Sources of Knowledge Forum to Explore How Rising Lake Temperatures Affect the Commercial Fishery

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Submitted by John Bainbridge

New data from the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) at the University of Windsor shows the Great Lakes are warming at an usually high rate, seeing a rise in some parts of three degrees. On September 11, 2018 CBC interviewed Aaron Fisk, a professor with GLIER, see: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/lakes-ontario-hot-1.4817127)
Fisk said that variations from year to year, would normally be half a degree or 0.2 of a degree. Three degrees is a pretty significant jump “… much beyond anything you would normally expect over the last 60, 70, 80 years.”
He went on to say that “Temperature is one of the most important drivers of aquatic systems and terrestrial systems as well. It sets up the types of animals you can have there … When you change the temperature you force animals to move to places they don’t want to be and also fish are a cold blooded species. They are the temperature of their water. When water gets warmer it means their metabolism is higher which means they need to eat more. It just adds to a general stress on the system. … Right now most of the changes we are seeing in the Great Lakes are close to the surface. The fish that you find on the edge of the lake, like bass, are the ones that have to change their habitat the most.”
This data comes from a system of temperature loggers and buoys throughout the Great Lakes. One of the more recent monitoring projects is Bagida-waad (meaning “they set a net”) Alliance. The Alliance was founded in March 2018 by the Chippewas of Nawash to address issues affecting the Lake Huron fishery. The main purpose of their project is to monitor the effect of climate change on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. CBC interviewed the group on January 20 this year. You can follow the interview at https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/saugeen-ojibway-whitefish-fishery-climate-change-1.4982666
The fishing communities of Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash are finding that higher winds and warmer temperatures are now affecting populations of lake whitefish in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. They have noticed that their catches are diminishing. As whitefish are a species of cold water fish they appear to be moving into colder deeper waters and away from the warmer shorelines Anyone who has ordered whitefish at restaurants on the Saugeen Peninsula should be concerned about the fate of this delicious fish.
The Bagida-waad Alliance is taking steps to document the changes they have been observing and to figure out how to adapt to them. They want to create a baseline of knowledge to assess when fishermen started to notice things changing in the water. The project will look at fish communities, temperatures, coastal wetlands, aquatic plants and overall water quality.
To inform the public more about the state of the whitefish fishery the Sources of Knowledge (SOK) Forum have invited the Bagida-waad Alliance to make a presentation and attendees will have an opportunity to ask them questions. Also on that same topic, Dr. Darryl Hondrop from the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System will make a presentation on fish movements, which may shed some light on how fish are responding to temp and other factors.
The SOK forum will be at the Tobermory Community Centre on May 3 to 5, 2019.