Blue Fish News – October 23, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: In between our weekly treks to the Blue Fish Exploration Centre as volunteers work hard to prepare the property for our launch in 2024, we found time to take part in the Lake Links conference. After several years of going virtual, this year’s annual meeting is back to in-person. The theme was “Hooked on Habitat: Sustainable Fisheries for the Future.” Well attended along with many terrific presentations, I left feeling optimistic about the growing movement to associate water quality with fish health as made obvious by Watershed Canada’s chosen theme for this years event. It recognizes that most people who choose to spend time by the water’s edge, or to purchase waterfront property, have an interest in fishing and the health and sustainability of their lake or river’s fish health. It all starts along shores where aquatic life and much of the food chain gets its start. The conference also fits well with the editorial in this issue of the Blue Fish News.

Photo of Lawrence Gunther fishing aboard his Ranger fishing boat along the shore of a Canadian shield lake

This Week’s Feature — Water Quality and Fish Health

By L. Gunther

Most would assume that water quality and fish health are intrinsically linked. As someone who has fished for decades it’s my experience that this is the case. So, why do many rank water quality as a far greater priority? Certainly, boil water advisories on over 50 First Nations Reserves is unacceptable, especially as over 40 million people receive their drinking water from the Great Lakes. But is our focus on implementing technology designed to ensure people have access to an unlimited supply of safe drinking water enough?

Canada possesses 20% of the earth’s renewable surface freshwater and 7% of its water flow. It’s evident to most that water quantity is not something Canadians need fear. At the same time, the public has been convinced that as long as we can make safe the water we drink, the state of the water itself and the animals that live there-in is less of an issue.

The importance of having access to clean and safe water was brought home for many with epic fails such as the Love Canal Tragedy, and then in 2000 when the municipal drinking water in Walkerton Ontario was contaminated with E. coli leaving seven dead and over 2,000 seriously ill.

Public response is mixed, ranging from buying into the water bottle craze, to the creation of numerous governmental committees and commissions, to support for activist organizations focused on identifying and resolving all manner of threats to water quality. Initiatives such as addressing the ability to safely swim, to minimize Bluegreen algae, to stop forever chemicals or invasive species from being introduced, and raising concern over microplastics, salinization, endocrine disruption, shoreline wetlands, etc.

In 2017, with the support of the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s Healthy Great Lakes Initiative, a water quality advocacy gap analysis was undertaken that led to support being expanded to include under-represented issues such as fish health. This included support for the creation of the Great Lakes Fish Health Network, something I’m proud to have led in its formation, and chair to this day.

While some advocate for extending rights to rivers to exist free from harm, others have focused their efforts on creating programs that provide ways for the public to take positive steps to improve water quality. One of these initiatives, born in 2015, is Water Rangers.

Water Rangers came about when founder Kat Kavanagh won the Aqua-hacking competition and used the prize money to launch an app designed to capture and report water quality data across Canada. The app recognizes that understanding water quality means gathering baseline data and then measuring against this data to identify issues before they become problems. Water Rangers now inform and inspire thousands across the country to engage in citizen science by utilizing their testing methodology and equipment, and to report findings to an open-source database. Link below to listen to a new episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show featuring Kat Kavanagh speaking about the work of Water Rangers and what’s coming up:

To my delight, Water Rangers now includes fish health as an indicator in their water quality testing methodology — a significant milestone in water quality activism. It’s not the first conservation NGO that Blue Fish Canada has influenced, collaborated with and formed long term partnerships with, while staying true to our original mandate of informing and inspiring youth and others interested in fishing to include sustainable one-health connections with nature while expanding their stewardship responsibilities. These organizations understand that Blue Fish Canada supports sustainable recreational and subsistence fishing, despite what some may think about non-indigenous people recreating and foraging in this way, and yet, they still choose to accept our offer and guidance. They acknowledge that recreational fishing is essential to expanding their reach by including the over six-million Canadians who fish, have fished, and who plan to fish again. More than that, they have chosen to expand their definition of clean water to include fish health as a crucial variable.

Improving water quality in ways that lead to strengthening and maintaining fish health is not something that can be accomplished by one organization alone. Finding ways to collaborate or inspire other organizations to recognize and prioritize fish health is a big part of what Blue Fish Canada does. We most certainly can’t take all the credit, but for over ten years now we have been working hard to fill and close the void that separates environmental NGOs from stakeholders representing recreational fishing.

Blue Fish Canada will continue to inform and inspire local champions, First Nations Leaders, scientists, conservationists, the fishing and boating industries, angling organizations, and others to include sound water stewardship policies and actions. It’s what we do as made evident in our name – “Blue”. It takes safe, stable and supportive water quality to ensure fresh and saltwater fishes can live in environments that allow fishes to achieve strong physical health, successful reproduction, and to live free from inordinate stress. And, so that people of all backgrounds can maintain their connection with nature through the selective and sustainable harvest of fishes.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Petition seeks to ban salmon fishing in Ganraska River in Port Hope, Ont. – Peterborough /
More than 12,000 signatures have been added to an online petition this month seeking more stringent regulations for fishing in the Ganaraska River, which runs through the heart of Port Hope, Ont. Launched on Oct. 3 by Sean Carthew, the online petition calls for a shutdown of fishing from the Corbett’s Dam to the Robertson Street Bridge (also known as the CN bridge). The section is a popular spot for anglers and tourists during the annual salmon run as thousands of fish swim upstream from Lake Ontario.

Fishing Is Good for Men’s Mental Health, British Study Finds / Men’s Journal
The results found that those who took part in angling more regularly were almost 17 percent less likely to report being diagnosed with mental health conditions compared to those who take part in the hobby less regularly. And those who fished more frequently saw an even greater positive impact on their mental health.

Salmon at stake in new sport fishery fight / National Observer
A program created to sustain B.C.’s $8.3-billion sport fishing industry amid widespread fishing closures is under fire from environmentalists and some First Nations concerned it is harming threatened wild chinook salmon. Unlike previous rules that let anglers keep whatever fish they caught during an opening, the so-called “mark-selective fishery” program only lets them keep hatchery-raised chinook. Wild fish must be released so they can spawn, passing on their ecologically important genetic diversity and sustaining future runs.

Record coho salmon caught in Lake Superior / Star Tribune
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources certified a state record in the capture of a 10-pound, 14-ounce coho salmon from Lake Superior in St. Louis County. The 29-inch fish breaks the state record set in 1970, and was weighed at a grocery store in Duluth.

The Legal Fishery Sparking Arrests and Violence / Hakai
Canada has spent nearly 25 years ignoring its own Supreme Court—and Indigenous fishers on the East Coast are suffering the consequences. Ultimately, DFO appears determined to continue to manage fishing with commercial licenses. In a statement, the department said: “Conservation is our highest priority and we are working with First Nations to advance their Supreme Court–affirmed treaty right to fish.” The statement continued that the “willing buyer–willing seller [approach] creates predictability in the fishery and allows all harvesters to adequately plan and prepare for fishing seasons, and ensures conservation by not increasing fishing effort.”

B.A.S.S. Creates Committee And Institutes Technology Reviews For 2024 Elite Series Season / FishingWire
B.A.S.S. officials announced that, while they will continue allowing the use of forward-facing and live sonar during the 2024 Elite Series season, the organization is creating a committee of representatives from across the company to continuously monitor the use of live sonar, listen to angler feedback and gauge the technology’s impact on competition, fan experience and bass populations. As part of the monitoring, the committee will review data gathered internally to evaluate live sonar’s impact throughout the coming season.

Alberta’s aeration systems are currently operational in numerous lakes across Alberta / ACA
The Alberta Conservation Authority aerates 22 stocked Alberta lakes throughout the province to provide angling opportunities that wouldn’t naturally exist. These magnificent pieces of equipment help maintain oxygen levels for stocked trout to survive year-round. Aerators alter ice conditions, creating turbulent open water and unstable thin ice conditions. It’s best to follow posted signage and respect safety fencing near winter aerators from mid-October through April.


The incredible tale of the Ottawa River muskie that travelled more than 110 kilometres / Outdoor Canada
Ottawa River Muskie guide Lisa Goodier said she could tell immediately from the stout fight the fish was putting up, that it was a good-sized muskie. So she was thrilled to slide the net under a personal best fish for her guest, measuring 51 inches in length and 22 inches around the girth. But then she noticed something unusual: A floy tag sticking out of the fish. It turns out the muskie—a female—had been originally tagged by the Quebec fisheries folks, which isn’t surprising given the Ottawa River is the boundary between Ontario and Quebec. What was a source of amazement, however, was the fact the fish was originally caught in 2011, in the Lake of Two Mountains, which is the delta where the Ottawa River spills into the St. Lawrence River, not far from Montreal.

Fish health and water quality / Water Rangers
Understanding fish health is complex! Assessing water quality is an easy and effective way to indirectly determine the health and well being of fish species. However, water quality testing alone isn’t a measure of fish health. Blue Fish Canada is helping to bring together experts and Indigenous knowledge to develop an understanding of impacts affecting fish. Anglers play a key role in gathering data and making important observations.

Opinions differ on how to rejuvenate B.C.’s beleaguered salmon / Outdoor Canada
B.C.’s Phillips River is one of the few places where a hatchery has actually helped recover a Pacific salmon population. Returns of chinook increased from less than 500 fish in the early 2000s to consistent runs of 2,000-plus over the past decade, prompting the Gillard Pass Fisheries Association to end its hatchery program on the river in 2019. The very fact the runs have returned and the hatchery is no longer needed represents hope for salmon recovery on the B.C. coast. To mimic this success, however, a fundamental shift is needed in how most of the province’s hatcheries now operate.

A Major Rebuilding Milestone: 50th Fish Stock Rebuilt / NOAA
Snohomish coho salmon was declared overfished in 2018 and has now been rebuilt to a sustainable level, making it the 50th rebuilt fish stock under the U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Act.

B.C. volunteers race to rescue stranded salmon in Fraser Canyon by hand / Global News
Xwísten (Bridge River Indian Band) Chief Ina Williams could not thank the group of volunteers enough for their hard work.

Anglers and river guardians help Kootenay fish cross rivers / National Observer
When angler Shane Westle finds a pile of river fish stranded on land, he sparks an effort to help fish travel between the Kootenay River and one of its tributaries.

A vital linchpin: celebrating the life cycle of Vancouver Island salmon / Comox Valley Record
A female salmon can lay up to 5,000 eggs, but only two may reach maturity and successfully reproduce.

Amid Western Alaska salmon crisis, data-driven strategies could reduce Chinook bycatch / Alaska Public Media
Each year, thousands of Chinook that would otherwise make their way to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers are intercepted at sea as bycatch.

A tale of two coasts: How Canada’s approach to salmon farming differs from east to west / National Observer
In Atlantic Canada, the fish farm industry is on the precipice of a boom. Nova Scotia could see a four-fold increase in open-net pen salmon farming, and significant expansion is planned along the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s the opposite story on the other side of the country, where fish farms in British Columbia have been shutting down following decades of opposition from many First Nations, scientists and other opponents who point to research showing the farms exacerbate the spread of sea lice and pathogens that contribute to plummeting wild Pacific salmon stocks.

Genetic Breakthrough Announced in Breeding Trophy Bass / Fish Insider
Red Hills Fishery LLC, and the Center for Aquaculture Technologies recently announced a significant discovery — the identification of multiple, naturally occurring genetic indicators that predict the growth of Florida-strain largemouth bass to trophy size. Through this joint effort, Red Hills Fishery has unlocked the potential of these innate genetic markers, paving the way for the breeding of a groundbreaking line of Titan Maxx fingerlings. These fingerlings are bred from parent fish carrying a significant number of the newly discovered trophy DNA markers, ensuring the passage of these markers to their offspring.

All hail Grazer, the winner of Fat Bear Week 2023 / Popular Science
This year’s voting was packed with twists and turns. Four-time Fat Bear Week Champion 480 Otis was ousted on Friday October 6. Otis is the oldest and among the park’s most famous bears. This year, he arrived at Brooks River very skinny, but transformed into a thick bear. Otis was beaten by bear 901, a new mom and the 2022 runner up.


Lake Partner Program / FOCA
For over 25 years the Federation of Ontario Cottage Association has over 600 members for their Lake Partner Program. Volunteers  take water samples once in May if they are on the Canadian Shield, or monthly from May to October for lakes that are off the shield. Scientific analysis of the samples is conducted at the Inland Waters Section of the Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP lab). Samples are tested for total phosphorus, calcium, chloride, and water clarity. Data is released to the volunteers, the public, researchers and other scientists.

N.B. group drops attempt to eradicate invasive fish / CTV
A group that used a pesticide to rid New Brunswick’s Miramichi watershed of invasive smallmouth bass has stopped the program after years of controversy over the strategy. The group, composed of Indigenous and non-governmental organizations, said Friday it would abandon the rotenone program after its members were unable to convince the provincial government to take the lead on the project to eradicate the non-native species. As well, a number of smallmouth bass were caught outside the treatment area this summer, suggesting the fish have spread beyond the program’s target zone, said Neville Crabbe, spokesman for the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Working Group on Smallmouth Bass Eradication.

Royal Ontario Museum Visits OFAH’s Heritage Centre to Deliver Invasive Fishes ID Workshop / ISC
The Royal Ontario Museum recently held an an invasive fishes ID workshop. This included detailed information and training to properly identify invasive fish species from common native lookalikes. Check out some of the fish profiles on the Invasive Species Centre website to learn how to ID invasive fish species.

Ontario’s greenhouse sector is exploding. So is algae in Lake Erie / Narwhal
Experts say nutrient-rich water from greenhouse farms could be harming Lake Erie, but Ontario’s Environment Ministry has issued very few fines for potential algae-causing infractions since 2019

What we know about the 2023 El Niño and its effect on weather / Vox
El Niño, the warm phase of the Pacific Ocean’s temperature cycle, has already pushed temperatures around the world to levels never recorded before. Humanity this year experienced the hottest July, the hottest August, and the hottest September ever measured across the planet. The temperatures didn’t just inch past the prior records; they blew right through them. September’s heat beat the previous high by nearly a whole degree Fahrenheit. This autumn, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasted that a “strong” El Niño would persist in the northern hemisphere through March 2024, sending shock waves into weather patterns.

Invasive, mutant version of crayfish discovered in Burlington waters / Toronto Sun
An invasive species of self-replicating crayfish — believed to have been created in captivity — has been found in Ontario waters. The prohibited marbled crayfish, also known as marmokrebs, was discovered for the first time in the wild in Canada earlier this year in a Burlington-area pond, according to an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry statement released Aug. 4. This version of crayfish is a mutant with the ability to reproduce quickly and is capable of cloning itself, which means only one could be responsible for starting a new population. One marbled crayfish has the ability to produce hundreds of offspring every time they reproduce, “without the need for sperm or a fertilized egg,” according to the MNRF.

Sponging Up Plastic Pollution / Hakai
Scientists have developed synthetic sponges capable of extracting microplastics and nanoplastics from contaminated water.

Municipalities looking to build ‘sponge cities’ for extreme rain events / Global News
“Sponge parks” in Montreal are designed to catch and absorb rainwater and keep it from flowing into overburdened sewers during extreme rain events.

Interim Code of Practice for Repair, maintenance and construction of docks / DFO
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has posted the interim Code of Practice for Repair, maintenance and construction of docks, moorings and boathouses on Talk Fish Habitat, and it is now open for comment. An analysis and review of feedback received will be required before this interim Code of Practice, and the interim Standard and Codes of Practice released August 10, 2023, are published as final. Accordingly, comments and feedback are welcome until November 30, 2023.

The Myth of Water Abundance in Ontario / Water Canada Magazine
A new study out of the University of Waterloo challenges the myth of water abundance in the Great Lakes watershed. In their review, they found high or moderate water risks in at least half of 38 sub-watersheds. The study revealed that issues like seasonal low flows, groundwater stress and degrading water quality are prevalent, but risks also take the form of regulatory uncertainty, access issues, and conflicts amidst competing water-using groups.

‘Unprecedented’ marine heat wave hits Canada’s East Coast this summer / CBC
The Atlantic Ocean off Canada’s East Coast experienced an “unprecedented” marine heat wave this summer. Surface temperatures reached record highs across the region — including a huge weeklong spike off Newfoundland that averaged 6.7 degrees above normal.

Cost of Canada’s new flagship ocean science vessel jumps to $1.28B / CBC
The budget for Canada’s new flagship ocean research ship increased 28 per cent this year jumping from $995 million to $1.28 billion. Construction of the offshore oceanographic science vessel is underway at the Seaspan Shipyards in North Vancouver, B.C., as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

War of the whales / West Coast Now
A group of giant humpbacks faced off against a pod of orcas in an epic clash recently in Georgia Strait. As required by law, the tour boat shut off its engines when the whales were spotted and stayed away from them, said Milia. But the fighting whales “got really, really close to the boat, which is also really rare.”


What will it take to make traditional foods thrive again? / Narwhal
Skeena River sockeye have declined 75% since 1913. Woodland caribou have declined by more than half in the past century. But with the right resources, First Nations are bringing ancestral foods back from the brink. The ongoing impacts of colonization are colliding with the dangers of climate change, as communities grapple with floods and wildfires destroying or cutting off access to food while biodiversity continues to plummet. Facing increasingly urgent crises, Indigenous communities and scientists are looking to historic and modern technologies to ramp up local food production and restore access to traditional foods.

For generations, killer whales and First Nations People hunted whales together / The Conversation
For generations, the Thaua people worked with killer whales to hunt large whales in the water of Twofold Bay, on the southern coast of New South Wales. Killer whales would herd their giant prey into shallower waters where hunters could spear them. Humans would get the meat, but the killer whales wanted a delicacy – the tongue. Europeans then began capitalising on this longstanding partnership.


Costa Sunglasses Pioneers First Recorded Billfish Research Tagging Mission Completed On Fly / FishingWire
Focused on conservation and driven by its community-based ethos, Costa Sunglasses is announcing the Marlin Fly Project, the first recorded billfish research mission solely using fly tackle. In partnership with the locals of San Carlos, Mexico, The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the Marlin Fly Project team successfully deployed 15 satellite tags in two days to better understand and protect this understudied billfish species. For more about the IGFA Great Marlin Race, read the Blue Fish News Guest Feature below…


Coastal Job: Hovercraft Operator / Hakai
Ian Cragg pilots and navigates hovercraft as a first officer for the Canadian Coast Guard out of the hovercraft base near Vancouver, British Columbia, answering search-and-rescue calls across the province. A lot of people get in trouble in areas that can’t be accessed by conventional means. British Columbia’s geography is unique: a lot of mudflats, a lot of beaches. We recently did a call approximately 70 kilometers away in under an hour; it would have been impossible to get emergency equipment there so quickly with a normal boat, which would top out at about 28 kilometers per hour.

Mussel scare prompts Okanagan Water Board to call for out-of-province boat ban / Vernon Morning Star
The Okanagan Basin Water Board wants to temporarily ban out-of-province boats following the recent discovery of invasive quagga mussel larvae in an Idaho river in the U.S.


Kat Kavanagh is the founder and Executive Director of Water Rangers, a Canadian NGO focussed on equipping and inspiring youth and others to test, document and share data on the state of Canada’s rivers and lakes. For the past year Kat and Blue fish Radio president Lawrence Gunther have been planning and implementing a collaboration to integrate quantitative fish health data into the Water Ranger program, and after a successful summer of trialing Water Ranger’s methodology and equipment with young fishing enthusiasts by Blue Fish Canada, the results are in. Listen to Kat Kavanagh in conversation with Lawrence Gunther on The Blue Fish Radio show:


Inland lakes monitoring in Ontario / MNRF
Results of this long-term monitoring program supply province-wide information on the state of Ontario’s inland aquatic ecosystems and fish species to inform policy development and resource management decisions. For each lake surveyed, staff collect detailed information about fish species and fish communities, physical and chemical water characteristics, aquatic invasive species, and fishing effort. The webinar explores how Ontario’s MNRF monitors the current and changing state of fisheries across Ontario’s inland lakes.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation to launch new series of instructional fishing workshops / Outdoor Canada
To help newcomers to Canada learn the fundamentals of fishing and conservation, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation is planning to launch a new series of instructional workshops and online presentations.

Special Guest Feature — Annual IGFA Great Marlin Race Crowns Remarkable Journey in Billfish Conservation

Each year, the International Game Fish Association Great Marlin Race is an unprecedented billfish research and conservation initiative that allows recreational anglers, armed with cutting-edge satellite tag technology, to become citizen scientists and deploy tags on the billfish they catch. A collaboration between the IGFA and the lab of Dr. Barbara Block at Stanford University, the tags transmit invaluable information to researchers who analyze and disseminate the data. Since the launch of the tagging program in 2011, nearly 600 satellite tags have been deployed on billfish around the world, making it the largest program of its kind.

This year, a total of 59 satellite tags were deployed across five billfish species during 23 global tagging events. The victorious tag was deployed by the crew of Waste Knot. Demonstrating an extraordinary journey, the tagged blue marlin, traveled an impressive straight-line distance of 4,149 nautical miles (nm) from the US East Coast to the coast of Brazil.

The incredible journey recorded by the tagged blue marlin ranks as the 5th longest in the program’s history and the 3rd longest for a blue marlin. More importantly, the remarkable distances travelled by the fish being studied are not just numbers but represent the critical data contributing to the understanding of billfish behavior, life history, and migratory patterns, integral to their conservation and the health of the ocean.

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