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Outdoors notebook: Report studies Lake Erie 'dead zone'

Bob Frye
| Monday, Jan. 9, 2012

A new report suggests that toxic algae blooms are behind a growing "dead zone" in Lake Erie.

Andy Buchsbaum, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center, and colleague Julie Mida Hinderer write of a "nutrient pollution epidemic" that's causing "rapid and drastic ecosystem changes (that) are altering the Great Lakes from top to bottom."

In the 1970s, Lake Erie was home to a large dead zone, where algae sucks up all the oxygen, leaving the area unable to support life. Efforts to reduce phosphorous levels ultimately reduced much of that and made the lake tops among the Great Lakes for commercial and recreational fish harvests.

Phosphorous levels began climbing again in the late 1990s, though, largely -- the report's authors conclude -- because of farming practices. Dead zones have been on the increase since 2003. Combine them with the spread of invasive species that are affecting the food chain and the lake is in trouble, they conclude.

Water supplies are at risk, too. The National Wildlife Federation officials told a U.S. Senate subcommittee that toxin from the algae this year was measured at 1,000 times the World Health Organization's guidelines for drinking water.

Lead ban update

A group known as the Center for Biological Diversity is continuing its fight to see all lead fishing tackle -- sinkers, jigs and the like -- banned.

The group petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead fishing tackle and ammunition in November under the Toxic Substances Control Act. That petition was dismissed, but it's the subject of an ongoing lawsuit

Just a few weeks ago, the group -- with two allies -- petitioned the EPA again, this time asking not for a ban but for regulations regarding the manufacture and sale of lead fishing tackle.

Sporting groups have responded by asking the EPA to throw this latest petition out, as it did the first. They've gone beyond that, too: The American Sportfishing Association and others have asked the members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus to support the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Sports Protection Act, a federal bill that "would prevent an overreaching ban of lead fishing tackle."

License sales

No one knows all the answers when it comes to figuring out how to keep people buying fishing licenses year after year, but a lot of people are trying to figure it out.

Forty-five state fish and wildlife agencies -- including the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission -- were represented when the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation held its 2011 State Marketing Workshop on Dec. 6 to 8 in Phoenix.

The workshop focused on the importance of communicating with anglers and implementing marketing efforts to increase fishing license sales.

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