It was the last summer before the Great Lakes froze, and the Canadian fishers were still reeling.
The fish that had once filled the back of their fridge and the ice shelves were gone.
The ice was thawing.
In June, the fish stocks of the Great Lake were already thinning, and they were getting thinner by the day.
“It was a big deal,” said John Kocher, a scientist with the Fisheries Society of Canada who helped set up a task force on the Great Canadian Fishery in 2007.
Kochers research showed that fish stocks are declining in some areas, but that the overall decline was not as pronounced as the media reported.
But Kocers findings are a wake-up call.
“When you’re looking at these fisheries in the Great lakes, they are disappearing, and that’s the big story right now,” he said.
The Canadian fisher is now facing an environmental crisis.
Canada’s fish stocks, already low, have plummeted to their lowest levels since at least the early 1990s, according to an assessment of the country’s fisheries released last year by the Canadian Government.
“Fish stocks are plummeting in the North Atlantic, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Great Atlantic and Pacific Oceans,” said a news release from the Canadian Fisheries Agency (CFA).
“The Great Lakes have seen their fish stocks decline by about 70% over the last 30 years.”
In the Great Arctic region, stocks have dropped by more than 50% over that period, according the report.
That’s because of a combination of pollution, fishing, climate change and habitat loss, said Dr. Peter Kowalski, an expert in fisheries science at the University of Ottawa.
In other words, it’s been a disaster.
Kowarski said that the Great Oceanic and Arctic Oceans have seen a 60% decline in the fish they used to catch.
The researchers found that in addition to the loss of fish, the environment also is changing.
The Arctic is warming and the northern Great Lakes are warming too.
The cold waters of the North Sea are changing, too.
“They’re changing the conditions that can drive a fish into the Great Northern Lakes and the North and South Atlantic,” said Kocer.
“The ice is getting thawed out, the ice shelf is getting thinner, the land is getting more open, and there’s less cover.”
The ice shelf of the Arctic is being eaten away.
“So if you’re fishing in the Arctic you’re not getting a whole lot of fish,” said David Kuczynski, a research scientist with WWF Canada.
“But if you go in and you have a really good fish you get the equivalent of a pound of cod.”
In other news: The Great Lakes, like many other regions, are in crisis, and it’s affecting everyone.
The problem is that it’s getting worse by the year, said Kuczyk.
And now that there are no fish left, the only way to feed your family is to hunt.
The government is investing $300 million to restore the fisheries to pre-ice conditions, but Kocerman said the money is only going so far.
The CFA has also been pushing to restore more of the fisheries ecosystem in the region, which it calls the Great Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“We have a lot of work to do to make sure the Great Gulf of Saint Lawrence and all of its fisheries and the fisheries in Northern Manitoba and in Saskatchewan are healthy and healthy,” Kocier said.
He said the restoration efforts will take time, but he said the country is committed to helping restore the Great Basin fisheries.
But with the Great Freeze looming, Kociers research suggests the country could see even more fish disappear.
“There’s a lot more fish than we’ve seen in a long time,” Kucsys told CBC News.
“That’s the great unknown, and I think we’re going to have to wait and see.”
With files from The Associated Press.