Blue Fish News – October 25, 2020
In this October 25, 2020 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we begin with a focus on Saskatchewan and the University of Regina’s Somers Lab and their ground-breaking fish tracking research, and how such research could prove instrumental in advancing uranium mine reclamation along the shore of Lake Athabasca. As always, we include a specially curated list of summaries and Links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news, and close with a spotlight guest resource selected to inform and inspire our readers.
Saskatchewan Fish Tracking Research, Lake Athabasca, and Uranium Mines
The Saskatchewan Sportfish Research Facebook group is attracting significant attention with over 4,000 followers. Reviewing their posts got me thinking that I really need to find out who’s behind the group and invite them on Blue Fish Radio.
Dr. Chris Somers is the scientist / angler behind both the Saskatchewan Sportfish Research Group, and the Somers Lab at the University of Regina. His research team are advancing our understanding of how fish move throughout their ecosystems, including what fish do after we let them go. Dr. Somers tags and tracks Walleye, Northern Pike, Burbot and Common Carp year-round, including through the ice with surprising results. Understanding why fish travel such incredible distances, whether to pursue prey, to spawn, to flee a stress-causing experience, or to patrol their territory, is the next step.
Click on the link to learn more about Dr. Somers fish research and his love of Saskatchewan on Blue Fish Radio: https://bluefishradio.com/saskatchewan-sportfish-research-group-and-dr-chris-somers/
It wasn’t until well into my interview with Dr. Somers that memories stirred of my own experience on Lake Athabasca in the northern part of Saskatchewan. I had travelled to the Lake via float plane out of Fort McMurray Alberta some eight years before for a film project. Lake Athabasca is Canada’s 9th largest lake and stretches across the tops of both Alberta and Saskatchewan ,crossing into the North West Territories. My interview with Dr. Chris Somers got me thinking about his expertise and what we documented on Lake Athabasca.
Including Lake Athabasca as one of ten segments in my documentary “What Lies Below” had to do with the regions numerous abandoned uranium mines. Concern over environmental contamination was brought to my attention during a conversation with an outfitter who had established their operations on lake Athabasca. Directly across the lake from their camp was the large, abandoned Gunnar uranium mine site – one of over 80 in the region that the Saskatchewan government had identified as requiring decommissioning. Not only do abandoned uranium mines pose as extremely long-lasting ecological hazards to the environment, but prime targets for people looking to salvage everything from reclaimed building materials, to crushed tailings for use as gravel.
Boaters approaching the area are warned away with signage and a warning to anglers to stay out of the bay. According to the mayor of Uranium City, a ghost town that once boomed with over 5,000 residence, these signs may need to stay up for the next 250,000 years. One of the obvious problems is that fish don’t read signs, but they do move around.
It was during one of many film festivals featuring my documentary “What Lies Below” that I met Terry Bachmeier. Terry grew up in Uranium City and told me about his father moving their family to the area, including the family car, and what work as a hard rock uranium miner meant in terms of both health and prosperity. Terry was a guest on Blue Fish Radio not long after, and then One of Terry’s daughters, who works as a writer for HuffPost Canada, wrote an article that revolved around her father’s return to the area to visit the grave site of his infant brother.
All this to say, I don’t think this story is over. Even though the Saskatchewan government is cleaning up the abandoned uranium mine sites, the issue of what to do with the slag piles and tailings ponds remains. Just how much of this radioactive contamination is getting into the watershed and fish? How many fish are being impacted and to what extent? How far are these fish travelling beyond the immediate areas of the mines with their radioactive contaminated bodies before expiring, leaving behind micro-radioactive waste piles of their own?
Link to the Blue Fish radio interview with Terry Bachmeier here: https://bluefishradio.com/reflections-growing-north-shore-lake-athabasca/
Link to the HuffPost Canada article here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-dirty-secrets-are-hidden-below-the-surface_b_58e3976fe4b02ef7e0e6e09c
Link to a teaser for the documentary What Lies Below (Stay tuned for a web streaming link to the documentary itself now that our exclusive broadcast license with CBC Documentary Channel has concluded): http://whatliesbelow.ca/
***Fifty years ago, the organization Greenpeace was launched with a concert in Vancouver, featuring performances by Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs and James Taylor. The goal was to raise money to send activists to protest at a nuclear test site on an Alaskan island. Ironic…
The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News
27th Annual River Symposium – St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Science
A two-day, free, online event will take place October 28th and 29th. Highlights include Lawrence Gunther’s presentation on Fishing Apps and Technology for Fishermen October 28th Day, and Dr. Steven Cooke on Perspectives on the Influence of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Freshwater Fish Biodiversity and Management on October 29th Science Day.
Reel in hand, women are rocking the boat in the male-dominated world of fishing – Roadtrippers Magazine
Roadtrippers the fastest-growing demographic in fishing, more and more women are sinking stereotypes in the male-dominated sports of competitive and recreational fishing.
Catfish NOW: Changing Strategies for Changing Seasons – CatfishNOW
The late summer/early autumn transition period is a golden season for catfishing fans. Summer’s crowds vanish. Lakes, ponds, and rivers shimmer beneath canopies of vermillion and amber leaves. Summer-fattened catfish are in prime condition
Sebastian precured Wins National Walleye Tour on Lake Huron – NPAA
Jason Precured, of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, weighed a combined total of 73.25 pounds to win the National Walleye Tour Presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Championship at Huron, Ohio, on October 17. The two-day championship paid out more than $289,000 in total winnings.
‘We will lose first-timers unless we stay connected with them’ – Angling International
“The demand for fishing information is through the roof. Tackle store shelves are empty, boating and fishing manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand, and fishing license sales are up too as fishing has become an escape from all that’s going on in the world right now,” said Frank Peterson, President and CEO of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.
Bob Allen Books Announces the Release of Monica the Muskie – NPAA
Monica the Muskie shares the fun and excitement of fishing with family and friends. Monica the Muskie shares suggestions for getting the elusive” fish of ten thousand casts” into the boat and captures the rewarding feeling dedicated Muskie fishermen know well. This is Bob’s 4th family fishing book.
Record Lake Champlain Lake Trout a Testament to Successful Sea Lamprey Control – The Fishing Wire
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department recently certified a record fish entry for a 19.36-pound lake trout caught in Lake Champlain in August. Department officials say this demonstrates the positive impact long-term sea lamprey control efforts are having on the lake’s quality fishing opportunities.
Great News for Lake Erie Walleye, Perch Anglers – The Fishing Wire
The 2020 August walleye hatch index was 48 per hectare, a standard measure of catch per area. This is the eighth-highest value on record for the western basin and well above the rapidly increasing prior 20-year index average of 32 per hectare. “This year’s hatch combined with the exceptional 2015, 2018, and 2019 year-classes ensures an abundance of young walleye will complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population, which is projected to hit a historic high in 2021.
DFO Scientist says Ottawa too beholden to aquaculture industry – ASF
Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, head of DFO’s molecular genetics laboratory at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, has worked for Fisheries and Oceans for more than 25 years. She is troubled about recent assessments by the department that concluded the risk of pathogens transferring from salmon fish farms to wild stocks in B.C.’s Discovery Islands pose a minimal risk.
New Film Explores National Scope of Asian Carp Threat – NPAA
A new film explores the national scope of the problems caused by invasive Asian carp. The film focuses on the impact Asian carp have on the values and economies they threaten in the Great Lakes. “Against the Current”, released by the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, features diverse viewpoints representing scientific, tribal, business, tourism, fishing, outdoor recreation, and conservation communities.
Nova Scotia Moves Quickly to Rid St. Mary’s of Smallmouth – ASF
The Nova Scotia government has taken a leadership role in eradicating illegally introduced invasive smallmouth bass from the St. Mary’s watershed.
Climate Change and St. John River Atlantic Salmon – ASF
Warm water and low river levels are a serious threat to Atlantic salmon says a biologist. He provides information on this year’s return of salmon as well.
What Would a British Columbia Seal and Sea Lion Cull Actually Entail? – Hakai Magazine
At least 100,000 harbor seals are thought to occupy the coves and nearshore waters along British Columbia’s coast. Now proponents are calling for the deaths of at least 75,000 seals and sea lions in the first year.
Captive-bred salmon in wild may do more harm than good – ASF
Releasing captive-bred Atlantic salmon into the ocean, a long-standing practice to boost stocks for commercial fishing, reduces the rate at which wild populations reproduce and may ultimately do more harm than good, researchers caution. Fish reared for any period of their life in an aquaculture environment, it turns out, somehow change compared to their wild counterparts.
Permanent fish-passage solutions considered at Big Bar landslide – Chilliwack Progress
DFO officials said roughly 151,000 salmon have now been detected with acoustic sonar north of the site of the Big Bar landslide, and contribute the success to their deploying the Wooshh portal, or salmon canon, that uses pressurized water and tubes to transfer fish up and over the slide.
‘Unprecedented’ new data tool aims to bolster B.C. salmon conservation – National Observer
The Pacific Salmon Explorer, a user-friendly data-visualization tool, provides valuable insights into the current health of salmon across British Columbia.
Sea otters are back with a worrying vengeance in B.C. – Macleans
Once within a whisker of extinction, the adorable creatures are making a major resurgence—but not all residents view their comeback in a favourable light.
Maryland Striper Spawn Lowest in Years – The Fishing Wire
The Fishing Wire Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that the 2020 juvenile striped bass index is 2.5, well below the average of 11.5, and even worse than last year’s 3.4.
Menhaden Catch Cut Aimed at Improving Striper Populations – The Fishing Wire
One of the most crucial fish in the Chesapeake Bay’s aquatic food web is getting more protection from potential overfishing, but not as much as some environmentalists and state fishery managers had wanted.
British Columbia’s seamounts are becoming uninhabitable – Hakai Magazine
The deep ocean, where changes usually manifest over millennia, is losing oxygen at an unprecedented rate.
Secret recordings portray regulators as easing Pebble Mine’s path to approval – Hakai Magazine
The Pebble Limited Partnership’s latest plan to offset the damage caused by the proposed Alaska mine is being highly criticized.
Blue carbon: the climate change solution you’ve probably never heard of – The Narwhal
Canadian scientists are looking to re-flood marshes to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise and store carbon, and seaweed is having its moment in the spotlight.
Skeena sockeye returns jump 50 per cent in three years thanks to Indigenous leadership – The Narwhal
B.C. First Nations voluntarily closed their food fishery or limited the catch for two decades to help rebuild salmon populations. This year, those sacrifices are paying off.
Nova Scotia lobster dispute: Mi’kmaw fishery isn’t a threat to conservation, say scientists – Nova Scotia Advocate
The commercial lobster season in Lobster Fishing Area 34, in St. Marys Bay Nova Scotia, runs from late November to late May. The Mi’kmaw livelihood fishery was launched outside that, leading the commercial harvesters to label it as illegal. Commercial fishers are also upset by a decrease in lobster landings, and have articulated two conservation concerns about the Sipekne’katik fishery: its scale and whether fishing during the summer season — when lobsters molt and their shells are soft — is a problem for the survival of lobsters that are thrown back.
New Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Coalition proposes new Conservation Fund – Wildsight
New B.C. wildlife coalition seeks to have Government, “dedicate all hunting, guide-outfitting, and trapping license fees, all industry wildlife compensation dollars, a portion of the royalties from new resource extraction projects and ensure all those who impact fish, wildlife and habitat” pay into a proposed new dedicated fund.
Hunting, Fishing Groups Release Statement on 30 by 30 – NPAA
The U.S. leading hunting, fishing, and habitat conservation organizations just released a statement on the Thirty by Thirty Initiative to establish a goal of placing 30% of the planet’s lands and waters under protected status by the year 2030. Given the historic and ongoing role that hunters and anglers have played in land, water, fish, and wildlife conservation, their statement sets out a number of objectives and goals that they plan to put forward at the up-coming meeting of the “Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity” (CBD), currently scheduled for May of 2021.
Join us virtually this year for our Northern Ontario Tourism Training Week – Destination Northern Ontario
On Nov 23-27 Help grow Northern Ontario’s tourism industry. The Northern Ontario Tourism Summit was developed as a partnership event between Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) and Destination Northern Ontario (DNO). Registration is free to all industry partners.
Squirrel Tails Can Help Fill Your Tacklebox – The Fishing Wire
Mepp’s is again offering their tails-for-tackle program to hunters sending them legal squirrel tails, which are traded for the classic Mepps squirrel-tail spinners.
Bass tournament organisers have united under one brand – SGB Media
Two of America’s biggest bass fishing tournament organisers have come under one brand. Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) has moved all its brand assets to Major League Fishing (MLF) in a move designed to elevate tournament bass fishing further and align the multiple circuits as one company which will be known as MLF Big5.
Lodge owners, guides concerned about Minnesota resorts fishing in Canadian waters – CBC News
Frank and Lynn Wepruk get frustrated when they hear the hum of a group of boats full of people going fishing, who will cross into Canada, fish, and then return south of the border. Canadian outfitters near Fort Frances, Ont., are concerned over rules which allow Americans to fish in Canadian waters without clearing customs.
Atlantic Sapphire Harvests First Fish – and Counts Big US Grocers Among Customers – Undercurrent News
At its large land-based grow out facility in Homestead, Florida, Atlantic Sapphire harvested and sent to market the first of its salmon.
New Powerboat Sales Up 8 Percent in August – The Fishing Wire
New data from the NMMA show August was another strong month for new powerboat retail sales, which were up 8% year to date on a seasonally adjusted basis compared to a year ago.
Protect Your Boat from Ice and Freeze Damage – The Fishing Wire
As boaters prepare their vessels for a long winter nap it’s time to check the boat’s insurance policy for “Ice and Freeze” coverage. This affordable coverage does come with one caveat: Most insurers do not offer the coverage once temperatures drop, usually the end of October, so check with your insurer before then.
Special Guest Feature:
Advanced Telemetry Allows Tracking Great Lakes Fish
By Christopher S. Vandergoot
Michigan State University
Graphic representation of how acoustic telemetry works. Acoustic receivers are deployed underwater and passively ‘listen’ for an acoustic signal produced by an acoustic transmitter implanted into a fish.
To understand fish behavior and movement in natural environments, scientists typically use direct observation, such as following fish around underwater with snorkeling or scuba gear or tagging a fish and relying on someone to report where it was eventually caught.
In 2010, the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System research initiative started tracking individual fish using advanced telemetry to understand the mysteries of Great Lakes fish behavior. GLATOS is primarily funded through the US Great Lakes Restoration Initiative along with state, federal, provincial, and tribal natural resource agencies in Canada and the United States.
Map showing the location of acoustic receivers (blue dots and underwater picture) deployed as part of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System network as of August 2020. Credit: Dr. Thomas Binder
The impetus of this research was to provide fishery managers with needed information regarding the movements and behavior of native fish to aid in conservation and restoration efforts and inform aquatic invasive species management.
The Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation Systems, or GLATOS for short, consists of a series of underwater acoustic telemetry receivers deployed throughout the Great Lakes basin to monitor the movements of fish tagged with acoustic transmitters.
When a tagged fish swims close enough for a receiver to “hear” the unique signal emitted by the transmitter, this information is recorded and stored on the receiver until it is downloaded later. In some instances, this information can be monitored in real time.
In addition to being able to identify the presence or absence of individual fish, researchers can determine what temperature or water depth a fish is occupying if the transmitter is programmed to record this type of information.
To date, fish as large as lake sturgeon (almost 2 meters or up to 6 feet long) and smaller fish such as yellow perch have been successfully tagged and tracked throughout the Great Lakes.
As of August 2020, more than 13,000 individual fish representing 47 different species have been tagged and released as part of this research endeavor, resulting in close to 390 million detections or data points. There are now more than 1,600 active acoustic receiver deployments associated with the GLATOS network. In addition to better understanding population demographics like survival and movement rates, GLATOS researchers are providing fishery managers with important information regarding broad- and fine-scale habitat use of native and non-native fish species across the basin.
For example, acoustic telemetry has been used to evaluate spawning behavior and habitat selection of lake trout near Drummond Island in Lake Huron and movements of lake trout and lake sturgeon throughout the Huron-Erie Corridor St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.
A lake trout tagged with an acoustic transmitter (not visible) and an external tag (orange plastic behind dorsal fin) prior to release. Credit: James Markham, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Telemetry data also has played an important role evaluating current methods and developing new control strategies for aquatic invasive species such as sea lamprey and grass carp.
Additionally, while most research conducted to date focused on understanding where and when fish move (or remain) in a particular area, in the future researchers hope to gain a better understanding of why fish occupy a particular area and how environmental conditions influence movement and behavior.
For example, researchers and managers need answers to questions like: How do fish relate to harmful algal blooms? Do fish alter their behavior when blooms develop? Are they vulnerable to predators when blooms develop? Additionally, how do fish react to areas that experience low dissolved oxygen levels that develop during the summer, like in the western and central basins of Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay, and Lake Michigan and Green Bay?
By understanding fish movement and behavior, fishery managers can better manage these ecologically and economically important resources throughout the Great Lakes.
(First published in the October 2020 edition of the IJC’s Great Lakes Connection newsletter – link to the original article)
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For more about Lawrence Gunther, North America’s only blind professional angler, conservationist, writer, blogger, podcaster, film maker and TV personality, visit: www.LawrenceGunther.com
Gunther founded the charity Blue Fish Canada in 2012 and launched the podcast Blue Fish Radio in 2013.
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