Blue Fish Canada was pleased to be asked to take part once again in the 25th Anniversary of the annual science symposium organized by the St. Lawrence River Institute on Environmental Research. Our presentation focused on the citizen science work Blue Fish Canada inspires and informs through our Fish Stewardship and Citizen Science program. It was a packed room, and the presentation received strong positive feedback. More about the symposium follows:
For Immediate Release
May 28, 2018
Sharing Knowledge and Linking Science on the St. Lawrence River
by Karen Douglass Cooper, St. Lawrence Institute of Environmental Sciences
The St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental SciencesSt. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences will pay homage to its history while looking ahead towards the future when it hosts the 25th Anniversary Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River Ecosystem Symposium this May 30 and 31 at OPG St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre. The conference began in 1993 in Cornwall, Ontario (one year before the River Institute was founded) as a means of bringing scientists and communities together to discuss fresh water issues. IAGLR has been held conjointly with the River Symposium twice, in 2000 and again in 2012. Twenty five years on, River scientists and community members from Ontario, Quebec, Akwesasne, and New York State will come together to re-visit the original conference theme, ‘Sharing Knowledge – Linking Sciences’.
The theme celebrates the River Institute’s founding partners and neighbours, the Mohawks of Akwesasne, and highlights projects and programs that link ecosystem science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). River Institute Executive Director, Dr. Jeff Ridal says, “Our collective responsibility to protect the environment is from an indigenous perspective and is laid out at the beginning of each conference with the “The Words that Come Before All Else” which is the traditional Mohawk Thanksgiving Address.”
Over the past two and a half decades the Institute has evolved into a unique nucleus for fresh water research, education, and community engagement throughout the Great Lakes – St Lawrence River ecosystem. That uniqueness comes in part from its connection to community and a desire to develop an enhanced awareness of the value of TEK by integrating it into scientific research. This integration is playing a vital role on the upper St. Lawrence River where public involvement plays such a vital role.
River Institute Board Chair Walter Oeggerli says, “Our experience at the River institute has been that the stories that define our history are important pathways to engage people in environmental issues and also serve to inspire scientific inquiry and research.”
Over the course of two information packed days, the 2018 Symposium will also feature three keynote speakers that exemplify scientific inquiry and community engagement.
On May 30, the Symposium’s Community Science Day, Canadian explorer and Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Geoff Green of Students on Ice and Canada C3 fame will join local high school students. He will speak on the epic 25,000 km. Coast to Coast to Coast research and reconciliation expedition that he led along Canada’s coastline in 2017.
The next day will highlight fresh water research and remediation. Tony David, Water Resources Manager with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe of Akwesasne and winner of the 2017 Environmental Champion Award from the U.S. EPA, will discuss his work in the decommissioning and removal of the Hogansburg Dam. The first project of its kind for a Native American Tribe, the removal has opened up over 500 miles of river and streams as spawning habitat for migratory fish.
Dr. John Smol, professor in the Biology Department at Queen’s University and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, as a guest speaker, will round out the day River Ecosystem discussion. A Co-director of Queen’s Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL), Dr. Smol’s talk is entitled appropriately enough, “Looking Back to Predict the Future”.
For more details or to RSVP please contact:
Karen Douglass Cooper
Community Outreach Officer / Remedial Action Plan Coordinator
St. Lawrence River (Cornwall)
St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences
situated on the traditional lands of the Kanien’keha:ka
2 St. Lawrence Dr.
Cornwall, ON. K6H 4Z1
(613) 936-6620 (ext. 229)
I’m proud to have the honor of being the first Canadian to take part in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 3-day Fisheries Science and Management for Recreational Anglers Workshop. The fact the NOAA offers such a Workshop demonstrates that the National Marine Fisheries Program understands the social and economic value of recreational fishing.
The 3-day workshop took place in Hanover Maryland and included guides, outfitters, headboat captains, outdoor writers, conservationists, and even someone from the American Sportfishing Association. I learned a ton about recreational fishing through the course materials and presenters, and conversations with NOAS’s scientists and Workshop participants. I walked away with a wealth of information and new connections that will support Blue Fish Canada to contribute even more to improving the science -based management of Canada’s recreational fisheries that coexist alongside our commercial fishing industry.
Without doubt, the NOAA is working hard to develop resource management and stock sharing policies, and data collection and analysis programs that provide a framework to ensure their science-based stock management decisions balance the interests of both commercial fishers and recreational anglers. National Marine Fisheries Program regional advisory Commissions now include representatives for both sectors, along with other stakeholders interested in contributing to short and long-term planning decisions on how stocks are managed. Wouldn’t that be great if Canada opened up the decision making process to include recreational fishers as well?
Follow the links below to access a few of the NOAA recreational fishing resources provided:
Marine Resources Educational Program website: https://www.gmri.org/our-work/fisheries-convening/mrep-northeast
Link Link to workshop materials: https://www.gmri.org/our-work/fisheries-convening/mrep-northeast/workshop-materials
I want to thank the folks at NOAA for making it possible for me to attend this Workshop. By including a representative from Canada, they have planted the seeds of change that will hopefully see Fisheries and Oceans Canada do more to recognize recreational fishing as a significant socio-economic contributor equal to if not greater than commercial fishing.
As part of the Blue Fish Canada exhibit at the 2018 Ottawa Boat Show, BFC volunteers set up and ran the Kid’s Casting Zone – a 20’x40’ area complete with life-like fish silhouettes and actual fish-holding structure. Kids learned fish species identification and the different types of structure each species prefers, as well as precision casting.
CTV Morning News was there to feature the Blue fish Canada exhibit and the Casting Zone: http://ctv.news/oS7C4gd
While the late and stormy spring may have delayed the start of the open water season, it meant more time for Blue Fish Canada volunteers to promote sustainable outdoor traditions. The following are 2017 Blue Fish Canada activity highlights.
Talking computers are just one of many innovations for the blind that allow Blue Fish Canada’s blind President Lawrence Gunther to lead and represent the charity. Articles published in 2017 include:
- “Review of the Algonquin land claim” (spring “Fish Hunt and Ride”);
- An op-ed piece co-authored with the Suzuki Foundation on fish health in the Rideau Canal; and,
- “6 Ways that Canadian Anglers and Hunters are Helping Wildlife Populations” (March “Outdoor Canada”).
Of course, rain snow or sun never prevents a new episode of Blue Fish Radio from being produced – 162 episodes to date with an average weekly audience of 100,000.
Episodes focus on what people are doing across Canada to protect water quality, ensure fish health, and to make sure there are fish around for future generations to catch.
To further promote sustainable fishing, bi-weekly “Sustainable Fish Friday” 1-minute tips are heard and shared by thousands over social media. Additionally, over-20 “Blue Fish Canada Stewardship Tips” continue to be aired as public service announcements over streaming web broadcasts. We continue to distribute at no charge print and on-line stewardship guides and shoreline clean-up kits.
Six years of hard work on creating the documentary What Lies Below came to fruition. Over 18 festivals around the world have now featured the 79-minute film. Numerous published reviews and interviews can be found on line. Both CBC and AMI TV are now licensed to broadcast the doc, which premiered on CBC’s Documentary Channel Sept 6. All revenues generated by this documentary are going to Blue Fish Canada. Our 2018 plans include distributing an educational program to high schools and post-secondary institutions developed using the 11 stories told in the documentary.
Behind the scenes Blue fish Canada is working closely with numerous research facilities and water activist organizations to promote water quality and fish health. Last May, in partnership with the University of Ottawa and the St. Lawrence River Institute, we organized and chaired a half-day River Symposium including six presentations to over-90 researchers and policy makers in attendance. Ensuring fish have access to suitable habitat also includes leading discussions on fish health in venues such as the Great Lake Network and the People’s Great Lakes Summit series.
Canada is far from being a land of doom-and-gloom. We have much to take pride in and celebrate. It’s therefore with considerable excitement that we celebrate the launch of a new video series Lake2Plate.
The video features Lawrence, his guide dog Moby, and a celebrity chef fishing and preparing shore-side feasts featuring sustainably and selectively harvested fish and wild forage. It’s a true celebration of the traditional shore lunch intended to inspire others to reconnect with nature.
In the spirit of carrying forward the tradition of blind people serving as story tellers, Lawrence always makes time to speak to fish and game clubs, conservation groups and at outdoor shows. Exhibiting at outdoor shows remains a priority for Blue Fish Canada, and 2018 will witness a fresh new look to our exhibit space and offerings, including a new skill-testing stewardship quiz and prizes.
The following quote from Lawrence Gunther published in a recent Huffington Post article sums-up the mission of Blue Fish Canada nicely:
“I started Blue Fish Canada to encourage people to find themselves a pond, river, lake or bay where they can catch a fish for dinner once in a while, and to then take responsibility for ensuring nothing bad happens to their fishing whole that could stop their great grandchildren from doing the same.”
Getting others interested in fishing sustainably is a focus of Blue Fish Canada, including organizing annual events such as: Girl Guides Go Fishing.
A shore fishing experience for 50-70 Girl Guides ranging in age from 5-16.
Yes, it’s important to make sure our water and fish are properly managed. At the same time, Blue Fish Canada is working hard to pass on the knowledge and inspiration to encourage others to carry forward the tradition of fishing. It’s up to all of us to re-engage others in this century-old practice. One we can undertake with pride knowing the resource is being managed using science and the best traditional and indigenous knowledge available.
Most especially, Blue Fish Canada is creating opportunities for children to connect with shorelines. It’s here where kids experience the abundance and diversity of life that inhabits these narrow transition strips between land and water. Life that represents more than the sum of the two parts, but a true synergy of these two vastly different terrestrial and aquatic worlds.
Please donate to Blue Fish Canada today so we can continue to provide people of all age’s access to resources so they can fish confidently knowing the tradition is sustainable for future generations.
We look forward to your on-going support, and thank all of you for helping to make 2017 a year we can be proud of.
In honour of World River Day, Blue Fish Canada’s president Lawrence Gunther took part in the official ceremony to twin the Ottawa and Potomac Rivers. The twinning recognizes the many shared attributes and challenges these two national rivers have in common.
Both rivers flow through their respective nations’ capital cities, both are significant in size, both played historic roles in the founding of their nations’ capitals, and finally, both rivers are being attended to by strong and effective River Keeper organizations.
As Meredith Brown, Ottawa’s RiverKeeper pointed out, both rivers share many of the same challenges impacting swimability, fishability and drinkability. More than 1-million people drink from the Ottawa and over 6-million from the Potomac, and yet untreated sewage and untold numbers of chemicals enter these rivers routinely. Fish kill incidents still occur, and advisories warning against swimming are not uncommon.
Rivers flowing through the capitals of nations should represent all what these two great countries represent to their citizens and the rest of the world – responsible development and usage, and a commitment to the future of fish health and fishing. Attention all anglers, your assistance is required.
Blue Fish Canada is working hard to ensure the water quality of Canada’s rivers, lakes and oceans are able to sustain fish health and our tradition of fishing. We represent your voice at numerous water quality meetings, and strive to provide a continuous source of information to anglers on how they might more effectively serve as stewards of their local fisheries. Donate today to help us with this important work, and volunteer for your local river and water Keeper organizations.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) recently launched a new Healthy Great Lakes program to engage a broad network of individuals and organizations in shaping, implementing, and making use of laws and policies that protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. Lawrence Gunther, President of Blue Fish Canada, was invited to be part of the organizing committee.
The goals of the 18-month initiative include:
- elimination or reduction of toxic pollutants;
- encouraging green infrastructure adoption;
- improving water conservation and efficiency;
- protecting and restoring water quantity by responding to water diversion proposals;
- ensuring government action is distributed equitably across Ontario’s Great Lakes Basin watersheds, both geographically and in addressing needs of disadvantaged communities;
- engaging with First Nation and Métis communities in discussions of opportunities for action; and
- engaged Great Lakes citizenry that makes use of available legal tools and holds government to account for the public trust.
On May 17 the organizing committee held the “People’s Great Lake Summit” involving over 40 stakeholders representing water activists, first Nations people and fishers. The Objective of the Summit was to:
- Connect – an opportunity for individuals to meet together in person and identify potential collaborations
- Share – an opportunity to share ideas, priorities, and plans
During the May 17 Summit, Lawrence Gunther led on proposing and anchoring discussions on fish health.
Discussion items included increasing research/awareness of research on the impact of blue-green algae, plastics, sewage, invasive species, funding cuts, etc. on fish, anglers, water users and residents. More specifically: awareness of impact of blue green algae on angler safety and fish health; traditional angler fishing rights and aquatic protection zones – balance interests; fish consumption guideline research and transparency – can we trust the research; online database/Great Lakes Portal; and, online database – collaborative between multiple groups.
A second gathering is now being planned for fall of 2017. Blue Fish Canada has been identified to lead on the topic of fish health at the next summit and beyond. Consultations are now underway to ensure issues are represented thoroughly and accurately.
For more about the initiative please visit www.cela.ca/peoples-great-lakes-summit
Day two of the 24th River Symposium, organized by Blue Fish Canada in partnership with the University of Ottawa and The St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Research, featured 18 exhibiters and two key note addresses provided by Lawrence Gunther, President of Blue Fish Canada.
The Symposium took place at the Ontario Power Generation Centre located in Cornwall ON.
Over 250 students, members of the public, researchers and government officials were in attendance.
“Lawrence’s presentation was the highlight of our visit –he is definitely a great and engaging environmentalist”.
*A teacher from Glengarry District High School
“Lawrence’s presentation was excellent!”
*A science teacher from Vankleek Hill
The following links to a report in Cornwall’s Standard Freeholder-
On May 31 2017 Blue Fish Canada, in partnership with the University of Ottawa and The St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Research, presented the 24th Annual River Symposium in Cornwall On. Approximately 100 researchers and stakeholders participated in a series of presentations and discussions.
Lawrence Gunther, President, Blue Fish Canada, organized and chaired the morning session that included: five presentations, a panel discussion, and feedback from the Director of Environmental Affairs for the near-by Akwesasne First Nations community. Morning presentations focused on fish health and fishing. More specifically, commercial, indigenous and recreational fishing, the people who take part in these practices, and stable and healthy fish stocks.
Speakers / panelists included:
The take-away from the morning presentations served to underscore the linkage between sustainable fisheries and human health, traditional and cultural practices, and the socio-economic welfare of large and diverse groups of people. It’s also clear that those who engage in the capture of fish are actively seeking the knowledge required to demonstrate their respect and responsibility for the long-term future of fish populations, and are concerned with the health of the fish stocks they pursue.
Without doubt, opportunities such as the Symposium to bring together stakeholders to exchange local and indigenous knowledge and to learn of science-based best practices are essential to developing comprehensive and effective sustainable fish management strategies. Broad support for the adoption and implementation of science-based best practices also entails researchers having the opportunity to hear from those countless “citizen scientists” who spend significant time on the water. Achieving synergies from science and local and indigenous knowledge is dependent on: community engagement; public education; the exchange of traditional and indigenous knowledge; sharing best practices; conducting fisheries research; developing, implementing and enforcing science based regulations; and, understanding and mitigating impacts on fish habitat and health.
- Ensuring the future of fish and fishing requires understanding the relationship between stable and healthy fish stocks, and the social, cultural and economic sustainability of the various diverse populations and communities-of-interest that rely on fish;
- More frequent and wider opportunities for stakeholders to gather and share their knowledge would benefit fish populations and those concerned with their sustainability;
- On-going research of negative and positive influences on fish health and habitat, and the development and trialing of potential solutions intended to improve the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, is imperative to the management of such resources;
- Government policies and regulations are essential to ensuring healthy fish stocks and their link to the socio-economic, cultural and traditional future of groups of both indigenous and non-indigenous people.
Every year volunteers from Blue Fish Canada work hard to take young people fishing. One of our favorites is the Girl Guide shore fishing event.
With over 50 girls ranging in age from 5 to 16, we had our hands full of worms and fish, but the girls were great! They all caught at least one fish each and most now r skilled at fish identification, putting on their own worms, and releasing the fish.
We kept one of each species caught in a Frabill 5-gal aerated livewell so we could do a more detailed exploration at the end with the girls taking part in the Q/A.
This year AMI TV captured the event for TV.
Link here to watch the 5-minute broadcast: http://www.ami.ca/category/atw-weekend-edition/media/fishing-girl-guides
The following multi-part news coverage includes three components intended to inform the public about the impacts on fish health of toxins in Canada’s water, and includes:
Link here to hear Lawrence Gunther’s segment on Live in Studio 5 across Canada;
Listen to episode 133 of Blue Fish Radio to hear Lawrence Gunther’s interview with Alaya BOISVERT from the David Suzuki Foundation;
Read the following op-ed Alaya BOISVERT and Lawrence Gunther penned which was published throughout Canada.
Rideau Canal toxins raise questions about our environmental wellbeing
May 19, 2017 | Last Updated: May 20, 2017 10:53 AM EDT
By ALAYA BOISVERT And LAWRENCE GUNTHER
It’s easy to understand why outdoor enthusiasts around the world regard Canada as a premier eco-tourism destination. What Canadian hasn’t enjoyed angling, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, canoeing, mountain biking or taking a dip in one of hundreds of thousands of lakes that spot the country?
So much of the love for this nation, shared by locals and tourists alike, revolves around getting out on the land or water to connect with nature.
Despite its natural beauty, Canada is not the pristine environment we often imagine. When compared with other industrialized countries, Canada consistently ranks poorly. We place 15th out of 17 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on a range of environmental indicators, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s 2016 assessment.
The recent discovery of toxins in the Rideau Canal is a stark reminder of a systemic and pervasive problem facing Canada.
The Rideau Canal is a signature of historic nautical ingenuity and contemporary urban recreation. It’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, widely cherished by those lucky enough to live nearby and millions of tourists who visit the capital year-round. However, at one time manufacturing facilities peppered the canal’s banks. Although these industries have closed, their toxic legacy remains.
After repairs to the canal churned up harmful industrial chemicals in November 2016, Parks Canada finally decided to take the first step to address this known, yet unreported, issue. It ordered tests along several kilometres of the canal to assess contaminant levels in the sediment. The Ontario government is also taking action to test toxicity levels of the various sport fish that inhabit the canal to determine whether they are safe to eat.
Local skaters and anglers are concerned by this news and the black eye it represents for their scenic tourist attraction. They are not alone in their worries about the impacts of pollution.
Environmental degradation and toxic contaminants can be found throughout the country. High concentrations of nitrogen dioxide pollution stretch from southeast to northern Alberta. Forty-three Great Lakes polluted sites were identified by the U.S. and Canada as Areas of Concern. Canada’s own Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory lists 23,078 toxic hotspots across Canada, and that doesn’t include those caused by Crown corporations, private individuals or that fall under the jurisdiction of other levels of government.
The Rideau Canal’s story raises a number of questions: Shouldn’t we leave our children a country better off than we inherited? Shouldn’t future generations be assured they won’t get sick from the food they eat, the water they drink or the air they breathe? Shouldn’t we all be able to count on the places we live, work and play being safe from harmful toxins?
The toxic contaminants found in the Rideau Canal, at the foot of Canada’s Parliament, represent a test case citizens across Canada will be watching closely.
The City of Ottawa has already demonstrated leadership by recognizing the environmental rights of its residents, as have 150 other municipalities in Canada.
It’s time for the federal government to acknowledge that a healthy environment is not a luxury. It’s a necessity for the long-term prosperity and preservation of our country and, more importantly, a human right. It’s time for the federal government to pass an environmental bill of rights to respect, protect and fulfill everyone in Canada’s right to a healthy environment.
Alaya Boisvert is manager of government relations with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot project. Blue Dot is a national movement calling for legal protections of the right to a healthy environment.
Ottawa resident Lawrence Gunther is the host of Blue Fish Radio, a weekly podcast exploring the future of fish and fishing, and the president of Blue Fish Canada, a charity dedicated to water quality and sustainable recreational fishing.