Environmental Changes Are Killing the Livelihood of Great Lakes Fishermen
By Corey Mintz
There's nothing in the fridge at Akiwenzie's Fish & More processing facility. The 918-square-foot building, adjacent to Natasha and Andrew Akiwenzie's house on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, sits empty and dark. Out-front, gill nets lie on the ground, unused for months.
When these tore during fishing, Andrew Akiwenzie used to mend the 1,800 yards of net by hand, spending three days straight in his basement, stripping out the webbing and tying a knot every eight inches. The $3,000 worth of equipment, once essential to his sustenance and livelihood, now lies discarded, along with Akiwenzie's hopes for the future, buried under a growing pile of almond-coloured fall leaves.
Over the past few years, environmental changes have diminished fish harvesting in this part of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula. Last summer, things got so bad that Akiwenzie decided to quit fishing for a living. Still grieving but seeking meaning in the loss, Akiwenzie teamed up with other fishers in the area to create the Bagida-waad Alliance and gather scientific data about what has happened to their waters.
Akiwenzie, who has been fishing by hand without any mechanical lifting device for the past 15 years, didn't come from a fishing family. His mother was a bootlegger. She bought beer and whiskey in town and sold it at a markup on the reserve. "Being a bootlegger meant that there were a lot of salty dogs around the table," recalls Akiwenzie.
The fishers who bought from her, looking to become preferred customers, began to teach her grandson about fishing. An uncle would occasionally take him out in a rowboat with no motor. "As a young lad, rowing a boat for my uncle and being able to bring a fish home to feed the family kept us alive," he says.
Back then, Indigenous people of the area were banned from commercial fishing. But they would sell fish via a "party line" (a shared telephone connection), which made it easy for people to hop on and find buyers. In 1993, Justice Fairgreave affirmed the commercial fishing rights of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), which paved the way for the province to recognize SON's exclusive commercial harvesting rights in the region.
Since 2003, Akiwenzie has made his living by getting up at 4 a.m., building a fire by the lake, fishing on days when it wasn't too windy, and cleaning his harvest in the processing facility. In 2008, he upgraded the building, at a cost of $20,000, to slope the floors toward the drains in compliance with health standards. Frustrated with the market price fluctuations of wholesalers, he began to retail himself, driving back and forth to Toronto (at least seven hours) to supply restaurants and sell directly to customers at farmers' markets.
But over the past eight years, Akiwenzie and other commercial fishers have noticed weather pattern changes in the area. There used to be five good days to go fishing every week, but increased winds have winnowed them down to two. Also, the fish weren't where they were supposed to be, with whitefish near the shore, switching places with trout in deep water and then disappearing entirely. And the fish he did catch weren't the same, with trout emerging from the lake with big heads and skinny bodies. The fishing community, which used to come within annual reach of their million-pound quota, was barely clearing 400,000.
"In the Great Lakes, all of our fish from the shoreline have gone into the deep, where it's cold," said Austin Elliott, a local who has fished for Akiwenzie. "If the thermal plane changes, the fish will come back. If it doesn't and the water stays warm, we're screwed."
By this summer, Akiwenzie had had enough. Fishing was becoming difficult, unprofitable and unsafe. There was little reason to go out anymore. When his boat's motor broke, it was going to cost him at least $12,000 to replace it. Instead, he packed up his nets.
"For the past two months, I've spent a lot of time grieving," said Akiwenzie. "For 15 years, I've fed 150 families, and I got to know people and faces. All of a sudden, to not do that anymore is like losing 150 people in your family all at once."
Today, chefs from Toronto—who Akiwenzie had supplied with fish in better days—have come here to cook a meal of pickerel, wild rice and smoked duck for 180 people at a drop-in lunch at the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation community center before touring the lake to learn about what's happening.
"I've fished Ontario lakes and rivers my whole life," said Missy Hu, a former chef de cuisine at Fabbrica in Toronto. "The alliance is key because we all know that there is something wrong. If we don't act now, traditional fishing communities, Canadian fishing culture and the Great Lakes may never recover."
Akiwenzie has no doubt that what is happening to his environment, his livelihood and his community is a result of climate change, but he lacks the data to prove it. "I may not have the education level behind me, but I have the knowledge base and have seen it firsthand. I've been on the waters for 15 years, and I've only seen biologists twice."
Fortunately, the alliance has its own marine scientist, John Anderson, formerly a researcher for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and a professor at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. Anderson got involved after retiring to nearby Owen Sound, where he was frustrated by his community's climate-change denial. "I'd go to curling with lawyers, truck drivers, farmers and doctors," Anderson recounted of his re-entry into his hometown. "The climate is changing here, but I kept talking to people who didn't know that or denied it. I put together my first data set, and I built it back to 1880."
For some areas in the region, he found environmental data (temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind "gusts" and direction) that dated back to 1880 (with gaps for the First World War) and often ended in 2006, when Environment Canada stopped collecting data. Finding local measurements to fill in gaps in the federal records, Anderson began to assemble a data set. "Once I had the first one, I could see clear trends here," he said, "so I built a second data set." So far, he has constructed data sets for the waters in nearby Delhi, London, Goderich, Owen Sound, North Bay and Sudbury.
Proud of the data collection, Akiwenzie knows that this won't restore his livelihood or the life he built here. "I'll fight anything, but this was a battle that had no boundaries and no enemy," said Akiwenzie. "There was nobody I could challenge."
Even though Akiwenzie is done fishing, his gathering of scientific evidence might lay the groundwork for future fights over policy in the region. "That's why we started our group, Bagida-waad, which means 'they cast a net' in our language. We have to just watch. Mother Nature is the one who's in charge."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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By Julia Conley
A new campaign unveiled this weekend by the nonprofit organization Fossil Free Media aims to expand on the goals of the fossil fuel divestment movement, cutting into oil and gas companies' profit margins through their public relations and ad campaigns.
<div id="1dcf1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d5e39a5a3812bc2589ba8aa0563756e0"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1330177734799208465" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">PR and ad companies' work for the fossil fuel industry is pushing the planet past the breaking point.… https://t.co/wOuDBM26ne</div> — Clean Creatives (@Clean Creatives)<a href="https://twitter.com/cleancreatives/statuses/1330177734799208465">1605974060.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="21b90" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bdc23e69ff18075b4fb5df6d4939b9f5"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1330205383848288257" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Porter Novelli isn't some small shop: they've got offices and clients in 60 countries and are part of @Omnicom, the… https://t.co/iw0BCmrdzx</div> — Jamie Henn (@Jamie Henn)<a href="https://twitter.com/jamieclimate/statuses/1330205383848288257">1605980652.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"It's a BIG deal that they're dropping fossil fuel clients—let's make sure it's the drop that starts a flood," wrote Henn. </p>
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By Jason Farley
COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives, and it is poised to completely disrupt the holiday season. As people make holiday plans and think about ways to reduce the risks to their loved ones, a strategy is essential.
Are masks really necessary at family gatherings?<p>If you're gathering with friends and family who don't live in your home, yes. Just because you're with people you know doesn't mean you're safe from the coronavirus. Infection rates are <a href="https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/new-cases-50-states" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">higher now than they have ever been</a> in the U.S., and <a href="https://youtu.be/ehdgceGzQxs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">small gatherings have been a source</a> of viral spread. All it takes is one infected person who doesn't know they have the coronavirus to infect others.</p><p>Remember, people can be <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2020/07/how-long-symptom-onset-person-contagious" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">contagious two to three days</a> before symptoms show – that's one thing that makes this virus so hard to stop. And it's why, even if you feel fine, you should wear a mask.</p><p>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that when both people are wearing masks, the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank">likelihood of infection is low</a>.</p>
Who am I protecting when I wear a mask?<p>In a word: everyone. The coronavirus <a href="https://theconversation.com/aerosols-are-a-bigger-coronavirus-threat-than-who-guidelines-suggest-heres-what-you-need-to-know-142233" target="_blank">spreads through respiratory droplets</a> that you send out into the air when you talk, sing or even just breathe. The tiniest of these droplets can float on air currents for long periods.</p><p>Face masks stop many of those droplets, reducing the amount of virus in the air. That lowers your chances of getting infected, and it also lowers the chances that you'll infect someone else.</p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank">Studies of people who had prolonged exposure</a> to others with COVID-19 have demonstrated how masks can reduce the chance of the virus spreading. In general, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well-fitted cloth masks</a> made up of multiple layers can stop most large droplets and at least half of the tiny ones. Plastic <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.05.20207241" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">face shields</a> alone are far less effective. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/08/13/cdc-mask-guidance-masks-valves/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Face masks with valves or vents</a> might be good for construction work, but they don't stop the wearer from breathing out virus into the air.</p>
Can I reuse a mask and when should I replace it?<p>Reusable masks should be kept clean and dry. We're moving into cold and flu season, and noses get drippy. A rule of thumb: Anytime a mask is wet to the point that you can discern the wetness, it's time for a new one if it's disposable, or it's time to clean your reusable mask.</p><p>Wetness allows viruses to more easily move through paper or fabric because it allows the threads to move and may reduce the electrostatic charge in the masks that add extra protection with some fabrics.</p><p>In general, you can use a mask that stays clean and dry for about a week before you need to wash or discard it.</p>
How should I clean a cloth mask?<p>Washing your mask is like washing your clothes. You know when it is time.</p><p>In general, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">cleaning your mask weekly</a> should be sufficient. If odors develop before then, it's a good idea to wash it sooner. Odor generally means bacterial buildup.</p><p>Cleaning your mask by hand with soap and water is your best option. Using a general detergent on a gentle cycle in the washing machine is also fine, but that may increase the risk of damage, depending on the quality of the material. COVID-19 is not a hardy virus. Any soap or detergent should work fine. There's no need for special chemicals, bleach or harsh soaps.</p><p>Be careful to remove any inserts before washing. Inserted filters are generally not washable.</p><p>Air drying masks works best. Remember, masks should be completely dry before use. So be sure to have a replacement mask handy while the one you just washed dries.</p><p>Sunlight is always a great source of heat to dry your mask. Also, sunlight has ultraviolet radiation, which has been shown to <a href="http://doi.org/10.1111/php.13293" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eliminate coronavirus</a> and is also known to have antibacterial properties.</p>
Can I wear the mask below my nose?<p>Wearing your mask below your nose is, frankly, ridiculous.</p><p>Think about it. If you are breathing through your nose and only covering your mouth, you are effectively eliminating the point of the mask. Properly wearing a mask requires covering both your nose and mouth at all times.</p><p>Studies show that wearing a proper cloth mask or surgical mask while exercising <a href="http://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.202008-990CME" target="_blank">doesn't affect the flow of oxygen</a> or carbon dioxide in any detectable way. So, unless you have serious heart and lung problems, that isn't an excuse.</p>
How do I safely remove my mask if I’m going to eat or drink?<p>When you <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">take your mask off</a>, remove it carefully by the straps without touching anything else and put it somewhere safe, like wrapped in paper in a purse, bag or pocket. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. When you put it back on, wash your hands again.</p>
So, how can I have a safe holiday gathering?<p>The safest way to celebrate this year is to do so with members only within your household. The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CDC is now stressing that point</a>, as well. If you do celebrate with friends and relatives from outside your household, you need an action plan to reduce the risk of exposure.</p><p>Here are five recommendations:</p><ul><li>Limit the number of people – fewer people means fewer opportunities for exposure, and you'll have more room to spread out.</li><li>Require masks when not eating or drinking.</li><li>Use physical distancing when eating. Try to seat people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3223" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 6 feet apart</a>. Eat outside if you can.</li><li>Consider being tested for COVID-19 before traveling or gathering. It's not a guarantee, but it can help flag illnesses. Remember to self-isolate between the test and the event.</li><li>Be prepared to self-isolate for 14 days after traveling or participating in any event that involves people from outside your home.</li></ul><p>[<em>Research into coronavirus and other news from science</em> <a href="https://theconversation.com/us/newsletters/science-editors-picks-71/?utm_source=TCUS&utm_medium=inline-link&utm_campaign=newsletter-text&utm_content=science-corona-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Subscribe to The Conversation's new science newsletter</a>.]</p><p><em>The map has been updated with New Hampshire announcing a mask mandate effective Nov. 20.</em></p><p><em>Jason Farley is a professor, infectious disease-trained epidemiologist and nurse practitioner at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.<br></em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, ANP-BC, FAAN receives funding from the National Institutes of Health on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for COVID-19 and Becton Dickinson for studies on SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-face-masks-belong-at-your-thanksgiving-gathering-7-things-you-need-to-know-about-wearing-them-150130" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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