against the recommendation of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. DFO cited that such a listing would result in an estimated $90 million loss in profit for commercial fisheries, Indigenous commercial fisheries and seafood processing over 20 years, plus an additional $16 million in losses for the public fishery.

In November of 2020, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada listed more than half of the 12 chinook salmon populations in southern B.C. as endangered, threatened or of special concern. I spoke with Greg Taylor from Fish First Consulting just several months before these new listings were announced in a two-part podcast series released in September 2020 on The Blue Fish Radio Show. I wanted to hear Greg’s thoughts about what DFO should be doing to ensure both endangered wild chinook salmon are protected, and what can be done to ensure local public fisheries essential to the social and economic sustainability of many of BC’s southern communities are sustainably managed.

Link to Part one of my September 2020 discussion with Greg Taylor from Fish First Consulting about his concerns over DFO’s insufficient fisheries research, and hesitancy to take the decisions needed to ensure both enough wild salmon reach spawning grounds, and public fisheries target hatchery salmon.

Link to part two of The Blue Fish Radio Show featuring Greg Taylor discussing his recommendation to include stakeholders in fishery decision making processes. Greg also offers his opinion of the BC salmon fisheries management strategy that was about to be released:

In an excellent article written by Stephanie Wood for The Narwhal, DFO is reported to have committed to have Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead reconsidered for listing under the Species At Risk Act now that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has reassessed the species as endangered. The article reports that DFO also now plans to continue rolling closures for salmon fisheries this year, and that they are considering additional measures to reduce steelhead bycatch as part of the Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan to be released in July 2021.

I reached out to Dave Brown to get his reaction to the DFO documents secured by the B.C. Wildlife Federation, and what needs to come next. Link below to hear Dave’s thoughts on this May 24, 2021 episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show:

Blue Fish Radio has been tracking and reporting on impacts of commercial fisheries on the sustainability of wild fish stocks since we first began podcasting in 2012. More recently, Blue Fish Radio has explored impacts of gillnets on juvenile sturgeon on the Fraser River with Kevin Estrada, Kevin established the Fraser River juvenile sturgeon tagging and tracking program and started a petition to end gillnetting on the river that had over 80,000 signatories. Link to hear Kevin speak about his concerns over gillnet impacts on juvenile sturgeon on this March 2021 episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show:

I learned about new selective sustainable salmon harvesting innovations designed to eliminate the impact of gillnet fisheries in the Fraser on wild chinook with scientists like Peter Krahn. Peter has reimagined indigenous ancient weir fishing systems using a non-intrusive mobile fish trapping system that supports data collection and selective harvesting. Link to hear my April 2021 discussion with Peter on The Blue Fish Radio Show:

Once again, we are hearing from BC angler advocates like the Public Fishery Alliance. They are calling for the end of gillnet fishing on the Fraser to protect the handful of remaining wild Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead. But more than that, advocates are asking for open and transparent negotiations over how important decisions are taken about regional fisheries. Over in Port Alberni Bob Cole and others established just such a round table involving FN communities, commercial and public fisheries, conservationists, scientists, and all levels of government. While decision making authority continues to rest with DFO, the stakeholders at the table use their access to the same information DFO uses to develop a consensus position that DFO then implements. Link to hear my July 2020 conversation about how the round table works with Bob Cole on The Blue Fish Radio Show:

People are growing increasingly frustrated about why science-based precautionary recommendations to end unsustainable fishing practices are not being followed. Issues such as the use of destructive technologies like gillnets by people who otherwise have legitimate and legal rights to fish. Anglers and others are asking when do science-based precautionary measures inform how these rights are applied, and what will it take to ensure politicians act on such recommendations? Why does the protection of endangered wild species of fish come second to our choice in the tools we use to exercise our rights to fish? Anglers understand that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Anglers understand that with more proficient tools comes the responsibility to no and manage when enough is enough. It’s not easy, since we are all hard-wired to do our best to provide for our families and communities. It doesn’t come naturally to exercise such judgment since it’s only relatively recently that we created the highly efficient tools in support of our innate drive to harvest. Tools that now give us the power to inflict significant and widespread harm to nature if not applied responsibly. Technologies that led to population collapses or species elimination such as passenger pigeons, whales, buffalos, beavers, and more recently cod and now sharks.

Just as our values shape our decisions, evidence and science must also now inform how we apply these values. Otherwise, what use to be a “lucky day”, becomes every day, and then eventually, nothing. Its why scientific data has become crucial to informing decisions about harvesting, and why all stakeholders now want a seat at the decision-making table.

You can access all 2,800 pages of the documents obtained by the B.C. Wildlife Federation through access to information legislation at these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News


Science proves that releasing big fish dramatically improves a fishery / Outdoor Canada
Gord Pyzer shares new scientific research about the stunning effect of selective harvest on fish populations, and the outsized importance of big fish. The study shows how keeping the big ones devastates a fishery, and does it even faster than scientists suspected. But the opposite strategy—keeping only little guys and releasing the lunkers—creates true trophy waters.

Fisheries scientist calling on high-tech anglers to reel it in / CBC News
Some sport fishermen with deep pockets are using drones to drop baited lines, electric lures that flash lights or emit scent, and fish finders so advanced that they create 3D images of the prey, turning angling into a kind of video game. That might be making fishing fun for some, but it’s far less sporting for the fish, according to Steven Cooke, who’s calling for the technology to be reeled in.

Johnston Brothers Victorious At Sturgeon Bay / SBOBT
Bassmaster Elite Series pros Chris and Cory Johnston took home the Sturgeon Bay Open title over the weekend in impressive fashion. This makes the third time that the dynamic brotherly duo have taken home the hardware and check to go with it. With a weight of 53-4 the Canadian team topped an impressive field by nearly a 3 pound margin in what they describe as their favorite event to fish. There is no rest for the weary as both brothers headed South to Lake Guntersville for the Elite Series event.

U.S. Conservation Group Calls for 10-Year Harvest Ban on Atlantic Coast Stripers / Fishing Wire
Striped bass, also known as rockfish, are arguably the most economically important finfish on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. Unfortunately, striper numbers have plummeted on the Atlantic Coast, and Stripers Forever says a decade-long moratorium on harvest may be the only sure cure.

Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck / Salmon Arm Observer
Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure. The B.C.’s resource road districts are only receiving about one quarter of the money they request for maintenance of washouts, rockslides and bridge damage for the 58,000 km of forest service roads.

CSF Sees Hope in “30 x 30” Conservation Program / Fishing Wire
While this first set of recommendations is largely consistent with many of the priorities identified by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and other members of the sportsmen’s community, many questions remain regarding what efforts are going to count toward the 30% objective. Throughout the report, the Biden Administration repeatedly references the role of the hunting and angling community in the U.S.  history of conservation successes. Further, it specifically calls on stakeholder engagement, including engagement from the hunting and fishing community, regarding science-based practices and programs that maintain and enhance outdoor recreational access for all Americans .

New 30 by 30 Report Shows Growth in Recreational Fishing’s Influence / Fishing Wire
The ASA’s Mike Leonard says the 30 x 30 conservation plan could be a good thing, so long as the proposed inclusion of angling and other recreation interests are kept at the fore.


Atlantic Canada seafood magnate urges pause on aquaculture expansion / ASF
John Risley, co-founder of Clearwater Seafoods, says open net-pen farms are fundamentally unsustainable and expansion plans should be shelved until industry can address fundamental problems like sea lice, escapes, and the scouring of global oceans for forage fish to feed caged salmon.

Community Steps Up to Continue Yukon River Salmon Research / NOAA
Fewer Chinook are returning to the Yukon River each year, and those that do are smaller and younger than they have been in the past.  The need to understand what is behind the dwindling returns led to a special partnership between NOAA Fisheries, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and local fishermen from the villages of Emmonak and Alakanuk.

Miramichi smallmouth eradication plan given go-ahead by N.B. / ASF
The provincial government has released the proposal to eradicate invasive smallmouth bass from the Miramichi watershed from further environmental assessment, a regulatory milestone as DFO works to conclude their review.

Hitchhiking with Bloodworms / Hakai Magazine
Invasive species are sneaking around the world, nestled in the seaweed used to ship bait worms. An easy solution exists, but the industry is resisting change.

The four fish I would still eat – even after watching Seaspiracy / The Guardian
Paul Greenberg, bestselling author of FOUR FISH, explains which four sea creatures he would still eat following his viewing of the documentary “Seaspiracy.”

Thousands of salmon fry released in B.C. river to restore populations devastated by Big Bar landslide / CBC News
The effort is part of an ongoing release of 101,000 chinook salmon fry that DFO says will avoid the early life stage mortality in the first year of a salmon’s life.

Hatchery conditions linked to lower steelhead trout survival / WSU Insider
Alterations in the epigenetic programming of hatchery-raised steelhead trout could account for their reduced fertility, abnormal health and lower survival rates compared to wild fish, says a new WSU study.

Blue herons identified as a top juvenile salmon predator / Marine Mammal Research Unit
It is more than just seals that are preying on the bounty of juvenile salmon exiting river mouths each spring. Up to 50 per cent of juvenile salmon deaths occur when the young fish pass through a gauntlet of predators and damaged habitats on their way to the ocean. Exactly how all of these fish die has been a cause for concern, but now a UBC study has identified a bird species that may be scooping up oversized portions of B.C. juveniles: Pacific great blue herons.

Higher Counts of Returning Atlantic Salmon Stir Hope / ASF
There appears to be an upward trend in returning numbers of Atlantic salmon, and spawning success. According to the Atlantic Salmon Federation, a recent population report showed returns of adult salmon from the ocean were up around 70 per cent in Labrador last year, 27 per cent in Quebec and 20 per cent in Maine.

New research shows fish farm disease agents impact wild salmon / Watershed Watch Salmon Society
New research by Dr. Emiliano Di Cicco links pathogens infesting factory fish farms with PRV disease found in B.C. wild salmon.

Sharks navigate using Earth’s magnetic field / EarthSky
Sea turtles, lobsters and some birds rely on Earth’s magnetic field to navigate to the beach of their birth or their winter getaway. This month, researchers reported the first evidence that sharks also have a magnetic sense, making it possible for them to map their surroundings and to maintain their heading while navigating long distances.

New clues to ancient life from billion-year-old lake fossils / EarthSky
Scientists have reported on the discovery of new microfossils in ancient Scottish lake sediments that could help fill in the gap between the earliest single-celled life and multicellular life. These scientists say their find could be the oldest example of complex multicellular life in the evolutionary lineage leading to animals. They say the fossils are also significant because they come – not from ocean sediments – but from sediments of an ancient freshwater lake.

Can fisheries benefit from biodiversity and conserve it too? / Simon Fraser University
New study reveals the trade-offs of fish biodiversity–its costs and benefits to mixed-stock fisheries–and points to a potential way to harness the benefits while avoiding costs to fishery performance.


Fish-friendly gold mines produce “salmon gold” / Hakai Magazine
With supporters like Apple and Tiffany, a new conservation financing effort has companies paying to help fund restoration of salmon habitat, one stream at a time.

A giant invisible problem for Fraser salmon and how to fix it / Chilliwack Progress
Most of the dikes, floodgates, and pumps protecting B.C.’s communities are aging, and many are too small to block the larger floods and higher tides caused by climate change. Major upgrades are needed. If we ensure these upgrades consider wild salmon, we can both protect our communities from flooding and welcome wild salmon back to their former habitats.

Dump of Salmon Farm Pesticide on BC Coast is Opposed by Tour Operators / ASF
In Clayquot Sound an effort to renew a license to dump byproduct from sea lice treatment is meeting strong resistance.

The Big Melt  / The Tyee
Using space-borne optical imagery, a four-fold increase in the rate of glacial melt in the last decade highlights a massive loss of glacial mass across much of Western North America. Yearly, the ice lost is more than all the water we use in Canada.

Free Shoreline Wilding Resources from Watersheds Canada
Watersheds Canada has a number of free resources specific to creating sustainable and water-friendly shorelines and fish habitat. Visit their website to access the Shoreline Habitat Creation Manual, Native Plant Care Guide, Wildflower Garden Guide, and Lake Links Planning Committee’s Lake Protection Workbook. Hard copies can be ordered and paid for by emailing


Potlotek First Nation seeks injunction against DFO over self-regulated fishery / CBC News
Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton is seeking a court injunction to prevent the DFO from interfering with its moderate livelihood fishery. A number of First Nations communities in the province, including Potlotek, launched their own self-regulated lobster fisheries last year to mark the 21st anniversary of the historic Supreme Court of Canada decision that affirmed Mi’kmaw rights to fish for a moderate livelihood. In March, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said Ottawa will not licence any treaty-based fishery in Atlantic Canada unless it operates within the commercial season.

Indigenous protected and conserved areas and guardians are truly essential services / Georgia Straight
“Protecting our homelands is essential for the survival of everyone, not just Indigenous peoples. But this does not have to come at the expense of jobs, or a healthy economy.”

A Whale of a Controversy / Sierra Club
In exchange for ceding thousands of acres of land to the US government in 1855, the Makah secured the right to continue hunting whales under the Treaty of Neah Bay located on the Olympic Peninsula. Though the tribe voluntarily stopped hunting in the 1920s, when the gray whale population dwindled dangerously due to overzealous commercial whaling, they’ve since rebounded to a healthy population, numbering around 26,000 today. The Makah has since received an exemption to the federal ban on whaling from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Opposition to the Makah’s whaling resumption comes from groups like Sea Shepherd and the Animal Welfare Institute that view whaling as inhumane and dangerous to the health of a fragile population.

Inside the hidden fight over Indigenous fishing for baby eels in Nova Scotia / CBC News
DFO had been closely monitoring, and in some cases prosecuting, the unauthorized sale of baby eels harvested by Mi’kmaq under Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) eel licences since 2017. The appearance of more than 110 Indigenous fishermen at the beginning of April 2020, up from 21 across the region in 2019, quickly forced a shutdown of the little known but lucrative fishery throughout the Maritimes.

Who is an expert in Indigenous history up for debate in Nipissing hunting and fishing trial / CBC News
A trial that could have far reaching implications for Indigenous people across Canada has resumed in North Bay this week. There are 54 people on trial in a virtual courtroom based in North Bay, charged with violating Ontario’s hunting and fishing laws, as well as the commercial fishing laws of Nipissing First Nation.

DFO told BC salmon farmers, but not First Nations, about mouth rot disease / The Narwhal
Documents released under access to information legislation show federal scientists raised the alarm about a bacteria that causes potentially deadly lesions in Atlantic salmon, saying migrating Fraser River salmon were at risk. “It’s like this perfect storm of pathogens emanating from these farms and impacting BC’s wild salmon.” says Watershed Watch’s Stan Proboszcz.


Johnny Morris Tribute to Leigh Perkins, Orvis Founder / Fishing Wire
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Leigh Perkins was a friend to anglers everywhere, he was one of our heroes,” says Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops. I thought the world of him for many reasons, but I especially admired his unwavering commitment to customers and conservation…

New B.A.S.S. Program Inspires And Educates Families On Outdoor Exploration / Bassmaster
The Go Out{side} program encourages a new audience of burgeoning outdoor enthusiasts who can turn to the authorities at B.A.S.S. for guidance on a variety of outdoor topics, including fishing, camping, hiking, cooking, travel, gear and conservation.


Boat Shipments Up 23 Percent Over February, 2020 / Fishing Wire
NMMA’s Monthly Shipment Report for the U.S. has been updated with February 2021 data, which shows wholesale shipments of new powerboats up 23% compared to the 2020 average, and up 9% compared to the 2019 average.

Stopping the spread of invasive species by regulating the movement of boats / FOCA
FOCA has written the MNRF to request the movement of boats between waterways be regulated. It’s suggesting that the MNRF accomplish this as part of proposed amendments to Ontario’s Invasive Species Act.

Special Feature – Tips for Taking Your Kids Fishing / Blue Fish Canada and the Iowa DNR

  1. Keep it simple with easy-to-use tackle. Just a nightcrawler and bobber is all you need to start. Think small, too – the fish you will likely encounter have mouths about the size of the tip of your finger, so use small hooks, small baits, a quarter-sized bobber and 2- to 4-pound test fishing line.
  2. Find jobs for each child. Let them feel like they are an important part of the trip and help keep them focused by giving them each a job, like carrying bait or measuring any fish you catch.
  3. Go early in the day when kids are most attentive. A fishing trip during a skipped naptime or the hottest part of the day is a recipe for disaster. Aim for a morning trip so kids are more focused and when temperatures are cooler — plus, fish tend to bite better in the early morning.
  4. Give your kids your full attention. Try to make this “their” trip – show them the basics and let them know you’re proud of how they’re doing. And, especially for small children, keep a constant eye, as it’s easy for a little one to fall in quickly; life jackets are always a good idea for shore fishing.
  5. Keep it short and have a Plan B. Start with just an hour or two and leave when they start to get fidgety – make sure they remember the positive, fun parts of the trip. Look for a pond where there’s nearby distractions like playground equipment. If the fishing is slow, there’s plenty of other things to do outdoors.
  6. Bring a camera to record memories! Even if they don’t get a fish that day, make sure to get shots of them casting and enjoying the special time spent with you. If they reel in their first fish ever, be sure to take a photo.
  7. Bring snacks and drinks. Nothing can turn a frown upside down quicker than a yummy nutritious snack. Bring plenty of water so no one goes thirsty. Minimise sugar intake so kids don’t lose focus due to a sugar high.
  8. Play Safe and prepare accordingly. Sun block, insect repellent, a small emergency kit with bandaids, properly fitting PFDs for everyone and sun hats will keep everyone safe and happy.
  9. Teach them about stewardship. Fish are fun but they are animals too. Teach kids to handle fish respectfully. Use barbless and / or circle hooks as much as possible. Use lead alternatives like tin for weights. Pack it in, pack it out, leave things better than you found them.
  10. For more species-specific sustainable fishing tips, visit the Blue Fish Canada Resource page and our extensive collection of top-ten downloadable quick tip guides.

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