Archives for March 2014

Fertilizer limits needed to curb algae problems in Lake Erie

A United States-Canadian agency called on Wednesday for swift and sweeping limits on the use of fertilizer around Lake Erie to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the water and creating a vast blanket of algae each summer, threatening fisheries, tourism and even drinking water.

In a report on the algae problem, the agency, the International Joint Commission, said that fertilizer swept by rains from farms and lawns was a major source of phosphorus in the lake. It recommended that crop insurance be tied to farmers’ adoption of practices that limit fertilizer runoff, and that Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania ban most sales of phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers.

The commission, which studies and regulates water uses in streams and lakes along the border of the United States and Canada, urged Michigan and Ohio to invoke the Clean Water Act to limit phosphorus pollution from farmland as opposed to from factories and other places where pollution can be pinpointed and measured.

The proposals are likely to encounter strong opposition from the agricultural industry and fertilizer manufacturers. Both groups have already asked a federal appeals court to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating farm-related pollution from phosphorus and other chemicals along the Chesapeake Bay.

Phosphorus — and especially phosphorus in fertilizer, which is designed to be easily absorbed by plants — is the source of the algal blooms, some of which are so toxic that they have killed dogs and sickened swimmers. Beyond clotting the lake’s surface, decomposing algae consumes the oxygen in the lake’s deep center each summer, creating a dead zone where deepwater fish that are essential to the lake’s food chain cannot exist.

National and state governments rid the lake of algae in the 1980s, ordering big cuts in phosphorus pollution from factories and sewage plants. But the blooms returned in the late 1990s as farmers started applying fertilizer on frozen fields in the winter, and spreading or spraying it instead of injecting it into the ground.

In 2011, heavy spring rains washed so much phosphorus into the lake that the succeeding summer, algal bloom, at 1,920 square miles, was three times bigger than any previous one.

That and other large blooms have crippled tourism in a region where sport fishing and lake recreation are major industries, and they have forced towns and cities to filter and even shut off drinking water. The multibillion-dollar commercial fishing industry could be hit hard. The lake’s growing dead zone has prompted deepwater fish to move upward in search of oxygen, only to run into warmer waters that they find hard to tolerate. Deepwater fish such as perch — a favorite food of one big commercial fish, the walleye — could suffer if the dead zone continues to expand.

“The long-term potential impact on fisheries is something we’re really worried about,” said Donald Scavia, a scientist at the University of Michigan’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

Although the sources of phosphorus range from leaky septic tanks to storm sewers to ordinary rainfall, the biggest contributor is farming, the report indicates — and the biggest farm source is the fields along the Maumee River watershed in Ohio and Indiana.

Both the United States and Canada have set targets for reducing Erie’s phosphorus load by 2018, but the commission’s report states that those targets are too low. To return the lake to the mostly algae-free state it enjoyed in the mid-1990s, it states, the Maumee’s phosphorus runoff must be cut by 39 percent.

Both governments and private organizations conduct programs that encourage farmers to voluntarily limit fertilizer runoff, but regulatory limits are mostly nonexistent. The commission’s report urges a mix of voluntary and legal programs to achieve large reductions by 2022, with a focus on dissolved reactive phosphorus, the sort used in fertilizers.

The report also states that farmers in lakeside states and provinces should prohibit spreading fertilizer on snowy or frozen ground, where it is most likely to be carried away by melting or rains, and should limit applications in the fall.

For homeowners, the report recommends that Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania ban the sale of phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers except during the first growing season of new lawns, or when soil tests show that the phosphorus content is too low. It also says that Michigan and Ontario should require inspections of septic tanks to ensure they do not leak.

2014 Lake Erie walleye & perch fishing forecast

Captain Jim caught a 9 pound Lake Erie walleye while fishing aboard the charter boat Stray Cat in June

Captain Jim caught a 9 pound Lake Erie walleye while fishing aboard the charter boat Stray Cat in June

Walleye Fishing:

There maybe fewer walleye in Lake Erie than in the 1980s, but the lake is still one of the best walleye fisheries in the world, according to wildlife official’s.
Good healthy numbers of walleye in the lake indicate good fishing for the 2014 season, said Chris Vandergoot, fisheries biologist supervisor at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Sandusky Fish Research Station.
“Just because the population has declined doesn’t mean the catch rates aren’t good,” Vandergoot said earlier this month at Ohio Sea Grant’s annual charter captains conference in Huron. “They continue to consistently be above catch rates for North America.”
“Catch rates here continue to be and have historically been very good.” “It’s a great fishery,” Vandergoot said.
  The catch rates for walleye on Lake Erie are almost double compared to the rest of the country and Canada.

 

 

Krull Construction Lake Erie perch charter trip on the Stray Cat Luna Pier, MI

Krull Construction Lake Erie perch charter trip on the Stray Cat Luna Pier, MI

Yellow perch fishing:
The catch rate for yellow perch on Lake Erie is very good, Vandergoot said.
The population will remain strong and be dominated by perch ages 4-7, those fish are about 6 to 12 inches long.

Asian Carp eggs found in upper Mississippi

The eggs and late-stage embryos of bighead or silver carp have been found in the Mississippi River near Lynxville in Crawford County — 250 miles north of any previously known reproducing population for the invasive carp.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday that the eggs and embryos were discovered about two weeks ago. They had been collected in May and June as scientists searched for Asian carp spawning habitat.

The finding is the latest sign that the destructive fish are slowly moving up the Mississippi River basin and into inland waters of the Midwest and Great Lakes.

“This discovery means that Asian carp spawned much farther north in the Mississippi than previously recorded,” said Leon Carl, Midwest director of the survey, in a statement.

Once the eggs were found near Lynxville, scientists examined other samples and found seven locations between Keokuk, Iowa, and Pool 9 of the Mississippi. Pool 9 runs north from Lynxville to Genoa in Vernon County.

The potential of Asian carp to infiltrate the Great Lakes is being closely watched, but the fish are already wending their way up the Mississippi from the south and have the potential to invade northern lakes of Wisconsin.

A bighead carp was found for the first time in 1996 in the St. Croix River, north of the confluence with the Mississippi. The first silver carp, known for its spectacular leaping ability, was caught in Pool 8 of the Mississippi in 2008. Pool 8 runs between Onalaska and Genoa.

But until the latest discovery, there has been no evidence of young Asian carp and no signs of spawning on the Upper Mississippi.

Journal Sentinel:

Will Lake Erie have a flooding problem this spring?

Will Lake Erie have a flooding problem this spring?  Will the lake level be higher than last year? According to the Army Corps of Engineers they predict water levels to stay at or around historic levels. Some other “experts” are predicting flooding and higher lake levels this spring. Experts do say we will probably have cooler water temperature’s for a longer period of time around the Great Lakes this summer.  I guess only time and Mother Nature will tell.

Phosphorus cuts to try and stop Lake Erie algae blooms

U.S.-Canadian agency is calling for sharp cutbacks in phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie to counter a worsening problem of algae blooms that degrade water quality, harm fish and chase away tourists.

In a report Thursday, the International Joint Commission identifies farm fertilizer as a primary culprit in feeding runaway algae blooms. It recommends placing Lake Erie on a federal impaired waters list, which would activate a plan to limit phosphorus levels.

It particularly targets the Maumee Bay watershed in Ohio and Indiana on the lake’s western side, proposing a 39 percent annual reduction in phosphorus runoff from its tributaries through a combination of regulations and voluntary actions.

Lake Erie’s algae problem has worsened in recent years. The largest bloom ever recorded extended more than 100 miles in 2011.