Blue Fish News – October 2, 2023

What’s new at Blue Fish Canada: Blue Fish Canada volunteers and directors are putting in hundreds of volunteer hours to create our first Blue Fish Exploration Centre. The goal is to open the doors July 2024. In the meantime, there’s no shortage of fish and fishing news from across Canada, and this issue digs into the controversy surrounding salmon anglers on Lake Ontario’s tributaries. Turns out the problem is a lot more complex than sheer moral outrage.

Photo of 12-year old Lawrence Gunther with salmon caught in the Credit River in 1975

This Week’s Feature — Lake Ontario’s Wild Versus Hatchery Fishes

By L. Gunther

It’s been over 100 years since wild Atlantic salmon stopped migrating up Lake Ontario’s tributaries. Since then, a variety of non-native species have been introduced to the lake, all involving hatchery raised fishes. This hatchery approach took root in the 1960s when pacific salmon were introduced. More recently, attempts are being made to re-introduce Atlantic salmon – again through hatcheries. All this stocking raises the question, is Lake Ontario now hatchery dependent, or is our use of hatcheries the preferred choice now and forever?

Questioning the origin of Lake Ontario salmon is more than a theoretical discussion. As hatcheries grew in popularity their contribution to maintaining sustainable fisheries were seldom challenged. However, we now know that hatcheries can weaken and monopolize fish species, which may not be an issue when conditions are favorable, but when they’re not, the weaknesses associated with hatchery programs become evident. In short, hatchery fish are less flexible in their ability to reconfigure their physiology to adapt to changing conditions, whereas wild fishes generally possess a wide range of variables that reflect conditions of their preferred habitats. Biology aside, what does this all mean for the angler?

For decades now anglers on Lake Ontario and its tributaries have been told that the salmon and brown trout they are catching are hatchery raised. Hatchery or not, these fishes are fundamental to the $8 billion recreational fishery that takes place on the Great Lakes each year.

The formula is simple, grow the fish in a hatchery, release the fish in tributaries close to the river mouths, and then catch and harvest the fish once they have reached a suitable size. For almost ¾ of a century the daily catch limit for a Lake Ontario angler is five salmon, about as much fish as one adult angler can carry on their own. Basically, a put-and-take fishery.

What fishery managers didn’t expect is that these fishes have now largely become naturalized in ways that not only equip them for the challenges of the environment, but more importantly, make them successful spawners. The documented presents of spawning capable pacific salmon now dominating Lake Ontario’s salmon population resents an entirely new challenge to fishery regulators, such as what protections and habitat access rights to accord these fishes. Fishes that were once perceived as waste byproduct left over after a successful summer lake fishery wound down for the season, are now fishes with a legitimate right to acquire and utilize spawning beds beyond their reach due to dams and other obstacles.

Anglers too would also need to view spawning salmon differently if it were made public that these fishes are descendants of multiple generations of wild born fishes. For decades government policy has been to ignore what happens to salmon entering the tributaries of the lake, maybe not on paper, where they do possess certain protections, but in practical terms made apparent by the lack of enforcement of rules such as prohibitions on snagging, possession limits, failing to utilize caught and killed fish, and fishing in areas considered sanctuaries.

The public looks to blame anglers for their treatment of spawning salmon. Anglers feel misunderstood as their intention is to make the most of what would otherwise go to waste. The only time government steps in to address public cries of perceived fish abuse is when popular salmon viewing areas are left trashed by anglers who operate beyond the reach of the law with impunity.

Moral outrage expressed by more conscientious anglers towards others who choose to catch and harvest river salmon with no regard for the rules seems to have little effect. You have one group casting shame on the other for the way they behave, and the other pointing out the complete lack of signage and enforcement as evidence that they are breaking no laws. Or if they are, no one of any importance seems to care, so why should they?

Contrast the behavior of river anglers of salmon with that of steelhead anglers, and there’s no comparison. Steelhead anglers uniformly agree that steelhead are wild fish deserving of every consideration while on route to their spawning grounds. In fact, anglers often volunteer on mass to assist with transporting steelhead up and around barriers on the river. Garbage along the shore may still be an issue but point out any public space frequented by many hundreds if not thousands of pedestrians each day that is without any form of garbage collection and you would be facing the same issue.v

What’s needed is public recognition and education that salmon in Lake Ontario entering the rivers are, for the most part, wild fishes on their way to spawn successfully if not harvested on route. Such recognition could include a reduction in the catch / possession limit while in rivers, protection of salmon in key spawning areas, limits on the sort of tackle that can be used, and quotas that ensure sufficient salmon reach spawning habitat. Of course, such recognition would also need to be matched with resources to enforce the rules, and herein lies the problem.

There are some who believe that governments are slow to declare Lake Ontario salmon as wild fish is because it would also mean taking responsibility for ensuring the river systems required by salmon to successfully spawn are free of barriers, their banks naturalized and protected from development, the water is protected from diversion and contamination, and their watersheds safeguarded. Obviously, the costs associated with maintaining suitable spawning and rearing river and wetland habitat are far higher than operating hatcheries. Some even claim that the government pretense that salmon in Lake Ontario comes from hatcheries is willful misleading of the public.

Brian Morrison is a fish biologist with over 20 years of direct experience with Lake Ontario Salmon. It’s his belief that wild salmon in Lake Ontario are being intentionally counted as hatchery fish by regulators to artificially raise the number of fish coming out of the hatchery system. It’s also his view that hatchery fish are constantly weakening wild fish stocks by simply existing, and that salmon would be better off if the hatcheries stopped operating. Link to listen to my conversation with Brian Morrison on the Blue fish Radio Show:

In the early 1970’s at the age of ten I began fishing for salmon in the Credit River. First, below the Streetsville dam, prior to a fish ladder being installed and the area below the dam being designated as a fish sanctuary. Then later, right in my own hometown of Georgetown under the railroad trestle up-stream of the Norval dam and below the former papermill dam. The adults I fished alongside regulated themselves and each other. We watched each other for signs of snagging or over-harvesting. We took care not to harm the fish, even though we all believed that none of these fish would ever be able to successfully spawn because that’s what we were told. And yet, we treated the fish with respect despite almost no one with authority ever being encountered on the river. We all heard of conservation officers disguised as anglers, but in all the years I fished the Credit, only once did I witness a conservation officer on the river, and that was below the Streetsville dam prior to the sanctuary being established and the fish ladder installed.

Sadly, fish ladders have been allowed to become dysfunctional and the range open to salmon has shrunk. It’s obvious, the government is operating as if these salmon are of no value once they enter the river, so why spend money on providing suitable habitat or protections. No wonder so many anglers operate as if the fish are little more than swimming trash.

It’s time we ask government to accept pacific salmon in Lake Ontario as having the right to complete their life’s imperative of successfully spawning in rivers. Not only would this mean opening up more sections of Lake Ontario’s watersheds to salmon, but ensuring a sustainable and ethical level of fishing pressure. Such a move would clarify once and for all any confusion among anglers about the value and rights of these fishes.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Kayaker fishing in Canada hooks great white shark / Video Miami Herald
A “shocked” kayaker fishing for bass in Nova Scotia caught a much larger and deadlier animal, a video shows. Screengrab from Fishing with Rick’s YouTube video The sun sparkled over the bay in eastern Canada as Rick Austin trawled along in his motorized fishing kayak. Watching his fishing line, he had no idea he was about to experience the “biggest adrenaline rush” of his life. Austin had fished in Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin “many, many, many times but in a bigger boat,” he told McClatchy News. The excursion on Sunday, July 30, was his first time fishing from his kayak.

Chum and Chinook salmon runs disappoint / Whitehorse Star
All subsistence fishing for fall chum salmon on the Yukon River will be closed again this season in both Alaska and the Yukon.

Four people charged following controversy at northern Ont. fishing tournament / Northbay News
Four people are facing charges for violating Ontario Fishery Regulations in connection with a recent tournament on Lake Nipissing. The Top 50 Classic was held Sept. 2-3 and had a top prize of more than $10,000. Allegations surfaced that a few anglers trimmed the tails of northern pike they caught to give them an advantage in the competition. Tuesday, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry confirmed that the four have been charged with failing to keep fish in a manner that allows size to be easily measured, as set out under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007 (SOR/2007-237).

$125,000 worth of illegal tuna seized from Vancouver Island fishing boat / My Cowichan Valley Now
A B.C. company has received a hefty fine from Fisheries and Oceans Canada after one of their vessels was caught illegally fishing off the coast.

United States Leads Conservation Gains in Eastern Pacific Fisheries, Benefiting Sharks and Tuna / NOAA Fisheries
Sharks and North Pacific albacore tuna—some of the ocean’s top predators—won new protections from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). The actions marked conservation successes for the U.S. delegation, who helped negotiate their passage. “These were important collaborative successes because we had to help bring countries together to support the measures,” said Ryan Wulff, head of the U.S. delegation to the IATTC and Assistant Regional Administrator at NOAA Fisheries. “These measures reflect a united step forward for sustainable albacore fisheries and shark conservation.”

Activists urge reforms after Bering Sea trawlers hauled up 9 dead orcas this year / Alaska Public Media
According to NOAA Fisheries, a 10th whale was released alive, but the nine other orcas incidentally caught in trawl nets weren’t so lucky. “In 2023, our captains have reported an increase in the number of killer whales present near our vessels, where they appear to be feeding in front of the nets while fishing,” the statement reads in part. “This new behavior has not been previously documented and marine mammal scientists are not sure why this change has occurred.


A Hero’s Journey / Safina Center
“The female Chinook salmon you just saw was born in these very gravels,” says Ed. “She went 850 miles through eight dams and their slack water reservoirs to the Pacific Ocean, swam a 4,000-mile loop around the North Pacific three times, and found her way back to the mouth of the Columbia River. She then retraced her outbound route up an 850-mile avalanche of whitewater and those eight dams, gained 6,600 feet in elevation, and found her way back to her natal gravels to spawn. All to ensure there will be another generation of Middle Fork Salmon River Chinook.

50 years of research overwhelmingly shows hatcheries are harmful to trout, salmon, char and more / Hatch Magazine

DFO investigating after almost 100 dead eels found in N.S. lakes / CTV News
Marine biologist Christine Ward-Paige is on a mission to find out why dozens of dead American eels are now floating in several Dartmouth lakes.

The science is clear, fish hatcheries do more harm than good.

Behind the huge pink salmon return: scientist’s perspective / Squamish Chief
Richard Beamish, an emeritus scientist at the Pacific Biological Station, says it is too soon to say conclusively whether it will be a record year for pink salmon.

46 escaped aquaculture salmon found in New Brunswick river / Bangor Daily News
Since 2012, the Atlantic Salmon Federation has captured only 33 native Atlantic salmon but has handled 386 escaped aquaculture salmon.


Salmon return to revived McKenzie River Habitat / KMTR
Chinook salmon making their way back up the McKenzie River have found more places to lay their eggs thanks to years of work restoring floodplains throughout the watershed, according to the US Dept. of Agriculture.

Environmental DNA breakthrough detects genetic diversity of invasive fish /
Ecologists have demonstrated that the genetic material that species shed into their environments can reveal not only the presence of the species but also a broad range of information about the genetics of whole populations. The researchers demonstrated that their methodology was successful in field sampling of invasive round goby fish throughout the Great Lakes and the New York Finger Lakes.

How the Peach Blossom Jellyfish is spreading across North America / The Conversation
Invasive species are a real problem in Canada, and one species in particular, the freshwater jellyfish species of the genus Craspedacusta sowerbii — C. sowerbii, or the Peach Blossom Jellyfish — are as widespread as they are also poorly understood. Our research shows that this trend is not restricted to B.C., but is expected to happen in other provinces such as Alberta, Ontario and Québec too. Craspedacusta sowerbii irregularly occurs in the Great Lakes area on both sides of the Canada-United States border since the 1930s.

Thinking of turning your pet turtle loose in the great outdoors? Shell no, says DFO / CBC
There’s a new DFO campaign in town, urging people to not toss their aquatic pets into the St. John’s waterways.

In Newfoundland, giant squid inspire local legends – and questions about why they keep washing up there / Globe and Mail
On the beach, Mr. Roberts threw a cod-jigging line onto the animal and hauled it to shore. The men lifted the 90-kg cephalopod, slipping and sliding through their arms, into a wooden lobster box. Its long rubbery tentacles slinked out the top. They heaved the giant squid onto the back of Mr. Roberts’s pickup truck and drove to the brothers’ fishing stage. There, the men laid out the squid on the timberwood floor. From tip to tip it was four metres long. Derwin lifted the tentacles and saw it had a beak the size of a cue ball.

Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: Where We Are Now / Freshwater Future
The Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory, in collaboration with NOAA and the Ohio State University, hosted a one-day conference in early September to highlight the current scientific knowledge about harmful algal blooms, their causes, and best management practices (BMPs) to prevent them. Learn more from the day’s events.

Other Algae Blooms / FOCA
Lake of the Woods is by no means the only Ontario lake experiencing algae blooms this season! Over the past few months, Public Health units have issued blue-green algae advisories for lakes in the Simcoe Muskoka District, in Peterborough County, in Sudbury District, Thunder Bay and other regions. The Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations has a terrific explanation of what causes algae blooms, and what the difference is between “good” and “bad” algae.

Monitoring the “Bugs in the Mud” to gauge lake health
A number of lake groups have studied lake benthos (the “bugs in the mud”) as one way to monitor their lake. This approach is used because these organisms are sensitive to changes in their aquatic environment. Different species have different tolerance levels to pollution, so by assessing the presence and abundance of various macroinvertebrate species, researchers can gauge the level of pollution in the water. A diverse and healthy population of sensitive species indicates good water quality, while a dominance of pollution-tolerant species suggests poor water quality. The Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN) is offering a 3-day course at Fleming College Frost campus (Lindsay, Ontario) which will train you to properly identify aquatic macroinvertebrates, and the proper collection techniques to use in the field so that data can be used as an indicator of water and habitat quality.


Lake Babine’s fight to save salmon in hot water / Narwhal
The number of Skeena sockeye have been dropping steadily for the past century — wild stocks have plummeted, and the most successful stocks come from two hatcheries. The nation saw the lowest returns to Babine Lake tributaries this year that they have ever recorded. This year, the nation unilaterally called for the closure of the recreational fishery at Babine River — without support from the federal government.


Inside the Bluehouse: The Sustainable Secrets of Atlantic Sapphire / Oceanwise
Explore the union of sustainability and technology through the lens of the Bluehouse – invented by Atlantic Sapphire. With complete traceability from egg to plate, the Bluehouse is transforming sustainable salmon production with their 100% land-based approach.


Brunswick Corporation Named To Newsweek’s 2024 America’s Greenest Companies List / Newsweek
Brunswick Corporation, the world’s largest recreational marine technology company, announced the Company has been named to Newsweek’s inaugural list of America’s Greenest Companies.


E410 Lawrence and Scotty Martin on Canadian Fishing Network Live September 18, 2023 / Blue fish Radio
Scotty and Lawrence discuss a highly problematic news story concerning the actions of anglers fishing for Lake Ontario’s spawning salmon, but not before the two cover a range of fish and fishing stories from across Canada. Everything from the impact of heat and drought in western Canada on deep water marine life and spawning salmon, to the most humane way to harvest fish, which also turns out to ensure your fish taste best. The latest assault on smallmouth bass in Atlantic Canada is covered, as is Lake of the Woods, and the latest news on electric outboards from Mercury Marine.

E411 Lawrence and Scotty Martin on Canadian Fishing Network Live / Blue Fish Radio
Lawrence and Scotty discuss a recent case of anglers cheating by trimming the tails of Northern Pike. The two then debate what exactly constitutes a kayak with respect two kayak fishing tournaments. Scotty brings up forward facing sonar and whether kayak tournament anglers should be prevented from using the technology, and Lawrence talks about the 120-year-old fish camp that is a neighbor to the Blue Fish Exploration Centre, and how their local knowledge will factor into the fish research and youth training experience on offer at the Centre.

E412 Brian Morrison on Lake Ontario Wild and Hatchery Salmon / Blue Fish Radio
Brian Morrison has over 20 years of direct experience researching and providing advice on the state of Lake Ontario’s salmon stocks. His knowledge of the different historic and present fishes in the lake is impressive, which is why Brian is our guest on The Blue fish Radio show. Brian speaks with host Lawrence Gunther about wild and hatchery fishes in Lake Ontario, how science and policy have fallen out of step, and what it means for the angling community.


Grass Carp / DFO
What happens when a Grass carp is found in Canadian waters? (NOTE: the most recent captures were in July and August this year.) A Response Plan is implemented by Fisheries & Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry and their partners. Learn more in this short video about what happens after a capture, and why the fish is tested for fertility.

Coming Up:

Northern Ontario Tourism Summit / Discover Northern Ontario
Building on 80+ years of successful fall conferences for the outfitting sector, the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit was developed as a partnership event between Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) and Destination Northern Ontario (DNO) to bring together tourism businesses, organizations and suppliers as well as all levels of government at a single event to find solutions to challenges facing the industry. This year’s Summit will take place in Sault Ste. Marie on November 14-16 2023.

Chowder Chowdown is Finally Back! / Oceanwise
Are you ready to eat, drink and cast your vote – all in the name of ocean conservation! We’re excited to announce the return of our favorite sustainable seafood celebration – the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown. Coming to Vancouver and Toronto this October, tickets for both events are now available. Spend an evening sampling delicious chowders made by top Canadian chefs with the finest Ocean Wise Recommended seafood. And once you’ve tasted it all –help us decide the winner! Each sustainable chowder comes with the perfect complimentary craft beer to complete the foodie experience.

Lake Links 2023 / Watersheds Canada
Saturday, October 21, 2023 – the annual meeting of lake associations will take place in eastern Ontario at Lake Links. Join us in Perth for this year’s program: “Hooked on Habitat: Sustainable Fisheries for the Future.”

Special Guest Feature Global river water quality under climate change and hydroclimatic extremes / Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

The following five key points describe global river water quality changes brought about by climate change and hydroclimatic extremes:

  1. River water quality is deteriorating under droughts and heatwaves, although improvements and mixed responses are also reported.
  2. Droughts and heatwaves result in lower dissolved oxygen and increased river temperature, algae, salinity and concentrations of pollutants (such as pharmaceuticals) from point sources owing to lower dilution.
  3. Rainstorms and floods generally increase the mobilization of plastics, suspended solids, absorbed metals, nutrients and other pollutants from agricultural and urban runoff
  4. Multidecadal climate change is causing water temperatures and algae to increase, partly causing a general decrease in dissolved oxygen concentrations. Nutrient and pharmaceutical concentrations are mostly increasing under climate change, whereas biochemical oxygen demand, salinity, suspended sediment, metals and microorganisms show a mixture of increasing and decreasing trends
  5. The main driving mechanisms for multidecadal water quality changes in response to climate change include hydrological alterations, rises in water and soil temperatures and interactions of hydroclimatic drivers with land use.

These impacts are compounded with other human-induced drivers.

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