Late last week, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission gave the go-ahead to Ontario Power Generation to refurbish the existing nuclear power plant located about an hour east of Toronto on Lake Ontario. This is the same site where Ontario plans to build up to four new nuclear reactors.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper raised serious concerns about the impacts on fish from these nuclear power plants. Darlington nuclear power plant sucks up enough Lake Ontario water to drain an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just 15 seconds. It does this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to keep the nuclear reactors cool. In the process, millions of fish, eggs, and larvae are crushed and killed. This outdated cooling water system kills more fish than any other technology on the market.
Mark Mattson told John Spears at the Toronto Star, the CNSC’s focus is so narrow that the decision is meaningless. “They [the CNSC] say they’re not looking for alternatives; it’s not their job. They’re not looking at the need for it; it’s not their job,” said Mattson. “By its own nature, [the CNSC's] narrowed itself so much, it’s removed all the important issues that need to be answered,” he said.
A March 17, 2013 report from Ian Macleod:
The reconditioning work is in addition to a lingering proposal to construct up to four new reactors at Darlington, 70 kilometres east of Toronto.
The costs associated with each are controversial.
Three years ago, the Ontario government estimated the Darlington refurbishment would cost $6 billion to $10 billion. OPG says a final projected cost won’t be known until a detailed plan is completed in 2015.
Canada’s nuclear safety regulator has cleared the way for a multi-billion-dollar refit of Ontario’s big Darlington nuclear station. Hearings by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission had drawn submissions from 690 individuals or groups, many of whom appeared in person during three days of hearings last December.
The commission dismissed many of the pleas it heard to impose tougher conditions on the project, including making plans for a Fukushima-scale disaster.
“The Commission concludes that sufficient measures are in place to ensure that conventional, radiological, transportation, out-of-core criticality and nuclear accidents are not likely to cause significant adverse effects on the environment,” it wrote. The project as a whole is not likely to damage the environment, it concluded.
Ontario Power Generation, which owns Darlington, plans to start shutting the four reactors down for a major, mid-life overhaul in 2016. But the commission’s decision isn’t likely to end the debate over the project, which the energy ministry estimated in 2010 could cost anywhere between $6 and $10 billion. Since then, OPG has balked at making cost estimates, saying an overall figure will be available in 2015 after detailed planning is completed.
“OPG is very pleased with the CNSC’s decision,” said Wayne Robbins, OPG’s chief nuclear officer, said in a release. “We were confident in our conclusions that Darlington refurbishment and continued operation of the station will not result in any significant, adverse environmental effects, given the mitigation measures identified.”
Among many other tasks in the overhaul, each of the hundreds of pressure tubes that hold the nuclear fuel in the reactor core must be removed and replaced, a delicate and exacting task. The four reactors supply 3,512 megawatts of generating capacity. They went into service in the early 1990s at a cost of $14.4 billion.
The overhaul is designed keep the reactors running until about 2050. The work will reduce output from the station, although at no point will all four reactors be shut down. To fill the gap, OPG wants to keep operating its Pickering nuclear station until 2020. It had been slated to shut down by next year. A hearing on that proposal will be held in May.
The CNSC decision disappointed Mark Mattson of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, which had participated actively in the hearings. Mattson said the CNSC’s focus is so narrow that the decision is meaningless. “They say they’re not looking for alternatives; it’s not their job. They’re not looking at the need for it; it’s not their job,” said Mattson. “By its own nature, it’s narrowed itself so much, it’s removed all the important issues that need to be answered,” he said.
Greenpeace, which also appeared at the hearings, agreed that the CNSC review was flawed. “Premier Wynne needs to insure there’s an independent review of the costs and risks of the refurbishment, because we didn’t get one out of the CNSC,” said Greenpeace nuclear specialist Shawn-Patrick Stensil. “This has to deal with the environmental risks, but also the financial risks,” he said, suggesting the Ontario Energy Board could do the job.
Stensil noted that recent refurbishments haven’t gone well. The refit of New Brunswick’s Point LePreau reactor went far over budget, and Quebec pulled the plug on its Gentilly reactor after taking a hard look at costs. Peter Tabuns, energy critic for the New Democrats, also said a rigorous probe, with witnesses testifying under oath, is needed to establish the need for the overhaul. “We have to look at the economics, and that hasn’t been done,” he said. “They haven’t established that there’s a business case.”
Conservative energy critic Vic Fedeli welcomed the decision, however. “Our party is committed that nuclear is a large part of our long-term energy vision,” Fedeli said.
A number of those who appeared at the hearing criticized OPG for not having plans in place to deal with an accident on the scale of the Fukushima disaster. The CNSC said the probability of that type of disaster is too low for consideration. But it did instruct commission staff “because of public concern” to assess more severe accident scenarios in a report due this fall.
An aquatic expert warns that despite improved policies and extensive clean-up, the Great Lakes remain stressed and threatened.
Doug Haffner, the senior Canada research chair in Great Lakes Research at the University of Windsor, says a number of pollutant abatement programs implemented since the 1960s had a positive impact on the lakes.
"However, we have new issues. The Great Lakes have many different stresses on them right now," Haffner said.
He said one newer concern is pharmaceutical waste.
Eighteen months ago, the International Joint Commission flagged “chemicals of emerging concern” as a risk to humans and ecosystems.
“The other factor is climate change,” Haffner said.
Warmer water temperatures increase the amount of toxic algae that grows in the Great Lakes. Lake Erie is particularly vulnerable because it’s the shallowest of the Great Lakes.
Algae arriving earlier
Haffner said blue green algal blooms are traditionally confined to the summer months, mainly August.
Warm weather, low winds and high levels of phosphorus in the water cause algae populations to quickly increase to form large masses called algal blooms.
Last year, during record-setting high temperatures, algae began to bloom in Lake Erie in March.
“Things have changed, definitely. The harmful algae growth has increased dramatically in the last 10 years,” Haffner said.
One of the worst years on record came in 2011.
The algae can be toxic and has the potential to enter the drinking water system. Blue-green algae toxins can also irritate the skin or cause damage to the liver or nervous system. The toxins can cause headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Blue-green algae stinks, contains toxins and chokes off life in the lake.
Lake Erie is home to the second-largest fresh water fishery on the planet. But Haffner says it has the highest quality fish on earth.
“It is the best fishery in the world,” he said.
Haffner said everyone, not just fishermen, should be concerned. More than 40 million people live around the Great Lakes.
“If people don’t eat fish, perhaps they like birds or like to enjoy the beach,” he said.
Last year, the IJC, which cannot write or implement policy but instead makes recommendations to U.S. and Canadian governments, made the health of Lake Erie a priority concern between 2012 and 2015.
“The financial impact is important for both countries,” said Saad Jasim of the IJC.
The State of Ohio claims Lake Erie generates $10 billion in tourism every year. In 2010, Ontario had more than 73 million tourist visits in the Great Lakes region, injecting $12.3 billion into the economy, according to the province.
“This is also a source of drinking water for people on both sides of the border,” Jasim said.
The IJC will meet with politicians in Washington next month.
“We find the governments have been very positive,” Jasim said.
Last fall, the Essex Region Conservation Authority and Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee launched an educational campaign about blue-green. It’s called Overload: Lake Erie Blue Green Algae.
“It’s going to be as reversible as climate change,” Haffner said of curbing blue-green algae growth. “We’re caught in a web of warmer temperatures and a need to feed ourselves.”
There is growing demand to maximize the land’s ability to grow cash crops so there is a runoff of fertilizer that ultimately feeds algae growth in the lakes.
“Without major changes in how we address agriculture and climate change, we’ll have drastic events by 2020,” Haffner warned. “Other countries depend on us to provide food. If we can’t provide food, do you think this will be a stable planet?
“We’re much more water dependent than oil dependent. It’d be nice for us as a society to wake up and realize that.”
The town of Ajax, one of the many bedroom communities that sprawl out from Toronto’s border, has a waterfront unlike many of its neighbours. With the exception of one private property, it’s seven uninterrupted kilometres of publicly owned, publicly accessible land, the longest stretch in the Greater Toronto Area. In the warm months, it’s a runner’s or cyclist’s paradise: a seemingly endless stretch of green grass and tangles of trees lining the water of Lake Ontario.
But Ajax, a town of 110,000, is in a fight to protect its shores from the burgeoning population of York, the region on its western flank, and the proposed doubling of the sewage to be treated in Ajax’s lakeside plant. For Mayor Steve Parish, more sewage means more algae, the pungent green nuisance that already imperils the town’s beaches, rendering them unusable for much of the summer.
This particular species of algae, called cladophora, is common throughout the Great Lakes except Lake Superior. It proliferates when it has access to lots of phosphorus and light – both of which are in abundant supply along Ajax’s shore. It grows on rock surfaces in the spring and then detaches and floats to the shore from the middle of the summer until mid-September. The mayor believes it threatens the future of his town.
“Developers in York Region, in developing and selling 150,000 household units, will get very significant profits from this on the backs of the people downstream – the people in Ajax,” Mr. Parish said.
The local sewage treatment plant, jointly owned by Durham Region (which governs Ajax) and the more populous York Region, plans to increase the amount of sewage it treats from its current 340 million litres per day to 620 million litres per day in the coming years, in step with the anticipated population increase of 400,000 in York by 2031. The Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant expels treated sewage (known as effluent) one kilometre off the shore of Lake Ontario, and the Town of Ajax believes the phosphorus in the effluent is causing the algae to take over its shoreline.
But the science is inconclusive: Some studies suggest stormwater and zebra mussels may be even more important factors in algae growth.
“It’s not just fouling the beaches in terms of making them not swimmable or the rotting of the algae causing smells,” Mr. Parish said. “We are a Lake Ontario waterfront community, and the waterfront has major economic impact in terms of the growth, tourism, etc. of our community.” He’s called for a study to look at its effect on E. coli in the area, as well, as he believes the algae traps and re-emits E. coli near Ajax’s shore, which may be responsible for the frequent beach closings in the town in the summer months.
While the Town of Ajax believes the water quality along its shoreline will be most affected by this change at the sewage treatment plant, the two-tier government structure prevents it from having equal say in the decision. How this extra demand on the system will be managed is ultimately up to Durham and York regions (as well as the province’s Ministry of Environment), which have called for a relatively minor adjustment to the equipment used to release the effluent into Lake Ontario rather than more drastic and expensive measures proposed by Ajax. The town favours adding an extra stage of treatment for the sewage to separate out more phosphorus and to release the treated sewage further offshore.
Durham and York regions are nearing the end of an environmental assessment on modifications to the plant that began in 2010. As part of that process, they hosted public consultations last week in Pickering, where the plant is located, and neighbouring Ajax. The Ajax meeting drew a crowd of about 80 locals, who pressed the two regions, as well as the consultants running the project, to “be leaders” in tackling the water quality problem in Lake Ontario.
“We fully recognize that cladophora is an issue for the Ajax-Pickering area. We don’t dispute that,” said Barry Laverick, a project engineer with Durham Region, at the meeting. “We’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of effort ranking the alternatives.”
At the heart of the dispute is the cause of the algae growth.
The Town of Ajax cites a University of Michigan study that points to the phosphorus from the sewage plant’s effluent as the culprit behind the algae, but the two regions have turned to other research from other sources, including the University of Waterloo, that suggests stormwater and the infestation of zebra mussels in Lake Ontario have more to do with the algae growth.
“There’s no one gigantic source. If there was, it would be easy to deal with,” said Peter Dillon, a professor at Trent University’s Water Quality Centre and a Canadian expert on the biogeochemistry of lakes. “It’s the cumulative effect of a lot of smaller sources, and you have to deal with them all best you can.”
While he hasn’t completed studies of Ajax’s near-shore area, Dr. Dillon said the regions of York and Durham may very well be right that storm water is the biggest contributor of phosphorus to that part of Lake Ontario. But he said it’s always easier to manage the phosphorus levels coming from a “point source,” such as a sewage treatment plant, versus a broad range such as a lawn-fertilizer nutrients, dust on roads and agricultural runoff that could all end up in stormwater.
On a walk along the water in Rotary Park near the mouth of Duffins Creek (at this time of year, it’s naked trees and calf-high slush), Mr. Parish said that since there’s no consensus on the cause of the algae, the regions should put the environmental assessment on pause and commission an extensive study of the water quality along Ajax’s shoreline – or even wait until a provincial study currently underway on the health of Lake Ontario is completed.
In the meantime, the Town of Ajax has submitted two alternative ways to handle the added pressure on the sewage-treatment system coming from York Region. One is constructing a longer outfall (the pipe that carries the effluent into the lake) from its current length of one kilometre to three kilometres. Both the town and the two regions agree the deeper water three kilometres offshore would allow for better dilution of the effluent, which could mean less algae on the waterfront. But that option comes with a $185-million to $240-million pricetag.
The town has also proposed tertiary treatment: an extra few stages of sewage treatment that would remove more phosphorus from the effluent prior to its release. The regions say not only would it be expensive (between $175-million and $230-million) but it’s the option with the biggest carbon footprint, since it would involve constructing two new buildings on the plant’s site. John Presta, Durham Region’s director of environment services, says it won’t do much to combat the algae in the lake, either.
“Tertiary treatment is like adding a clean drop of water in a bathtub. It’s not going to provide much impact,” he said.
But regardless of which research or modifications to the plant residents prefer, most who attended the public consultation seemed most riled up about the regional politics behind the plant’s expansion.
Walter Donaldson, 66, who has lived in Ajax for almost three decades, said he thinks York and Durham regions have put cost-effectivness before all else in deciding how to handle the increased demands for sewage treatment from residents of York Region.
“There’s a big pipe coming down from York Region – they were saying in [the meeting] it’s 80 per cent from them,” Mr. Donaldson said. “The town [of Ajax] isn’t getting the responses they want. It seems to me like they’re trying to rush this through.”
York Region officials say they’ve listened and responded to the Town of Ajax’s concerns, but say the option they’ve selected makes the most sense for the region when all factors – including social and financial – are considered. While some sewage from the region is sent to a plant along Lake Simcoe for treatment, it’s not feasible to direct sewage from all future development there.
“The regions have expended a significant amount of money to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for an environmental assessment,” said Daniel Kostopoulos, York Region’s director of capital planning and delivery. “We’re spending millions of dollars on it to make sure we get things right.”
Lake Ontario’s fishery is in fine shape, according to several presentations given at Wednesday evening’s “State of Lake Ontario” meeting at the DEC’s training facility in Pulaski.
Speakers from state Department of Environmental and U.S. Geological Survey staff covered everything from last year’s record-setting catches of chinook, coho and brown trout — to the effort to re- introduce a bait fish, the deep-water cisco (also called a bloater). If the fish takes hold, it will give game fish more to eat in the deep sections of the lake.
Jana Lantry, a DEC aquatic biologist, noted last year’s angler boat survey by DEC staff, indicated the trout and salmon catch rate was the second highest catch rate on record. She said that charter boats averaged 8.6 fish per trip, while non-charter boats averaged 3.4 fish per trip.
“It was the 10th consecutive year of high chinook catch rates. In addition, the length and weight of the chinooks were above average,” Lantry said. “The brown trout catch rate was the third highest and coho salmon and rainbow trout remained above average.”
There was a different story, though, when it came to smallmouth bass, particularly along a stretch from Rochester to Oswego.
Lantry said last year’s smallmouth bass catch on the lake “hovered at record lows.” However, she added that netting surveys in the Eastern basis revealed more smallies in the 4- to 5-pound range than last year’s outings.
During the period stretching from 1999 to 2003, Lantry said, the percentage of fisherman targeting bass on the lake was about 32 percent. That number has since decreased to 12 percent.
It’s still not clear what has caused the drop in bass being caught. Speculation has included that round gobies, an invasive species that’s taken hold on the lake, are ravaging the nests of spawning bass. Another explanation might be the unexplained drop in the crayfish population, a prey preferred by bass, along certain stretches of the lake’s southern shore.
Meanwhile, a lake tributary angler survey revealed to no one’s surprise that the Salmon River continues to be the top attraction (68 percent) when it comes to the total number of anglers fishing for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead.
DEC staff estimated fishermen put in a total of 1.1 million angler hours on the waterway last year, and that 60 percent of the fishermen were non-state residents. A total of 21 states were represented.
Original Article here.
Ontario’s environment chief lauded the Liberal’s Lake Simcoe protection efforts during a visit to the Pefferlaw shoreline Friday morning.
Minister Jim Bradley stood on the ice at Holme’s Point and announced his government’s Lake Simcoe Proetection Plan has led to the improvement of the lake’s health through 1,500 local environmental stewardship projects.
He didn’t offer new cash for continued initiatives this year, however, despite the fact ongoing efforts have led to significant progress in enhancing the shoreline, lowering phosphorus levels and encouraging the return of native lake trout, according to a prepared statement.
His visit comes on the heels of the the completion of Ontario’s second annual report on Lake Simcoe study.
“We are seeing encouraging signs in Lake Simcoe that the efforts being made by the public, scientist, municipalities and our partmers are beginning to pay off. I am particularly heartened see more native fish being cuaght as we ramp down on phosphorous pollution,” Mr. Bradley said.
“Local businesses and communities depend on the well-being of Lake Simcoe.
“It is encouraging to see that the science is telling us progress is being made and that the number of naturally reproducing coldwater fish in the lake is on the rise.”
Protecting Lake Simcoe is part of the “new Ontario government’s” plan to protect and restore the Great Lakes, its, its watershed and tributaries, helping create strong local economies and a healthy environment, he said.
Original Article here.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC hopes to pump natural gas into Great Lakes freighters, as it seeks new ways to lift demand for a struggling commodity.
Shell on Monday unveiled plans to build a small liquefied natural gas plant in Sarnia, Ont., to provide fuel to marine traffic, as well as trucks and trains. Another new plant is planned for Geismar, La., which will serve ships sailing the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States.
The new plants are part of a growing energy industry push to make natural gas into a transportation fuel. Construction is already under way at a similar small Shell liquefaction plant west of Calgary, while a Flying J truck stop in the city opened for LNG refuelling on Friday. The Alberta LNG plant will be complete early next year; the two marine-focused facilities will take three years.
“You really need to start building infrastructure so people have confidence and make that switch,” said James Burns, general manager of LNG in Shell’s Transport Americas group.
What Shell and others are proposing is, Mr. Burns said, a “game-changing event” for a transportation industry that has spent decades deeply dependent on diesel.
The three plants each have a planned capacity of 250,000 tonnes per year. They are far smaller than the 12-million tonne LNG export plant that Shell and several partners have proposed for the Canadian West Coast. But they will produce 1.5 million litres of LNG per day, enough to fuel 5,000 trucks or a good percentage of the Great Lakes fleet where, depending on size, ships consume between 7,500 and 38,000 litres daily.
Sarnia is an important refuelling hub on the Great Lakes, where some 65 U.S.-flagged and 80 Canadian-flagged ships regularly do business. Most of the U.S. vessels are too big to move through the St. Lawrence Seaway, meaning they are essentially a captive fleet on the lakes – an ideal place for Shell to offer a new type of fuel.
Shell said it expects Ohio-based Interlake Steamship Co., which runs 10 vessels, to be its first marine customer. Interlake executives were not available for comment Monday. But Brigitte Hébert, a spokeswoman with Montreal-based CSL Group Inc., said: “CSL is investigating all forms of clean, efficient marine propulsion, including natural gas powered ships. An LNG fuelling facility on the Great Lakes is seen by CSL as a positive step.”
The Great Lakes shipping industry that has struggled in tough economic times. The last new U.S. Great Lakes vessel was built in 1981; the oldest still in service has sailed for more than a century: It was built in 1906.
With no new ships coming, Great Lakes carriers must convert existing vessels, at a cost of $15-million to $25-million, said Glen Nekvasil, vice-president of the Ohio-based Lake Carriers’ Association.
Shell said that a litre of diesel will cost roughly 30 per cent less than diesel, and noted that new rules will force upgrades to marine emissions systems in coming years.
But ship owners must decide whether they believe natural gas will stay inexpensive. “It’s a decision that is not made lightly,” Mr. Nekvasil said.
There are other obstacles, too, including rules and regulations about LNG refuelling. Authorities “have to really make fit-for-purpose permits and standards,” said Shell’s Mr. Burns.
The St. Lawrence Seaway has never seen an LNG-fuelled ship. But seaway management said there is no reason it can’t happen.
“LNG as a fuel is no more of a risk than any of the conventional fuels,” said spokesman Andrew Bogora. “LNG is certainly becoming a more important fuel source, and the economic argument for LNG is certainly one that shippers are taking note of.”
Original Article here.
Biologists with federal and state agencies, along with Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources biologists will be on hand for presentations at upcoming State of Lake Ontario meetings in New York.
A meeting will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Carlson Auditorium. RIT and the Monroe County Fishery Advisory Board are co-hosting the meeting.
The last meeting will be held Tuesday, March 19 in Niagara County.
Original Article here.
Environment Minister Peter Kent is dismissing opposition concerns about a significant decrease in visits to national parks, coinciding with $51 million in projected spending reductions at Parks Canada for the next year.
Kent defended the government’s budget cuts Tuesday in response to questions raised by NDP deputy environment critic Anne Minh Thu Quach at a House of Commons environment committee hearing.
He said the department and agency were respecting their mandates in a context of deficit reduction efforts across the government, while maintaining healthcare and social transfers to the provinces.
“Basically what we’re doing is resizing government and for Parks Canada, one must realize that we’re trying to refocus resources and Parks Canada, which is one of the best agencies I think in the world and a model for many countries’ national parks programs, is … focusing its services on the peak periods of usage.”
Quach said ski and snowshoe trails are also inaccessible at some parks in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta because the agency is relying on volunteers instead of paid staff for maintenance in the winter months.
“The Parks are open to the public, but there are no longer any (snow) trails for anyone,” said Quach, who represents a riding west of Montreal. “There’s a reduction in staff who have been replaced by volunteers, so the services aren’t consistent between the parks.”
Overall, the agency reported a nine per cent drop in visits to national parks and historic sites from 2007 to 2012. Quach suggested this was due to budget cuts to maintenance services as well as guides who are being replaced by signs.
Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle told the committee that some of the budget reductions were due to the end of specific one-time spending such as the twinning of the Trans-Canada highway in Banff National Park. Some of the reductions were also introduced as part of the 2012 budget.
Quach said the overall cuts, including Environment Canada’s decision to shut down the Montreal Biosphere, an educational conservation museum on the site of Expo ’67, are clashing with the department’s mandate to promote a safe and healthy environment.
In response to questions from Conservative MP James Lunney, Kent added that the government was hoping its recent efforts and funding to create Rouge National Urban Park in the Toronto region, will help young people connect with nature, while serving as a springboard for visits to other parks.
Kent also told the committee that the government was still studying how to improve legislation protecting species at risk, either through amendments or changes in implementation, and that it was consulting a new advisory panel of hunting groups as part of the process.
Answering questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie, Kent said the government hoped to propose regulations to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas pollution by the middle of the year. He said that the ongoing consultations with industry groups were aiming to ensure the draft version would be “as close to having agreement as possible” to avoid a lengthy consultation period.
An Alberta-based environmental policy research organization, the Pembina Institute, expressed concerns about Kent’s comments, noting that environmental and First Nations groups were not invited to participate in a special task force made up of representatives from Environment Canada, the Alberta government, and the oil and gas industry that meets monthly to discuss the regulations.
“Groups like ours have sent our ideas into Environment Canada, and obviously we hope our recommendations are being considered,” Clare Demerse, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute told Postmedia News after learning about Kent’s remarks.
The federal government estimates that oilsands companies represent the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada that must be addressed in order to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s target of reducing annual greenhouse gas pollution by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Original Article here.
Here are a few World Water Day 2013 Events:
AGO: Water Docs International Film Festival 2013
The 2nd annual Water Docs International Film Festival is a unique event weaving the leading voices of water awareness with the expressive power of great filmmaking. Produced by the water issues group Ecologos, Water Docs this year will present 17 films, accompanied with director and guest speaker Q&As. All screenings will take place at Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), 317 Dundas St., W., from March 21 – 24, 2013.
Nippissing International Water Day Festival
Save the date and come to our 2nd Annual World Water Day Festival held on the afternoon of Saturday, March 23, 2013 at St. Andrew’s United Church and kicking off with the mayor reading a World Water Day proclamation. Start the day, with a walk down Eco-Path hosted by the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority in the morning and see some of the changes to Chippewa Creek.
Water for People Canada Gala; Stories from the field
The best events are the ones where you can have fun and support a great cause at the same time.Water For People Canadaʼs first inaugural Gala event brought these two ideas together smashingly and was a resounding success,raising over $36,000 for international water and sanitation projects
Last month, Environment Canada issued notice to Tim McCormack to inform him his fishing buildings (and possibly four others’) and other “personal property” on Parcel 15 will be demolished “on or about March 4” (Monday) due to the termination of the lease for commercial fishing on the family lot.
As well, the ministry plans to bar him from the harbour where generations of fishermen like his father, grand father and great-grandfather have plied their craft on Lake Ontario for 200 years.
In an email statement sent to The Intelligencer last week, Environment Canada (EC) stated the decision “supports the EC and National Wildlife Area’s mandate of protecting and conserving wildlife and their habitat and to reduce any health and safety risks to the public and Government of Canada staff.”
With “very little” hope to see Minister of Environment Peter Kent and the department he oversees change direction, McCormack, along with wife Cheryl and son Jordan, started packing up nets, fishing gear and cleaning belongings out of the commercial fisherman’s fishing sheds last Friday.
That night, Hastings-Prince Edward MP Daryl Kramp, who expressed his “deep disappointment” and “anger” with Environment Canada’s approach on this matter, said he is being “cautiously” optimistic that no bulldozer will demolish McCormack’s property on Monday as the ministry first ruled in mid-February.
Kramp said he discussed the “complicated” issue — due to the termination of the lease for commercial fishing on Parcel 15, for which McCormack purchased the fishing license from Dorothy Aman, the existing lessee since the 1970s, in 2011 — with minister Kent in Ottawa last week.
“I don’t know for sure (that demolition won’t occur Monday), but I discussed the issue with department (EC) officials and the minister (Kent) himself, at which point I expressed my severe displeasure with the reality we have there,” he said.
Kramp added he told Kent he doesn’t think “it’s reasonable” to demolish buildings and someone’s personal property in the middle of winter. He plans on meeting with Kent again this week, possibly Wednesday, to further discuss an “amenable” solution.
“I will be consistently meeting with each and every element involved within the government to try to find a resolve. But it’s going to be a challenge,” noted the MP.
“I hope we could at least get a temporarily postponement so we can get this thing ironed out one way or the other. And I’m hoping we can keep the human element in this and at least put it into a situation that’s much more acceptable than what it is now.”
As they were driving down to get more of McCormack’s fishing gear out of his Point Traverse cottage last Friday, Cheryl told her fisherman husband — who said he hasn’t been able to sleep since EC announced they were going to demolish his property — “don’t worry honey, the people in government that made this decision to destroy someone else’s property have to lay their head on a pillow and sleep at night.”
“As EC doesn’t want to manage leases anymore and don’t have a mandate for harbours, why don’t Small Craft and Harbours, who have a mandate to protect commercial fishing harbours, take back the harbour and manage our leases like they do in Port Dover and other harbours around the province,” asked the fisherman, who hopes to see another generation of McCormack fishermen in his son, Jordan.
“That would make sense as this is federal land and both are agencies of the federal government. People have been fishing here for 200 years. I don’t see why we could not keep fishing here for another 200.”
McCormack looked forward to ask the question, “and a lot more”, and discuss his concerns with Barbara Proctor, Prince Edward County councillor representing Ward 9/South Marysburgh, during a meeting Sunday afternoon.
“I gave her all the information I had and we had a discussion on the issues at hand,” he said.
The fisherman noted Proctor “supports” commercial fishing and the transfer of leases at Point Traverse harbour.
“She is going to relay information to the mayor (Peter Mertens) and see if we can’t resolve the issue at hand,” added McCormack.
“She does not want to see commercial fishing or any small business threatened or jeopardized over someone in a government office making a bad decision.”
The councillor told McCormack she would like to see Environment Canada and commercial fishing work out a compromise.
“And she said she is going to try to work with Darryl Kramp’s office,” said McCormack.
“I feel she is sincere and is going to work in the best interest of commercial fishing in the area.”
Original Article here.
The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) has received $25,000.00 from the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund to increase awareness of urban water quality issues. The Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund (GLCF), administer by the Ministry of the Environment, helps communities take action to restore and protect our Great Lakes. The GRCA will be working in partnership with member municipalities, the Port Hope Community Health Centre and Trout Unlimited Canada, to increase urban water quality awareness through the implementation of the Yellow Fish Road TM program.
Urban stormwater pollution is one of the biggest source of pollutants in rivers, streams and lakes. Storm drains are the grates found next to the curb, which collect runoff water from the street. In most municipalities, storm drains empty untreated storm water directly into local rivers and lakes. Litter, sediments and chemicals can end up in the local river or lake though the storm drain system, especially during snowmelt and springtime rains. Yellow Fish Road™ participants paint yellow fish next to storm drains and distribute fish-shaped brochures to nearby households to let residents know why the yellow fish have appeared.
Original Article here.
The Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance – representing six environmental groups – is delighted that Ontario Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley re-introduced the Great Lakes Protection Act today as the new government’s first legislative agenda item.
“We’re thrilled that the Great Lakes are a priority for the government,” said Sarah Winterton, Acting Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “Improving protection for the source of drinking water for 80 per cent of Ontarians and protecting our shorelines and beaches is the right thing to do, and we urge all parties to work together to pass a strong Act.”
The bill was first introduced June 6, 2012, but died on the order table when the legislature was prorogued. Next, the bill will be debated, and amendments considered by an all-party committee.
The Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance looks forward to working with all parties to support the passage of a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act that improves water quality, wetlands, beaches and coastlines, biodiversity and recreational opportunities, and sets clear targets that will be reported publicly.
“Improved water quality in the Great Lakes is crucial to our health,” said Anastasia Lintner, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice. “It is important that we see a strong commitment to work together to keep toxic chemicals from getting into our water in the first place.”
“We welcome Geographically Focussed Initiatives so that better protection measures can be put in place for the undeveloped and pristine shoreline areas there are left on the Great Lakes,” said Mary Muter, Chair, Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club.
About the Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance: The Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance Steering Committee includes members of Canadian Environmental Law Association, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Great Lakes United, and the Sierra Club of Canada, Ontario Chapter.
Original Article here.
It is in the nature of human hubris to assume Man Knows Better than Nature.
Which is why, perhaps, when it comes to trout, things are a downright mess. Thanks to the British, as the Empire expanded beyond the sunset, so did trout. In 1864, they were introduced to Tasmania, India in 1889 and South Africa in 1890. Trout traveled to places no trout swam before.
Brook trout are among the smallest of their group, but many people consider them among the most beautiful. Photo: Marc Peter, MyShot
That wasn’t all. In the 1880s, European brown trout went to America, while American rainbow trout came to Britain. The biological bouillabaisse has been stewing, says Stephen Moore, Supervisory Fisheries Biologist at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ever since Roman times. (The Romans transferred salt-water mullet and lamprey—species that could tolerate freshwater—into natural lakes.)
“There’s a long history of tinkering with fish populations,” Moore says. “We’ve put fish into habitats where there were no fish, and we’ve put non-native species on top of natives. The thinking was: ‘God made a mistake and didn’t put our favorite fish there.”
Spoiler alert. The species shuffle causes biological havoc. Non-natives out-compete natives in every situation. “It took man a long time to realize that once the non-natives are free and establish reproducing populations that it is impossible to turn the clock back,” says Moore. “Our only hope is where feasible to restore segments of historic range for native species like brook trout.”
The brook trout, specifically the Southern Appalachian brook trout, is Moore’s favorite fish. They are vibrantly beautiful with orange bellies and fins, flanks dotted with red surrounded by a halo of blue. They also represent Moore’s 30 year-long commitment to restoring them to their native habitat.
Upsetting Fish in the Smoky Mountains
When large-scale logging in the Smoky Mountains at the turn of the century stripped shade-providing streamside vegetation, summer water temperatures rose to intolerable levels for the fish; sediment from the eroded banks clogged spawning gravel impairing their ability to reproduce. Brook trout all but vanished from waters at elevations below 3,000 feet.
To mitigate the damage, well-meaning logging companies restocked streams with rainbow trout, further compounding the problem when the aliens out-competed and interbred with the remaining brookies.
As if things weren’t bad enough, acid rain from the region’s coal-fired power plants and nitrates from agriculture contaminated the water, adding to the trout’s litany of woes. Native brook trout lost about 75 percent of their range. Nothing short of an aggressive restoration campaign could provide a fix.
Brook trout can be an important part of an ecosystem, as on Lake Nipigon in Ontario. Photo: Bill Marzana, MyShot
Restoring Brook Trout
The fix began in 1976, right at about the time Moore began work for the National Park Service as a young graduate student. He eventually became the head of a program that combined electro-shocking shallow streams and the use of antimycin in deeper waters to weed out the invaders, and then restocked streams with native brook trout. Careful monitoring of water quality and tightened EPA regulations regarding air pollution helped, too. So far, says Moore, more than 27 miles of historic brook trout range has been restored, with another 15 to 20 miles to go.
It’s a win-win for fish and man. Trout, you see, are the mine canaries of fresh water. When there is trouble in the environment, they are the first to go. When trout are where they ought to be, all is right with the world.
Original article here.
In Ontario, many rivers and streams have been fragmented by dams and hydro-electric stations, creating substantial barriers to fish migration. For example, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) operates 65 hydro-electric stations and 240 dams on 24 river systems. While hydro-electric dams contribute to Ontario’s energy supply, these structures can have damaging effects on aquatic ecosystems and species. Dams can fragment aquatic ecosystems, create barriers to fish migrating upstream, alter river flow and temperature, and kill fish in turbines during downstream passage.
Dams and hydro-electric stations along the St. Lawrence River, such as the Moses-Saunders Power Dam near Cornwall, are considered a threat to the survival of the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) population in Ontario. It is classified as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).
Eels have a complex life cycle. They are born, spawn and die at sea, have a single breeding population, and some migrate to freshwater to mature. The eel has a vast range on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean from Venezuela to Greenland and Iceland. They migrate great distances throughout their life stages, some travelling as far as 6,000 km. The species’ native Canadian distribution includes all fresh water, estuaries and coastal marine waters that are accessible from the Atlantic Ocean. Juvenile eels (elver) migrate through the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario, where they mature into silver eels and migrate back to the Atlantic Ocean, to spawn in the Sargasso Sea. More than 25,000 dams block the eels’ freshwater range, from Florida to Ontario.
Eels are an important fishery worldwide, for both Aboriginal traditional use and as a commercial fishery. Eels are harvested at virtually all life stages and in most of their habitats, such as freshwater lakes and rivers, estuaries and marine environments. However, a plummeting eel population forced MNR to close Ontario’s commercial eel fishery in 2004 and the recreational fishery in 2005.
Eels were once abundant in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, which by some estimates comprised approximately half the fish biomass in the 1600s. Since the 1970s, the eel population has been declining at an alarming rate and the full causes for the decline are unknown. However, dams have an impact on eel populations in two ways: they restrict access to upstream habitats and cause eel mortality in turbines.
In the St. Lawrence River watershed, over 8,000 dams restrict access to more than 12,000 km2 of freshwater habitat for eels. Two major dams block eel migration from Lake Ontario; the Moses- Saunders Power Dam (which includes the R. H. Saunders Generating Station in Ontario and the Robert Moses dam in New York State) constructed in the 1950s and the Beauharnois dam near Montreal constructed in the 1930s. Both dams were retrofitted with eel ladders in 1974 and 1994, respectively, to facilitate the upward passage of eel migration. Unfortunately, eels migrating downstream are estimated to suffer at least 40 per cent mortality due to passage through turbines.
MNR has monitored eels ascending the Moses-Saunders Dam ladder since its construction. In 1982 and 1983, more than 26,000 eels per day were observed ascending the ladder during peak migration; by 2002, eel passage declined to approximately 55 eels per day. The Lake Ontario Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission issued a statement in 2002 that without management intervention, extirpation of the eel in the Great Lakes Basin is likely and that management actions within the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario should be taken to reduce eel mortality at all life stages and to encourage safe, effective upstream and downstream migration.
In 2007, eels were classified as an endangered species under the ESA. Ontario Regulation 242/08 under the ESA exempts hydro-electric generating stations from the prohibitions against killing and habitat destruction if an agreement is entered into with the Minister of Natural Resources. While all other stations have a three-year grace period to enter into an agreement, the R. H. Saunders Generating Station had one year (until June 2009) to enter into an agreement respecting eels.
In June 2009, the Minister of Natural Resources entered into a 20-year agreement with OPG under the ESA respecting eels at the R.H. Saunders Generating Station. The agreement includes a five-year implementation plan consisting of a trap and transport project (to capture, transport and release large eels upstream and downstream of the generating station), a juvenile eel stocking program (to supplement natural recruitment loss) into the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, and requirements to operate and maintain the existing eel ladder. Under the agreement, OPG is required to implement and monitor the effectiveness of the implementation plan. MNR will audit OPG at least once a year to review compliance with the agreement.
It is noteworthy that the eel recovery strategy and the government’s response were not finalized prior to this agreement. The ECO believes that the agreement should be amended if necessary to reflect both documents once they are completed. While the agreement appears to mitigate some of the effects of the hydro-electric station on eels (e.g., stocking and transporting eels), it does not effectively address the protection and recovery of eels. For example, the agreement’s pilot trap and transport program superficially addresses safe downstream migration of eels – it artificially relocates eels that may or may not be ready to migrate. An amended, strengthened agreement would emphasize safe, natural migration of eels downstream, such as the installation of bypass structures or altering the timing of operation (turn off turbines at night during migration) to reduce turbine mortality.
Safe and effective natural passage of eels, both upstream and downstream, must be addressed at dams along the St. Lawrence River and tributaries if Ontario’s eel population is to recover. Given these concerns, the ECO cautions MNR in using this agreement as a template for other hydro-electric stations where eels are present. Although the Moses-Saunders and Beauharnois dams have eel ladders to help migration upstream, there are many dams in Ontario with no fish or eel ladders. For example, the Ottawa River is blocked by 12 hydro-dams, none of which are equipped with an eel ladder. Fragmented rivers and streams have damaging effects on the survival of many other aquatic species: dams prevented Atlantic salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, and were considered to be a significant factor in their decline and ultimate extirpation from Lake Ontario.
The ECO believes that MNR should require, through approvals issued under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA), that all new dams facilitate natural passage of fish by installing fish ladders or other similar structures. In addition, MNR should require all existing dams to be retrofitted with fish ladders or other similar structures to facilitate safe and natural migration along the course of all Ontario’s streams and rivers, through LRIA approvals for improvement or repair to dams.
Original Article here.
Who really cares about climate change? Apparently, not that many. A newly released international study shows that the issue is not a priority in the United States or anywhere else around the world.
The study used coordinated surveys conducted by the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) in 33 countries from 1993 through 2010. The surveys are the only ones of their kind that put long-term attitudes toward environmental issues in an international perspective. In these surveys, the participants were asked the relative importance of eight issues. These included health care, education, crime, the environment, immigration, the economy, terrorism and poverty.
The findings showed that the environment was certainly not the biggest concern. In 15 countries, the economy ranked as the highest in concern, followed by health care in eight, education in six, poverty in two and terrorism and crime in one each. Immigration and the environment, in contrast, didn’t make the top of the list in any country over the 17-year period while these surveys were conducted. In fact, the United States ranked the environment as sixth in the list.
In terms of national averages, only 4.7 percent of people ranked environment as a pressing concern. The only topics that ranked lower were immigrations at 4.1 and terrorism at 2.6. In contrast, the highest area of concern was the economy at 25 percent.
In the United States in particular, only 3.6 percent of the people surveyed selected the environment as the nation’s most pressing issue. Yet the survey didn’t just ask about general environmental concern; it also asked questions about particular problems such as global climate change and air pollution. Yet even these issues failed to raise concern.
“One reason for the relatively low ranking of climate change is that people often believed it did not directly affect them. Climate change is seen more as a country-level problem than as a personal problem,” said Tom W. Smith, Director of the General Social Survey and author of a paper that summarizes the surveys, in a press release.
The fact that so many people don’t believe that the environment is a huge concern and shows a rather large global issue. As global warming continues to affect countries and as temperatures rise, it’s important for countries to take action in a united front against climate change.
That said, the survey did show some good news. The surveys indicated that there was a greater mention of climate change as a problem by those under 30 versus those who were 70 and older. It could show a growing worry about the climate, and possible action in the future.
Original article here.
The Ontario government has finalized a deal to transfer a large tract of land on Toronto’s eastern border to the federal government, clearing one of the last hurdles before the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park, the Star has learned.
According to an email obtained by the Star from a provincial government employee with knowledge of the agreement, the deal to hand over Rouge Park will guarantee the maintenance of existing environmental protections, a key standard local activists worried would be downgraded.
“The transfer agreement contains a variety of conditions one of which is that any Parks planning must “meet or exceed” any provincial policies applicable,” the provincial employee wrote in the email.
The Star previously reported local activists were concerned that the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park would actually reduce existing environmental protections because the draft National Park Concept vision includes no mention of nature or ecosystems.
Last December, preservationists sounded the alarm in a letter to then premier Dalton McGuinty, noting that a 600-metre-wide wildlife corridor along the Little Rouge River and plans to reforest the area were not included by Parks Canada in planning documents for the national park. Both demands had been part of longstanding planning policies governing the Rouge developed over the last 20 years.
It now appears they will be mandatory as part of the provincial-federal land transfer.
“We are pleased that the province will require that Rouge National Park meet or exceed the policies of the Provincial Greenbelt Plan, existing Rouge Park Plans and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan,” said Kevin O’Connor, president of Friends of the Rouge Watershed.
The deal, which has not yet been made public, was inked before Premier Kathleen Wynne and her team took office. According to the email, former Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli can take credit for making the maintenance of environmental protections a condition of the land transfer.
“The former Minister of (Infrastructure) directed the “meet or exceed” standard,” the government employee wrote.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pauline Browes, the former Progressive Conservative MP for Scarborough Centre. “But it did take some time.”
Browse said the deal is the culmination of a process to transform the Rouge into a national park that she helped start in 1990.
“Rouge Park will be one of the most significant environmental projects ever undertaken in Ontario,” said Ontario Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray.
“Governments are working together to protect this vitally important area for future generations.”
Attempts to reach Peter Kent, the federal environment minister in charge of Parks Canada, went unanswered over the weekend.
Of the 57 square kilometres currently slated to become Rouge National Urban Park, about two thirds are coming from the province. Jim Robb, general director of the Friends of the Rouge, says transferring the lands was the last chance to procure environmental guarantees from the federal government.
While happy that existing protections will be included in the future national park, Robb says he would like to see the federal government contribute an additional 36 square kilometres of land immediately adjacent to the park in the Pickering airport lands.
The Rouge River Valley was protected piece by piece over more than 20 years by a patchwork of overlapping regulations and organizations. The future national urban park will unite the land under a single body: Parks Canada.
While all national parks have the same tough environmental standards, the Rouge will be different. Because of the existing farming that goes on within the park boundaries, a separate category of national park that adds the moniker “urban” is being created. Exactly how much protection for nature this new category of park will offer remains of major concern to those who have fought to preserve the Rouge, though the wording of this deal goes a long way to calming those fears.
Original article here.
Of all the invasive species threatening the Great Lakes, public enemy number one remains the sea lamprey.
No other species has caused more damage to the lakes and the lakes’ tributaries, explained Terry Quinney, the provincial manager of fish and wildlife services for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH).
In the past 50 years, the U.S. and Canada have shelled out a combined $1 billion trying to combat and control the sea lamprey.
But scientists, conservationists and policy makes have a new weapon and it’s being developed in Peterborough. Genome mapping and DNA technologies based out of Trent University may represent the best tools in combating such species today and into the future, Quinney said.
By mapping the sea lamprey’s genome, scientists can determine how best to eradicate it.
“We are learning that sea lampreys have this really keen sense of chemical smell. Through things such as genetic research we can learn about chemical attractants that can bring sea lampreys into traps. Then they can be exposed of,” Quinney said. “That’s one concrete example of transferring the pure research, based on genetics, into the water to control this very harmful aquatic invader.”
The future of DNA technologies and what role they will play in future environmental conservation was the subject of Tuesday night’s wildlife symposium at the OFAH’s Mario Cortellucci Hunting and Fishing Heritage Centre.
Entitled DNA: the Future of Wildlife and Fish Conservation in the 21st Century, the event attracted about 70 visitors and featured cutting-edge research from Trent University, the OFAH, Fleming College and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“It’s really to show where the new DNA technologies are going in terms of providing information for conservation and management systems,” said Trent biology Prof. Bradley White, supervisor of the university’s Wildlife DNA Forensic Laboratory.
“We’re seen as a significant leader in this field. One of the reasons of this meeting is to keep us at the forefront of that research.”
“Our experience with the sea lamprey tells us that once an invasive species arrives, it can be nearly impossible to remove it from an aquatic ecosystem,” said Chris Wilson, a MNR research scientist who runs the province’s Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation research unit, which includes Trent’s Fisheries Genetics lab.
Wilson explained to Tuesday’s audience how his genetic research could act as a “smoke signal” or early warning system to predict the arrival of invasive species and allow policymakers to act pre-emptively.
Much like popular CSI television shows highlight, humans have the tendency to leave traces of DNA in their environment as they go about their daily lives.
So too do fish, explained Wilson.
“They are literally leaving this plume of DNA whether its shed cells or bits of tissue or their latest meal, they are leaving a trail through the water,” Wilson said.
DNA testing from water samples allowed scientists to discover the presence of invasive bighead and silver carp in Lake Eerie last summer without netting a single fish.
“It’s a molecular smoke alarm,” Wilson said. “There is (now) a huge planning exercise going on including response actions. Usually with an invasive species, by the time you see them, they are well established and there are really limited options on what you can do.”
Using such research, agencies such as the OFAH can better respond to environmental threats, protect species at risk and ensure the sustainable use of the province’s natural resources for generations to come, Quinney said.
“It’s the results of those important research studies that inform management decisions … but also inform us about how to keep ecosystems healthy,” he said. “The science helps inform us how we can go about using those resources sustainably forever.”
Original article here.
World-class facilities help buoy Georgina’s reputation as an ice fishing capital, but reports of dead fish in the lake are floating to the surface this week, as well.
The Natural Resources Ministry is aware of the situation but, at this point, has not confirmed reports of dead whitefish in Lake Simcoe.
“We have heard the reports from anglers calling in, as well as from the message boards,” said a ministry spokesperson.
“These have ranged from a few fish to many more, however, we have not had any specific spots forwarded to us so that we can verify.”
Angling message boards point to dead whitefish off of Innisfil and around Snake and Fox islands, however, no photos or official confirmation accompany the posts.
There are also posts from some anglers dismissing accounts as nothing more than rumour.
“Has anyone hooked one of these dead whitefish with a seven hook wonder lake rake yet?” asked one. “If not, they should have at this point. I’m no biologist, but it doesn’t take a wizard to figure the die-offs are happening in the spring and summer with warmer weather temperatures.”
But the ministry does plan on following up any confirmed leads.
It requires, however, waypoints and specific locations of sightings to investigate.
Staff from the ministry’s Lake Simcoe Fisheries Assessment Unit (LSFAU) and winter creel crews have been notified and instructed to forward along any new reports.
As to a possible cause if something turns out to be affecting the roughly 140,000 lake whitefish population stocked annually, the ministry said there is no way to know for sure without testing being conducted.
But crews from the ministry’s Operation Bait Bucket are out on the ice talking to anglers about invasive species and diseases, as well as what they can do to slow their spread.
Lake Simcoe supports one of the highest angling efforts of any inland lake in Ontario, the majority of which take place during the winter when 2,000 to 4,000 fish huts operate from January to March each year.
The province’s sixth-largest inland lake has withstood the test of battling increased phosphate levels generated from agricultural runoff to the presence of invasive species including zebra mussels and gobies.
The most recent challenge, however, has come from a virus known as Viral Hemmorhagic Septicemia.
VHS, which can weaken and cause mortality to fish, has been detected in several species residing in Lake Simcoe and prompted the ministry to institute a management zone for the area.
Some Georgina residents worried VHS was the cause of a fish die-off in Cook’s Bay last May, with many contacting the MNR after hundreds of dead fish, including rock bass, sunfish and largemouth bass, were spotted floating dead in the water and washed up on shore along the southern tip of Cook’s Bay and in the canals off Young’s Harbour.
Weather conditions, however, and not the virus was cited as the cause, according to the MNR, which said the May die-off was likely the result of fluctuations in temperature and storm events, which are typical for that time of year.
As to concerns over the whitefish popualtion now, the ministry needs specific spots forwarded to its attention so it can verify reports and continue to investigate.
For more information or to contact the ministry’s Aurora office, visit www.mnr.gov.on.ca or call 905-713-7400.
Original Article here.