Today is the first day of Rivers to Oceans Week!

This Rivers to Oceans Week, we are taking a deep dive into the dangers lurking in the water. And no, we’re not talking about sharks! We’re talking about human activity – something far more dangerous than any large fish could ever be. From plastic to urban runoff, there are a myriad of threats facing our wild species that call our rivers, oceans, lakes and more home.

Over the course of the week, we’ll highlight seven threats during those seven days and we’ll encourage you to pledge to do what you can to turn the tide on these very real issues. Because you can help!

Today we are focusing on fishing gear.

There’s Something in the Water…Fishing Gear

Fishing gear can harm so many different kinds of aquatic animals – from North Atlantic Right Whales to freshwater turtles. That said it’s important to note that anglers and commercial fisheries are not intending to harm wildlife. Commercial fish harvesters are simply trying to make a living while supporting other sectors like seafood buyers and processors, restaurants, and more! Moreover, both these groups  are not oblivious to these problems and most recognize the need to address them, in the interest of being good stewards but also to ensure the resilience of the natural resource. Sadly, accidents happen.

entangled whale
North Atlantic Right Whale entangled.

Entanglement, for example, is one of the greatest threats fishing gear poses on aquatic animals. Sea lions can accidentally become entangled in fishing gear or debris, resulting in lacerations, infections and death by strangulation or starvation. The same fate is posed to many other marine animals from sea turtles to seals and whales to seabirds.

Entanglement is also a severe threat to the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. Approximately 25 per cent of the remaining population are  entangled in fishing gear annually, and a whopping 83 percent show scarring from entanglement in fishing gear. While some swim away with only minor scars, others die a terrible death. When North Atlantic Right Whales are badly entangled and can’t escape their binding, they can drown or suffer from starvation and significant injuries for months on end before succumbing to their wounds.

Entanglement Leatherback Sea Turtle @CSTN

But fishing gear does not only pose a threat to marine animals. Freshwater creatures like turtles can also fall victim to fishing gear. Many freshwater turtles like Snapping, Northern Map, Painted, Spiny Softshell and Wood Turtles will keep an eye out for live prey and can accidentally get caught on baited fishing hooks. Sadly, hooks that are caught in the mouth or swallowed can kill turtles and considering that all eight of Canada’s freshwater turtles are at-risk, accidental hooking can threaten an already vulnerable group of species.

Will you help our waterways today?

Pledge to make fishing safer for wildlife.