Week of June 27, 2005
Product Review Buck Knives
Joins Fight Against Aquatic Invasive Species
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In an ongoing effort to protect the Great Lakes and other U.S. waterways from an onslaught of non-native aquatic species, Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY) is again supporting a pair of bills recently introduced in the House. The bills are designed to impose stricter standards than those that currently exist while also boosting research funding to help identify additional measures that could combat the problem.
"Aquatic invasive species are destroying the environment, damaging fisheries, and costing American taxpayers billions of dollars annually," McHugh said. "We simply cannot afford to risk the future viability of our water resources in New York and nationwide, which is exactly what we are doing by not taking action."
McHugh has also signed onto a number of letters to appropriators urging funding for a second electronic dispersal barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to protect the Great Lakes from the continued migration of Asian carp. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that such a barrier would be successful in stopping 99 percent of the fish population from traveling between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, preventing problems such as Asian carp migration from arising.
Asian carp and other non-native species are tremendous threats to the natural ecosystems they invade. The large size and rapid rate of reproduction of Asian carp, in particular, make them a threat to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Similarly, the non-native, parasitic sea lamprey is posing a great threat to Lake Champlain, where infestation of this type of fish has decimated the lake's historically significant lake
trout and landlocked salmon populations. The Great Lakes and Lake Champlain have both suffered dramatic losses of many types of fish due to invasive species, resulting in a devastating impact on both the fishing industry and recreational fishing.
"The non-native species that invade our waters are one of the greatest threats facing the health and viability of our region's lakes and waterways," said McHugh. "By taking preventative, preemptive measures and imposing stricter standards, we will save money, jobs, aquatic wildlife, and move a step closer to restoration of the Great Lakes."
The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act takes a comprehensive approach to preventing and controlling invasive species. The bill makes ballast water management mandatory for all commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters and requires screening of planned importations of live aquatic organisms not previously bought and sold in the United States. A national monitoring network to detect new introductions, a rapid response fund, and state and regional grants are also included in the Act.
The Aquatic Invasive Species Research Act would authorize $180 million over the next five years for extensive research aimed at preventing, controlling, and eradicating aquatic invasive species.
"Beyond the economic impact, the ecological costs of invasive species cannot be quantified," added McHugh. "In fact, aquatic invasive species are now only second to habitat loss when it comes to the most serious threats facing endangered water life." http://mchugh.house.gov
False Positive Service Indicators
Recently the U.S. Coast Guard has become aware of a potential problem when installing CO2 cylinders that have bayonet tips in inflatable personal flotation devices (PFDs or life jackets). If a cylinder is not properly installed, the PFD will not inflate with CO2. The problem may affect several thousand PFDs, but the Coast Guard is only aware of one incident to date.
Some Mustang, Protexion, and Stearns/SOSpenders PFDs using Halkey-Roberts' inflators can indicate a green "Ready" status when the CO2 cylinder is not properly installed. This false positive green indication occurs when the cylinder-bayonet assembly is inserted in the inflator, not turned, and the cylinder is not ejected.
Cylinders with bayonet tips are designed to be pushed in and turned 1/8th turn clockwise to a full stop to secure the cylinder. When the cylinder is not turned to secure it in place, the PFD will not inflate with CO2. The PFD may still be inflated orally. If the CO2 cylinder is not turned, the mechanism is supposed to eject it. In some production units a false positive green indication can be achieved by simply pushing the cylinder into the mechanism without turning it 1/8th turn to a full stop. According to the consumer report, a user was led to believe the cylinder-bayonet was properly engaged without turning it due to the firm seating of the cylinder-bayonet, which also prevented the cylinder-bayonet from ejecting as designed.
Consumers should check the model number of the PFD (located on the manufacturer's label) to see if your PFD is affected.
The models numbers are:
3870 Mustang Way
Bellingham, WA 98226
MC1900HR Automatic w/ Harness
MD0100 LIFT Vest Manual
MD0200 LIFT Vest Automatic
MD3082 Manual with Harness
MD3084 Automatic w/Harness
All colors and Styles
Protexion Products Inc.
643 Speedvale Ave W
Guelph, Ontario N1K 1E6
NIV3500, Manual with Harness
NIV4500, Automatic with Harness
1100 Stearns Drive
Sauk Rapids, MN 56379
38MHRN, Manual w/ Harness
38ASHAR, Automatic w/ Harness
38CHR, Automatic and Manual
1473, Automatic with Harness
1-800-328-3208 EXT 1
Updated cylinder installation instructions are on the home pages of manufacturers' websites and at the Coast Guard website listed below. Review and follow the instructions. Check your device to ensure that the inserted CO2 cylinder-bayonet has been fully turned clockwise prior to use. If your PFD inflator does not eject an unturned cylinder-bayonet, contact the PFD manufacturer for servicing.
View the following documents for updated rearming instructions:
Manual inflator rearming - http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/moa/docs/co2man.pdf
Automatic inflator rearming - http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/moa/docs/co2auto.pdf
For other PFD related recalls and alerts access - http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/mse4/recall.htm
For additional safety alerts access - http://marinesafetyalerts.us
Distributed by the Office of Investigations and Analysis
Lake Level Conditions:
Lake Superior is currently 3 inches above June 24, 2004’s water level. The remaining lakes are 3 to 5 inches below the levels of June 24, 2004. The spring of 2004 was significantly wetter than the spring of 2005. The dry conditions this spring are the main reason that water levels are lower than last year. Looking ahead, Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are expected to rise an inch over the next month and be slightly lower this summer than the summer of 2004. Lakes St. Clair, Erie and Ontario are expected to fall 2 to 3 inches over the next month and this summer, levels are forecasted to be lower than 2004.
Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:
The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is projected to be near average during the month of June. Flows in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are anticipated to be below average during June, while flows in the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers are both expected to be above average in June.
Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels. Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings
Learn how to fly-fish and tie flies at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing August 12-14. Experience dance, an array of musical genres, ethnic cuisine, maritime demonstrations and more. Brought to you by the Michigan State University Museum, this event is free and fun for all ages. For more information see www.greatlakesfolkfest.net.
The half-mile festival site in downtown East Lansing showcases the country's rich cultural heritage through performances and living museum exhibitions. Activities
include a Taste of Traditions Food Court, with authentic regional and ethnic food, Folk Arts Marketplace with hand-made goods, and Children's Folk Activities area with hands-on activities. The festival is developed by MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, the state's center for research, documentation, preservation and sharing of folk arts and life.
Admission to the festival is free. Festival hours are: Friday, Aug. 12, 6 - 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 13, 12 noon - 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 14, 12 noon - 6 p.m.
Ann Arbor, Mich. — Like most organisms, fish will aggressively defend their home territory against an intruder, and the owner usually wins the battle. However, when the invasive round goby fish meets a native fish, the intruding round goby almost always wins, according to the Journal of Great Lakes Research.
"In a new study, a recently introduced fish species, the round goby, won territory disputes against native logperch regardless of whether or not they were the original resident of
the territory," states Sigal Balshine a professor at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
Balshine and her colleagues found that round gobies were much more aggressive than naturally occurring logperch and easily took over contested shelters. Following their invasion in 1990, round goby abundance has increased dramatically throughout the Great Lakes basin, including Hamilton Harbour, the site monitored by Balshine's research group. The results imply that the increase in round goby population size may have a negative impact on native fish species.
Ann Arbor, Mich. — Great Lakes lake trout populations were decimated in the 1950s and 1960s through the combined effects of sea lamprey and overfishing. The Journal of Great Lakes Research reports after four decades of stocking to restore self-sustaining populations, significant lake-wide natural reproduction remains limited to Lake Superior. Much of the available evidence suggests the first year is the critical period for lake trout survival.
John Fitzsimons, a fisheries scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Burlington, Ontario and his research team compared the reproductive strategies of lake trout in Keuka Lake, New York with those of Great Lakes stocks to try to understand what factors may continue to impede lake trout recovery.
"With the loss of native stocks that appeared to have a much wider reproductive repertoire than that now used by hatchery lake trout," Fitzsimons explains, "we lost the ability to assess the importance of different reproductive strategies, strategies that may be critically important in avoiding the effects of a number of mortality factors including wave turbulence and egg and fry predators."
By studying the reproductive strategies of successful populations in smaller inland lakes like Keuka Lake, which is one of New York's Finger Lakes, scientists can better
understand what is necessary to aid restoration in the Great Lakes.
"The Finger Lakes, while smaller than the Great Lakes, suffer from many of the same stresses," Fitsimons says, "but because of their smaller size they are more amenable to the type of detailed observations necessary to evaluate reproductive strategies."
Fitzsimons and the Environment Canada dive team at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters used a combination of observation by remotely operated vehicle and egg nets to uncover the reproductive behaviour of Keuka Lake lake trout. Their studies revealed that lake trout in Keuka Lake spawn in 20-25 metres of water, much deeper than the 2-10 metres observed for stocked lake trout in most of the Great Lakes. Spawning occurred in December and was among the latest reported for the species, and some one to two months later than in the Great Lakes.
Although eggs were deposited over thin layers of shale, which provided an easily accessible meal for hungry yellow perch, the perch quickly became satiated and appeared to keep other egg predators like sculpins away. The surviving eggs settled into spaces among the shale where sculpins were less able to find and eat them, allowing a larger number of eggs to successfully incubate over winter.
Canada releases a billion kilograms of toxic chemicals into the Great Lakes each year, a study says.
OTTAWA -- Despite government claims pollution is decreasing, a new study says Canada released a billion kilograms (2.2 billion lbs) of toxic chemicals annually in the Great Lakes basin from 1998 to 2002, with no significant decline.
Most of the chemicals were released into the air -- now recognized as the biggest source of pollution affecting the lakes -- by industries and public utilities. The load in 2002 included three million kilograms of carcinogens and almost 2,000 kilograms of mercury, which can harm child development.
"The numbers are staggering," said Paul Muldoon of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, which produced the report with Environmental Defence of Toronto. "We're talking about hundreds of millions of kilograms in virtually every category. This is what the government allows. The Great Lakes remain by and large a dumping ground for industry."
The report comes on the heels of a study by Toronto Public Health that estimated air pollution causes more than 2,200 premature deaths each year in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Windsor. Muldoon said public complacency has set in because of government claims the Great Lakes are getting cleaner.
Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, Canada and the U.S. agreed to virtually eliminate toxic chemicals from the Great Lakes, but the study says pollution decreased by less than one per cent over the five years. Rick Smith of Environmental Defence noted that the U.S. has made more progress in reducing emissions than Canada. Half of U.S. states have toxics reduction laws.
Only a few chemicals have been regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and thousands haven't been assessed for toxicity. There is no overall target for reducing toxic pollution. "We have nothing like it on the Canadian side either provincially or federally," Smith said. "It is now crystal- clear that Canada is an international pollution delinquent. "We need a recommitment from the provincial and federal governments to protect the health of Canadians."
The report is based on data compiled by the Council for Environmental Co-operation, a NAFTA agency which tracks a list of chemicals from major sources. It doesn't include auto emissions. The report's authors are calling for aggressive targets for reducing pollution, with timelines and accountability.
NDP Leader Jack Layton demanded mandatory limits on pollution. "I'd like to know what words this government has for the people who are going to emergency wards right now because their kids can't breathe," he said.
NRA National Junior Air Gun Championship to be Held in Bloomington, Illinois
(FAIRFAX, VA)-Junior shooters from around the United States will test their marksmanship skills at NRA’s fifth annual National Junior Air Gun Team Championship and Training Summit, to be conducted July 6-10 at the Interstate Center on W. Market St. in Bloomington, IL.
The tournament will be conducted in three divisions--Precision Air Rifle, Sporter Air Rifle, and Air Pistol. The match is open to four-member rifle teams, and three-member pistol teams selected by NRA-affiliated state associations, the Army, Marine Corp, and Navy Junior ROTC programs and other cooperative organizations.
In addition to competing in a national championship, participants will attend a round of seminars designed to help shooters improve their skills and advance to higher levels of competition. Topics this year include college opportunities, equipment maintenance, air gun programs, mental training, youth programs, NRA opportunities, and a bit of local history. Dave Butz, a member of the NRA Board of Directors and a retired All-Pro defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins, is also expected to attend and provide a special presentation.
“This tournament provides junior shooters an opportunity not only to earn national recognition but also to pave the way for possible collegiate scholarships,” said Kayne Robinson, Executive Director of NRA General Operations. “The training
seminars held in conjunction with the tournament also
present unique learning opportunities for the shooters, coaches and adults who conduct junior shooting programs.”
New to the program this year will be the selection of the NRA Junior National Air Gun Team and an international postal match against South Africa. The 10 top shooting juniors over the two-day aggregate in Sporter and Precision air rifle, and the top five air pistol competitors will be named as the NRA Junior National Air Gun Team. A team of 10, selected from the first day’s leaders in the Sporter and Precision air rifle match, will represent the United States in a postal competition with South Africa.
Key to the success of this tournament are NRA’s state associations and other organizations that select youths to compete. The criteria used to select teams are determined by each state or sponsoring organization. Many state associations use a series of tournaments to determine who is chosen. Others use the junior sectional tournaments and take the high scorers from their state to represent them at the national level. The Army, Marine Corp, and Navy Junior ROTC programs also have their own selection criteria. Teams must be selected by a national youth shooting organization in order to participate. This ensures that the top shooters from around the country are able to compete.
For more information on this tournament, contact John Venskoske at (703) 267-1477 or send an e-mail message to: [email protected]
Masters/Ph. D. Graduate Student Positions - Reproductive Endocrinology and Neurobiology of the Sea Lamprey
Two Masters or Ph. D positions are open to study the reproductive endocrinology of the sea lamprey in NSF-funded projects. The research projects are based in the laboratory of Dr. Weiming Li in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University and involve collaborations with several other scientists in the U.S. and Europe. This research is a part of a multidisciplinary effort to understand reproductive biology of sea lamprey.
One selected candidate will work with Dr. Li and Dr. Mara Bryan to characterize receptors for novel steroids and to determine the functions of novel sex steroids in lampreys. The selected candidate will conduct experiments using radioimmunoassay, receptor binding assay and molecular biology techniques. Another selected candidate will work with Dr. Li and Dr. Yuwen Chung-Davidson to examine neuronal and neuroendocrine changes induced by a male sexual pheromone in sea lampreys. The selected candidate will use immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization, and quantitative PCR to measure cellular and molecular changes induced by
Michigan State University provides a wealth of opportunities for interactions with a large and diverse faculty and students conducting research in endocrinology, physiology, neurobiology, animal behavior and fishery science.
Contact the Graduate School of Michigan State University for an application package. An assistantship, including tuition waiver, stipend, and medical insurance will be provided to the selected candidates. Applicants are encouraged let Drs. Li, Bryan or Chung-Davidson know as soon as possible of his or her intention to apply for these positions.
For more info, contact Dr. Li ([email protected] ), Dr. Bryan (517-432-9511, [email protected] ) or Dr. Chung-Davidson (517-432-9511, [email protected] ). Information about Dr. Li’s laboratory can be found at www.fw.msu.edu/people/LiWeiming/index.htm and information about the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife can be found at www.fw.msu.edu .
Bats a Natural Predator of Insects
Springfield, IL—While tickets sales may be soaring for “Batman” the movie, the real-life bat in your backyard may be as big a hero to Illinois homeowners, as the superhero of Gotham City. The bat is a nocturnal mammal that plays a key role in the environment, sometimes eating thousands of insects in a single night.
“The bat is one of the most misunderstood creatures around,” said Joe Kath, Endangered Species Project Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “ Many misperceptions can be linked to movies and old wives tales.” Twelve species of bats live in Illinois. Two are on the federal and state endangered species lists. Illinois bats feed exclusively on insects, and a single bat may consume 3,000 insects in one night.
Bats are the only mammals that fly, as their wings provide lift and thrust, as well as gliding ability. They navigate with a sophisticated “sonar” or echolocation system.
“Bats are a true ally, especially in controlling insects,” said Kath. “All bats are protected under the wildlife code.”
Bats thrive in forested areas and caves. Areas such as ponds, streams, lakes and rivers that attract insects are also hospitable to bats. As mammals, bats give birth to live young
which nurse. Most female bats reproduce just one bat each
year. Within three weeks of birth, the young bat is capable of flying and feeding on its own.
“Observing bats can be fascinating,” said Jeff Vose, IDNR Director of Education. “They stand out as a species because of their stupendous aerodynamic flight skills. Because they eat about a third of their body weight in insects each night, the bat is a friend to gardeners. Bats also are very clean, as they spend considerable time grooming—almost like cats.”
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources provides plans for building bat houses online, at www.dnr.state.il.us. An educational activity book for children, “Creatures of the Night,” is also available with information about bats and other nocturnal animals. “Creatures of the Night” is also available in Spanish (Criaturas de la Noche) at [email protected].
Scientific study of bats has led to development of navigational aids for the blind, and contributed to the field of knowledge in space biology and aging. Fossil evidence indicates bats have been in existence for approximately 50 million years. The greatest threats to the species survival can be linked to man, including elimination of habitat and presence of pesticides. Bats are also considered an ecological barometer, as the species responds to fluctuations in environment.
Applications Now Being Accepted
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - Illinois DNR is accepting applications for 2005 non-resident archery deer hunting permits. The permits will be issued through a computerized random lottery drawing this summer involving those hunters who apply by phone or through the Department web site through July 31.
Up to 20,000 combination archery deer permits have been allocated for non-resident bow hunters. The combination permits consist of one either-sex permit and one antlerless-only permit. The fee for the non-resident combination archery deer permit is $325 plus a processing fee of $2.50 and 2.5 percent of the total sale.
Non-resident hunters may apply through July 31 via telephone using the IDNR telephone vendor system at 1-800/705-4164 or through the IDNR web site at the following address: http://dnr.state.il.us/admin/systems/index.htm .
Clients of outfitters licensed by IDNR will be given preference in the drawing for the first 7,500 of the 20,000 combination permits. Clients of licensed outfitters should contact the outfitter prior to applying to receive a certification number to be used in the application process to verify their outfitter client status.
If the number of eligible outfitter clients in the drawing is less than 7,500, all remaining permits will be allocated to other applicants until the maximum number of permits (20,000) is issued. If the number of eligible outfitter clients in the drawing exceeds 7,500, those outfitter clients unsuccessful in obtaining one of the first 7,500 permits will be included in the drawing with other applicants for the remaining 12,500 permits.
Non-residents may submit only one application for a non-resident combination archery deer permit. Up to six hunters may apply as a group. Permits allocated to clients of outfitters from among the first 7,500 permits drawn are valid only on the property controlled by that outfitter.
The non-resident archery permits will be issued using a computerized random lottery drawing conducted after July 31. In addition to the 20,000 combination permits, an unlimited number of anterless-only archery deer permits will be available to any non-resident for $25 each. The antlerless-only permits will be available at any of the more than 1,200 IDNR license agents.
Non-resident deer hunters are required to possess a valid Illinois Non-Resident Hunting License ($50.75 for an annual license or $28.75 for a five-day license) and an Illinois Habitat Stamp ($5.50) in addition to their deer permit (unless otherwise exempt). These licenses and stamps may be purchased at the time of application for the non-resident archery deer permit via telephone or the Department's web site, or from any IDNR license vendor.
The new permit application procedure for non-resident bow hunters replaces a telephone-only system through which permits were issued on a first-come, first-served basis in recent years.
Deer hunters are also advised that harvest-reporting requirements have changed effective with the 2005-06 season. Successful hunters beginning this fall must register their harvest by 10 p.m. on the same calendar day the deer is or are taken by calling a toll-free telephone check-in system at 1-866-ILCHECK or by accessing the on-line check-in system at http://dnr.state.il.us/vcheck
Hunters will be provided with a confirmation number to verify that they checked in their harvest. This number must be written by the hunter onto the temporary harvest tag (leg tag). The deer must remain whole (or field dressed) until it has been checked in through the new check-in system.
The changes are part of the implementation of DNR Direct, Illinois' new automated license, permit and registration system.
Boaters and campers now can now use Discover and American Express credit cards when making campground and harbor slip reservations online or through the toll-free central reservation system, Michigan recreation officials announced.
The DNR Parks and Recreation Division's Central Reservation System previously accepted only MasterCard or
Visa transactions for reservations or any transactions at state parks and recreation areas or harbors. The central reservation system handles 440,000 transactions a year and about 73 percent of these transactions are paid by credit card.
The change becomes effective Wednesday, June 15, 2005. To make an online camping or harbor slip reservation, please go to the DNR's central reservation system Web page at www.midnrreservations.com or call (800) 447-2757.
The Department of Natural Resources is requesting help from wildlife observers to report any sightings of osprey in southern Michigan. The DNR specifically is interested in observations in the Maple River area, which is north of St. Johns, and in southeast Michigan - Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Livingston counties.
Osprey once lived throughout Michigan, using their keen eyesight, superb flying skills and sharp talons to catch fish. Loss of habitat and the use of DDT and other pesticides are two major factors that led to their decline in the southern region of the Lower Peninsula. They currently are listed as threatened in Michigan.
Osprey currently nests in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, with a few nests in southwestern Michigan. For the past seven years, the Nongame Wildlife Fund has supported the transfer of osprey chicks from the northern Lower Peninsula to south-central Michigan. Chicks are reared in "hacking" towers until they are ready to fly and feed on their own. After fledging, the young ospreys migrate to South America to winter. In early April of their second or third year, osprey often returns to nest in the area where they learned to fly.
Last year, four chicks were released at Stoney Creek Metropark in Macomb County and one was released from a site near Barry State Game Area in Barry County.
It is anticipated that these released birds will form the core of
a successful population in southern Michigan, eventually expanding their range along rivers and other floodings. To date, 50 osprey have been released through this program. The program achieved success when two of the hacked birds returned to Kensington Metropark and raised chicks with their mates.
Ospreys from the program will be marked with a silver metal band on one leg and a green metal band with an alpha-numeric code on the other leg. The public is asked to look for these bands.
If any of these birds are seen in southern Michigan, the sighting can be reported to the DNR at (248) 328-8113, e-mail: [email protected]; the Metropark office at (800) 477-2757, e-mail: [email protected] ; Lori Sargent at (517) 373-9418, e-mail: [email protected] v; or online at the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr .
Please report only those osprey observed in the southern part of Lower Michigan. Any information will be useful including location, time, activity (flying, fishing, etc.), and markings. It is especially important to note if the bird is banded and, if possible, the number on the band. The Osprey Project is one of many projects being supported by the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund and the State Wildlife Grants program. Citizens can support these efforts by purchasing a Critical Wildlife Habitat vehicle registration plate through any Secretary of State office or by making a donation to the Nongame Wildlife Fund, P.O. Box 30180, Lansing, MI 48909.
Flawed plan to save Canada's loons though annual death toll is six
"Loonie' death toll in Ontario is pure fantasy " say conservationists
The National Post reports this year's fishing season could be the last time Canadian anglers are allowed to use those ubiquitous lead fishing sinkers. That's because the federal government is proposing to ban lead tackle and force fishermen to find more expensive alternatives. But even non-anglers should be concerned with how and why the government is making this decision.
The circumstances surrounding the proposed lead-sinker ban reveal that whimsy and fabrication have replaced science in setting environmental policies. The government and the environmental group that has spearheaded this crusade, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), claim the move is necessary to save Canadian loons from lead poisoning. Yet the actual evidence suggests the size and danger of the lead-sinker issue has been grotesquely exaggerated. And if the Liberals are prepared to pervert scientific evidence in order to justify new laws for picayune issues such as fishing tackle, what does this suggest for bigger and more significant policies?
Now urban folk might require a bit of background on the lead debate. In 1991, the U.S. banned lead shotgun pellets because of evidence that they found their way into lakes and rivers and were then ingested by water birds, causing lead poisoning in loons. Canada followed suit in 1997 with its own ban on lead shot.
But success on lead shot prompted a broader and bolder agenda, one that appears to be part lead hysteria and part anti-fishing campaign. Today the WWF and the federal government's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) argue that if banning lead shot makes sense, then it must also make sense to ban lead fishing tackle, since those small sinkers could get snagged or lost and end up on lake bottoms as well.
The WWF and CWS even came up with a catchy factoid -- they claim 500 tonnes of lead sinkers are deposited in Canadian waterways annually. "That's the equivalent weight of dropping 500 cars into our lakes, rivers and streams each year," said former Environment Minister David Anderson last year in announcing the proposal to ban lead sinkers. And this is where policy parts ways with logic and science.
There's a fundamental difference between firing a shotgun shell over water and watching the pellets fall into the lake, and fishing with a sinker. Shotgun pellets are not designed to be reused. Sinkers are. In fact there is no reason why a careful fisherman couldn't use a handful of sinkers his entire life. That famous 500-tonne figure -- and the image of an endless parade of cars being driven off piers into our lakes -- assumes that every fisherman in Canada manages to lose his entire collection of sinkers at the end of every season. Selling a sinker is, in the government's mind, the same as ramming it down the throat of an unsuspecting loon.
Then there is the fact that a sizeable portion, perhaps even a majority by weight, of lead sinkers sold in Canada are not the tiny bits of metal you squeeze on your line, but what are called downrigger balls. These are five- to 10-pound weights used for trolling for Great Lake salmon and other deep-water fish. And if there are loons out there swallowing 10-pound balls of lead, the environment has bigger problems than sinker ingestion.
But of course all this is just speculation. If there really is a credible danger to waterbirds from lead sinkers, then there should be a scientific process to determine the extent of the havoc being wreaked.
Ingestion of lead sinkers has been studied extensively on both sides of the border. When environmentalists first began moving against lead sinkers, the U.S. National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., was asked to study the issue. Scientists there examined 2,240 individual waterbirds over four years and found only 23 birds (including 11 loons) that had lead sinkers in their stomachs. A larger study in Illinois found one bird out of 16,651 was carrying a lead sinker. As a result of these findings, the U.S. government abandoned plans for a nation-wide lead-sinker ban.
Canadian research reveals the same basic level of lead-sinker mortality north of the border. Between 1964 and 1999, the CWS was able to identify 71 birds and one turtle that had died from swallowing lead sinkers. A more recent study shows much the same thing. A 2003 CWS publication says: "An average of six cases of wildlife mortality from sinker ingestion have been documented annually in Canada between 1987 and 1998." Six dead birds. Per year. It's not exactly a bird holocaust out there.
Now this might be compared with the thousands of loons that have died over the past three years on Lake Erie due to botulism. Or the fact that virtually the entire loon nesting habitat was wiped out in 2004 on Lake of the Woods when the water table rose precipitously. Or that the North American loon population is estimated at 700,000 birds.
Six dead birds nationwide due to lead sinker ingestion is insignificant to the point of amusing. Or it would be, if not for the fact that the federal government has seen fit to ignore its own scientific evidence when making policy. Brochures from Environment Canada call lead-sinker ingestion "the leading cause of death reported in adult common loons." The WWF for its part has claimed that the lead-based loonie death toll "could be as high as 30,000 birds per year" in Ontario alone. It is pure fantasy.
This winter, Environment Minister Stephane Dion claimed to hold a consultation on the lead-sinker debate. But with his department working hand in glove (or worm on hook) with the WWF and a ban already unveiled as the preferred policy of the government, the fishing community is bracing for an inevitable end to lead sinkers some time this year.
The actual monetary impact of a ban is a question mark. Sinkers themselves are relatively inexpensive and phasing out lead might only add a few bucks a year to the cost of fishing. Yet the proposed regulation talks about banning any tackle with a 1% lead content, which would include brass fishing reels and a wide variety of spinners, jigs and other paraphernalia, and at a much greater cost to the industry.
Regardless of whether the cost is big or little, however, the key issue remains the process by which government is making this decision, since it appears to be driven by an egregious misrepresentation of scientific evidence.
Biologist David Ankney is a member of the CWS editorial board, but he takes a dim view of what passes for science at that government agency. "In my 30 years as a wildlife scientist, I've seen bad science and I've seen abuse of science," he says of the 2003 CWS report on lead-sinker ingestion. "But never have I seen so much bad science and abuse of science in one document."
If six dead loons can become the basis for a policy that could force Canadians to spend more money, change their habits or even give up fishing -- in other words, if a fact-blind environmental agenda can drive government actions -- then what else is Ottawa capable of manipulating? It’s an easy question, of course. The answer is Kyoto.
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