The International Joint Commission is advising in a new report that clearer, harsher wording be added to Great Lakes fish eating advisories. They want it to say eating too many Great Lakes fish can cause birth defects. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:
The International Joint Commission is advising in a new report that
clearer, harsher wording be added to Great Lakes fish eating advisories.
They want it to say eating too many Great Lakes fish can cause birth
defects. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports.
The report says the Great Lakes are cleaner than the bad old days of the
60’s and 70’s, but if improvement is to continue and human health protected,
more has to be done. International Joint Commission scientist David
Carpenter says they’re zeroing in on advisories about eating sport
“The levels of contamination are not increasing, many of them
are going down, but our understanding of the toxic effects of these
substances especially on the developing embryos of the fetus in humans has
increased so markedly… but in fact, I think we recognize that this is a
greater public health risk now than it was 20 years ago when the levels
were much higher.”
Carpenter says there’s evidence that mercury poisoning from eating too
many fish can lead to a lower IQ and behavioral problems in children.
The IJC and the National Wildlife Federation point a finger at coal-fired
power plants emissions for spreading mercury. EPA administrator
Carol Browner says they’re on the verge of deciding whether or not to
regulate those power plants.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson in Superior,
A recently released report says both Canada and the U.S. need to show a new sense of urgency in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. The report by the International Joint Commission warns every delay by the two nations carries a steep price. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A recently released report says both Canada and the U.S. need to show a
new sense of urgency in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. The
report by the International Joint Commission warns every delay by the two
nations carries a steep price. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
In the most strongly worded report yet… the commission admonishes the
governments of Canada and the U.S. to stop delaying programs to clean up
the Great Lakes. The International Joint Commission’s U.S. chair is Thomas
Baldini. He says while some improvements have been made… the
governments are not living up to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
both countries signed two decades ago.
“And we’re saying that they’ve got to re-focus and invest money,
especially in sediment contamination cleanup and airborne toxics. And so,
we’re really saying to them that they’ve got to take it
to another level.”
The Commission also stated for the first time that Great Lakes fish pose a
threat to the health of those who eat them and their unborn children. The
Commission says the scientific evidence can no longer be ignored. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
”Great Lakes fish pose a threat to human health.” That statement comes not from an environmental group… but from a commission appointed by the U.S. and Canadian governments to monitor the quality of the Great Lakes. And… the International Joint Commission says the governments of both nations are not doing enough to clean up the toxins that contaminate the fish. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the Commission’s warnings:
“Great Lakes fish pose a threat to human health.” That statement comes
not from an environmental group… but from a commission appointed by the
U.S. and Canadian governments to monitor the quality of the Great Lakes.
And the International Joint Commission says the governments of both
nations are not doing enough to clean up the toxins that contaminate the
fish. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the
The International Joint Commission… or the IJC… says in its biennial
report that the integrity of the Great Lakes Ecosystem continues to be
compromised. In its last report two years ago… the IJC admonished the U.S.
and Canadian governments… saying “there’s much work to be done to
improve the quality of the Great Lakes Basin. Now, the latest report makes
it clear that work was not done. Fabien Lengelle is a spokesperson for the
IJC in Canada.
“In the past two years, the Commission has seen very little
activity and now is definitely sounding the alarm on procrastination on the
part of governments. It’s a harsher tone this time around.”
Harsher to the point that the commission is telling the governments that
the Great Lakes is so polluted that fish from the lakes are a threat to the
health of those who eat them and to their unborn children. Lengelle says
the IJC could no longer ignore the scientific evidence.
“This is really the first time the Commission has gone out and
said ‘This is a fact. We should use the precautionary approach. We should
protect our people and some of those contaminants do
harm the population in several serious ways.”
The IJC says the governments of Canada and the US need to do more to
reduce air-borne toxins from power plants and automobiles that end up in
the Great Lakes. More also needs to be done about polluted runoff from
fields and roads. Toxic substances… especially mercury and PCB’s… can be
in that runoff… then end up in the fish… and in the people who eat the
Thomas Baldini is the chair of the U.S. sector of the International Joint
Commission. He says the first priority is to make sure people who catch and
eat the fish know about the risks.
“We’re saying that state, provincial, and federal government should
require that sport fish consumption advisories state plainly that eating
Great Lakes sports fish may lead to birth anomalies. Now,
we’re not saying ‘Don’t eat fish.’ We are not saying that. What we’re saying
is that those advisories have to be clearly stated.”
Right now fish consumption advisories are different from state to state
and from province to province. Fish from one area might be just as risky to
eat as from another, but because of the way the advisory language is
written people might get the idea that fish from one area is safer than
fish from the other.
The U.S. EPA says it supports the International Joint Commission’s
recommendations. Administrator Carol Browner says her agency doesn’t
have the authority to arbitrarily issue fish consumption advisories in the
states, but she says it can make some recommendations.
“I’m certainly going to make sure and we’re going to make sure at
EPA that the states do everything they can to simplify the language to make
sure that the people most at risk, pregnant women, children, parents of
children are getting these fish consumption advisories.”
Browner says the EPA will continue to lobby congress for more money to
clean up the Great Lakes, but the administration currently seems to be
losing that battle as a budget request for more money is in danger of being
The International Joint Commission’s tenth biennial report did not tackle
commercial fishing. The waters surrounding that issue are much more
murky and the IJC could easily find itself snared in a political battle in
both the US and Canada. However, the IJC spokesperson in Canada, Fabien
Lengelle, says the commission is not ignoring it.
“It is possible that the Commission will look at commercial
fishing the next time around in
its eleventh biennial report.”
In the meantime, the International Joint Commission is warning the US and
Canadian governments if they don’t work to fulfill the terms and spirit of
the Great Lakes water quality agreement they signed more than 20 years
ago, there can be little hope of fully restoring and protecting the lakes. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
The Michigan Department of Corrections is studying the feasibility of expanding its farming operations throughout the state’s prison system. But in many other states around the region, prison systems have closed down or scaled back similar facilities. Since the 1970’s, for instance, Wisconsin trimmed its operations from eleven farms, down to three. And just last year, Pennsylvania got out of the business entirely, shuttingdown all four of its remaining prison farms. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports in the second of a two-part series, prison farms offer some advantages… but some pretty big challenges, as well:
The Michigan Department of Corrections is studying the
feasibility of expanding its farming operations throughout
the state’s prison system.
But in many other states around the region, prison systems
have closed down or scaled back similar facilities.
Since the 1970’s, for instance, Wisconsin trimmed its
operations from eleven farms, down to three. And just last
year, Pennsylvania got out of the business entirely, shutting
down all four of its remaining prison farms.
As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson
reports, prison farms offer some advantages… but some
pretty big challenges, as well.
Every day, the State of Michigan spends about
two-dollars-and-thirty-cents to feed each of its inmates.
That might not sound like a lot, but with forty-five-thousand
inmates, the tally for taxpayers comes to thirty-eight
million dollars a year.
Some states – like Georgia – have reduced these costs
somewhat by operating farms to help feed the prisoners.
And Michigan Department of Corrections director Bill Martin
thinks he can do the same, by expanding the state’s
“That’s always, in my mind, the driving force – how can we
do it better, for less money? Because the taxpayer says,
“look, I’ve only got so much to give, so I’m gonna ask that you
do it the best you can when I give it to you.” And that’s what
drives issues for me.”
And, Martin adds, there are some other practical benefits to
“It keeps another portion of the inmate population busy,
and a busy inmate is one that tends not to be trouble and
tends to be a better person once they’re released.”
About a hundred years ago, most of the country’s prisons
had farming operations – a practice that continued through
much of the 1900’s.
But over the past few decades, many of these farms have
In the early seventies, a governor’s task force in Wisconsin
studied that state’s prison farm system.
“And they came to the conclusion that farms in
corrections were antiquated, they weren’t providing
appropriate training for inmates going back to urban areas.
So they came out with a recommendation that the whole
farming system should be closed.”
Steve Kronzer is director of the Wisconsin Bureau of
He says eventually, a compromise was reached. And today,
the state operates three prison farms.
Kronzer says farms can still play an important role in the
correctional system. He says many prisoners have never
held a job before, and working on a farm teaches basic
employment skills, such as showing up on time and
carrying out assigned tasks.
In Wisconsin and most other states, prison farms only
employ minimum-security inmates, since the farms are
typically outside the secure perimeter of the prisons.
Even so, the issue of security has been cited as a reason to
close many prison farms in recent years.
And the possibility that Michigan may soon set up new farms
is bringing up old memories for the residents of Jackson –
where about fifteen years ago, two inmates walked off a
prison farm, broke into a house, and killed two
“And my mom hollered at me, she’s like, “well, get in the
house, ’cause they just found some people dead.”
“I worked with a lady who lived next door to the people
that were killed. And the people always felt pretty safe,
but I think that changed people’s minds.”
And the murders led to the closing of all of Jackson’s
Michigan Department of Corrections director Bill Martin
vows safety will be a top priority if prison farms expand in
Still, some think the idea could be a hard sell.
“I think the neighbors will have some things to say
about it. Right away the NIMBY thing will hit you right
between the ears, you know, ‘not in my backyard’”.
Bruce Bikle is an assistant professor of criminal justice at
Grand Valley State University.
He says he understands the neighbors’ fears, but in reality,
most escapees are captured without incident.
At the same time Michigan is looking to expand prison farms,
so, too, is Wisconsin. But the states are taking different
Wisconsin’s Steve Kronzer says his state will only expand
profitable operations on existing farms, and he says that
will happen slowly.
Kronzer says he’s skeptical that Michigan will be able to
shave much off the cost of feeding prisoners by creating a
statewide system of new farms.
“Well, you’d have to do your cost benefit analysis. If
you’re spending millions of dollars in taxpayer money to set
’em up, it takes a long time to pay that off.”
For his part, Michigan Department of Corrections Director
Bill Martin says some states have already shown that prison
farms save money. Martin points to the example of Georgia,
where inmates raise about forty-percent of what they eat.
“Georgia has been able to reduce their food costs very
dramatic. When you have forty-five-thousand inmates, if
you’re saving thirty cents a day, that’s a lot of money over a
year’s period of time, plus the other benefits that come with
it, it’s really a no-brainer.”
Cost analysis studies are now underway throughout the
Martin says if the results show that homegrown prison food
can indeed save taxpayer dollars, Michigan will buck the
trend toward closing prison farms, and could lead the way
for other states to do the same.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson.
The debate over whether prison inmates should work to pull some of their own weight may be as old as prisons, themselves. Housing prisoners is expensive, so prison industries were started in part to recoup some of that cost. Inmate laborers make everything from blue jeans to Mardi Gras beads. And in some states, they might also work down on the farm – the prison farm, that is. In five Great Lakes states (MI, IL, OH, IN, WI) prisoners can be found raising dairy cows, produce, pork, and more. In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson visits one such operation and has this report:
The debate over whether prison inmates should work to pull
some of their own weight may be as old as prisons, themselves.
Housing prisoners is expensive, so prison industries were
started in part to recoup some of that cost. Inmate
laborers make everything from blue jeans to Mardi-gras
beads. And in some states, they might also work down on the
farm – the prison farm, that is.
In five Great Lakes states (Mi, Il, Oh, In, Wi) prisoners can be
found raising dairy cows, produce, pork, and more.
In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Wendy Nelson visits one such operation and has
Near the shores of Lake Superior, in Michigan’s Upper
Peninsula, sits the Marquette Branch Prison.
It’s secured by high concrete walls, razor-ribbon wire, and
Eight gun towers, manned twenty-four-hours a day.
There are about a thousand residents here, and the prison
just got another new arrival.
“We number ’em with a yellow tag, oh-sixteen-seventy-
But oh-sixteen-seventy-one won’t be living in a cell, or
wearing a prison uniform.
That’s because he’s not an inmate.
He’s a new-born calf – the latest addition to the prison’s
Kurt Tuimala oversees the prison’s sixty-four head dairy
operation, housed not far outside the prison fence.
He says it’s pretty much like any other dairy, with one
notable exception – all the workers are prisoners.
They’re assigned jobs like feeder, milker and herdsman.
But Tuimala says they all start out as barnsmen.
(Shovel scrapes cement)
…the guys who clean up after the cows.
(Shoveling up and under)
“Well, they’re not too happy about it, in general, you
know. And it’s the lower wage of the jobs here. But you
know everybody has to start at the bottom, and if they
prove themselves, they move up.”
The Michigan Department of Corrections doesn’t allow
recorded interviews with inmates at the prison.
But prison farm managers say most of the inmates enjoy
farm work. And according to prisoner advocacy groups in
Michigan and Ohio, no inmate complaints have been registered
about the jobs.
(Begin fading out barn sound)
In addition to the diary, there’s also a cattle operation, and
crops are grown to feed the animals. In all, the farm
provides jobs for about fifty minimum-security prisoners.
Michigan Department of Corrections director Bill Martin
says it costs anywhere between $2.15 and $2.40 per day to
feed each of the state’s forty-five thousand inmates.
He says if a cost-effective way can be found for prisoners to
raise more of their own food, the overall cost of feeding
them could be significantly reduced.
“If we can reduce those costs by, say, thirty-cents a
day, that’s millions of dollars so it’s a matter of looking at
what resources we’re given, how best to apply those, and
how do we keep the cost reduced for the taxpayer to
support a system as big as ours.”
Martin estimates the state could save about five-million
dollars a year by stepping up the number of farming
But not everyone’s convinced prison farms can really make a
significant impact for taxpayers.
Bruce Bickle teaches criminal justice at Grand Valley State
“Locking people up costs a lot of money – at thirty-
five, forty-thousand dollars a year, per. The prison
business is really driven, in many ways, by a lot of the public
perception, not the reality.”
But Bickle’s not against prison farms – in fact, he says
generally they’re good programs for keeping prisoners
(Fade in farm sound)
According to Marquette prison officials, about seventy-
percent of the inmates here come from Detroit and
surrounding areas. And farm superintendent Dan
Kolpack says for most, farming is a brand new experience.”
“They’ll walk in, and they’ll see me breeding a cow. Well,
my arm is right in the cow, and they gotta wonder what the
heck I’m doing in there!”
But by the time they’re ready to go free, Kolpack says most
of the inmates have enough experience to go to work on
farms, and a few have done just that.
But Kolpack says the idea really isn’t to train tomorrow’s
farmers. He says the prisoners can learn basic job skills
that they can use on a farm, or in a factory.
Still, critics say inmates should be given jobs that are more
John Cole-Vodicka is director of the prison and jail project
in Americus, Georgia, one of the more active prison farming
“Those are not the jobs that exist in most urban areas,
where most of our prisoner population comes from the
urban centers. While it might be nice to be outdoors
raising crops or tending to livestock is that really
serving the purpose it ought to?”
Marquette prison officials say the diary operation here is
now supplying milk to a total of ten Michigan prisons. And
soon, the diary will begin making ice cream.
The Marquette prison has a long history of farming – dating
back to the late 1800’s. But the farm is only now at a break-
even point with the cost of running the operation.
Even so, Michigan department of corrections director Bill
Martin thinks it’s worth exploring the idea of expanding
prison farms. To that end, he’s ordered feasibility studies at
all forty-two of the state’s prisons.
The results of those studies are expected by the end of this
Year, and depending on the results, the department of
corrections could break ground on new farms as
early as next spring.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson in
Wildlife officials in several Great Lakes states are concerned about the dwindling number of walleye in Lake Erie. That’s why there’s a move to limit the number of fish that may be legally caught each day. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
Wildlife officials in several Great Lakes states are worrying that the number of
walleye in Lake Erie is dwindling. That’s why there’s a move to limit the number
of fish that may be legally caught each day. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports.
Right now, Ohio fishermen may catch up to 10 walleye a day
from Lake Erie, but that may soon change to six. Ohio wildlife
officials are proposing a tighter limit, because they believe there
are fewer fish in the lake these days. Scott Johnson is a fisheries
biologist for Ohio’s division of wildlife.
The catch rates were very poor in 1999. In ‘99, we got a harvest of about a million fish. And the year before that, the catch rates were considerably higher. And the harvest was 2.3 million fish in ’98.”
Johnson says other states bordering Lake Erie plan to follow Ohio and
reduce their limits on walleye catches. That includes Michigan,
Pennsylvania, New York, and the Canadian province of Ontario.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.
A new report on the quality of the Great Lakes is due out nextweek (Wednesday, August 2nd). The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’sLester Graham reports… it’s a comprehensive review of progresstoward cleaning up the lakes:
A new report on the quality of the Great Lakes is due out this week
(Tuesday, July 25th).
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports, it’s a
comprehensive review of progress toward cleaning up the lakes.
This report is issued every two years by the International Joint
The IJC monitors what kind of progress the US and Canadian
are making toward meeting the Great Lakes water quality agreement
the two nations. Frank Bevaqua is a spokesperson for the IJC.
“The Commission has chosen to focus on the number of the
particular annexes to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and to look at
progress in these specific areas.”
In its last report two years ago, the IJC admonished the governments
Canada and the US, telling them to get more serious about improving the
quality of the Great Lakes water. The new report should show how well
they’ve done that. It’ll be available at the commission’s website… at ijc.org.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Animal geneticists from around the world are meeting this week inMinneapolis (Monday, July 24th) amid protests from opponents ofbiotechnology. They worry scientists are pushing the frontiers ofanimal breeding into the controversial territory of geneticengineering. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Losure reports:
Animal geneticists from around the world are meeting this week in Minneapolis (Monday, July
24th) amid protests from opponents of biotechnology. They worry scientists are pushing the
frontiers of animal breeding into the controversial territory of genetic engineering. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Losure reports.
Midwest farmers have planted genetically altered crops since the late
So called GMO crops like Bt corn and roundup ready soybeans are
bioengineered to contain a gene from another species. They now make up one third of the
corn and half the soybean crops.
Genetically altered crops have sparked growing public opposition. Now, the
possibility of genetically altered farm livestock is on the horizon.
So far, scientists have created goats, sheep and dairy cows with
genes for use in laboratories. The animals produce human pharmaceuticals in
their milk. For example, the high tech cows can produce the substance
need so their blood can clot properly.
In theory, scientists could use the same technology to create high tech
cows for widespread commercial use by the nation’s farmers. The cows could
genetically engineered to resist diseases or produce more milk.
But Chuck Muscoplat, dean of the College of Agricultural, Food, and
Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota, says huge obstacles
stand in the way.
“It’s very, very expensive, it’s almost not feasible except for
most valuable of all human pharmaceuticals. That may happen within the
to have very, very specialized pharmaceutical producing animals, but I
think it’s likely to be routine production of milk or dairy or meat products,
within the next decade. I think that’s a much longer term time horizon.”
For one thing, genetically engineered animals are much difficult to
than plants. In general, embryonic cells injected with the desired gene
be cloned and raised in surrogate mothers. The failure rate of cloning is
spectacularly high. It takes 100 attempts to produce just two or 3 live
offspring. Muscoplat says current technology just isn’t up to the task of
producing genetically engineered animals on a large scale.
More importantly, he says , the public still needs to deal with the
social and ethical questions raised by the new technology.
“I think these things find their way into society when society
comes to understand them and realizes the benefits outweigh the risks, and its my opinion that community is not yet ready for genetically modified animals on
any large scale.”
But others seem undaunted by the obstacles. Michael Bishop is president of
Infigen Incorporated, a biotechnology company in DeForest, Wisconsin. The
company owns the technology that led to the birth of the worlds first
cow in 1997. Bishop says his company is very close to producing
modified livestock for widespread commercial use.
“All we lack is the genes that we want to put in the cells to do
right now. Because we could create the founder animals carrying the gene,
instance the bull, and use that bull to breed literally thousands and
Bishop says he expects the necessary genes will be identified within the
few years. But even if the company solves the technical problems standing
the way of transgenic farm animals, Bishop acknowledges the public may not
ready for them.
“That may take a few years. We may need to do more research to prove to
public that we’re good stewards of technology, and that the technology
not harm the animals, and that the products from the animals do not harm
The public may still have a few years to get used to the idea of transgenic
farm animals. But transgenic FISH are much closer to the market place.
are easier to genetically manipulate than animals, because fish produce
massive numbers of eggs that can be raised in water. A Waltham,
based company called A/F Protein is now raising test pens of genetically
altered salmon on Prince Edward Island in Canada. The salmon contain a
from a cold water fish known as an eel pout. They grow 4 to 6 times faster
than standard salmon. Company president Elliot Entis hopes to have the
genetically altered salmon ready for sale to commercial fish farmers in two
years. He says they will be clearly labeled to show their high tech
“We’re very sensitive to the fact that consumers need to be made aware
what the product is. We’ve got nothing to hide.”
The company is now in the process of seeking approval from the Federal Food
Drug Administration. Entis says the main objections have come from
environmentalists concerned that the transgenic fish could escape from fish
farms and mate with wild fish. The company plans to address those concerns
sterilizing its genetically modified salmon.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Losure.
Anglers in the Great Lakes have complained for years thatdouble-crested cormorants are destroying some adult fish populations.Now, new research suggests those long-held suspicions may be right. TheGreat Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Anglers in the Great Lakes have complained for years
that double crested cormorants are destroying some
adult fish populations.
Now, new research suggests those long-held suspicions
may be right.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly
Researchers have found double-crested cormorants are
eating surprisingly large walleye and smallmouth bass
– between six and 14 inches long.
Connie Adams is a biologist at the Cornell Field
Station on Oneida Lake in New York.
She studied the cormorants’ diet and discovered they
feast on fish that are just below the legal limit for
“They are taking a fairly substantial amount of
fish that would have been recruited into the adult
population if the cormorants hadn’t preyed on them.”
Similar findings have been reported on Lake Ontario
and Lake Erie.
That’s led fishermen to call for a hunting season on
But biologists like Adams say they first want to see
if less invasive measures, like destroying nests, will
have a large enough effect.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Double-crested cormorants are an unwelcome sight in many communitiesaround the Great Lakes. Anglers say the birds have devastated fishpopulations- and in some cases, the local economy. Until recently,scientists weren’t sure why cormorants were having such a large effect.The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports on new researchthat may point to an answer:
Double-crested cormorants are an unwelcome sight in
many communities around the Great Lakes.
Anglers say the birds have devastated fish populations
– and in some cases, the local economy.
Until recently, scientists weren’t sure why cormorants
were having such a large effect.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports
on new research that may point to an answer.
In New York, Oneida Lake is known as “the walleye
Every year, hundreds of anglers descend on the local
community, hoping to catch “the big one”.
But those big fish aren’t as common as they used to
Tony Buffa is a charter captain on Oneida Lake and on
nearby Lake Ontario.
He says ever since the cormorants arrived, the bigger
walleye are much tougher to find.
He suspects that’s because the cormorants are
eating them before they grow to 15 inches – that’s the
legal limit for anglers.
“A ‘young of the year’ walleye is a 6 or 7
incher. And then all of a sudden when you’d expect
that same group to make it to an adult stage, there’s
the disappearance in that 6 inch range to the 14 inch
And researchers say the anglers aren’t just imagining
this. They’ve found that the six to 14 inch range is
exactly the size the cormorants like to eat.
Connie Adams is a biologist at the Cornell University
field station on Oneida Lake.
She spent the past 6 years analyzing the diet of the
lake’s cormorant population.
“When I began this study, I thought how could 300
pairs of birds possibly have a very large impact on
fish spread over a 20 thousand hectare lake. It just
didn’t seem intuitively correct that cormorants were
causing the decline anglers were attributing to them.
But when we got the numbers, it’s undeniable.”
Adams estimates that most years, the cormorants eat
more than 20 percent of the walleyes between the ages
of one and three.
That’s when the fish are in the six to 14 inch range.
So by the time the fish reach adulthood at age four,
the birds have eaten more than half of them.
But Oneida Lake’s cormorants are not unique. Those big
fish have also been scarce in some fishing communities
on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Jim Johnson is a researcher with the U.S. Geological
His work on Lake Ontario found evidence that
cormorants were eating smallmouth bass over 10 inches
Johnson says this a new finding in cormorant research.
”The implications of these two studies are that,
for the first time they’ve found cormorants can have a
discernable impact on gamefish population. At the same
time, the bulk of the literature suggests that
cormorants often do not cause any problems to gamefish
populations so I think what these studies are telling
us is that you just can not generalize too much with
But the anglers say these studies provide the evidence
they’ve been waiting for.
Many support a bill in Congress that’s calling for a
hunting season on cormorants.
State biologists, though, argue such a season isn’t
necessary, because they’ve found other ways to control
On Lake Ontario, they’re killing eggs.
And biologists are destroying nests to prevent the
cormorants from laying eggs.
Some environmental groups oppose these actions, while
the anglers argue it’s not enough.
Biologist Connie Adams meanwhile says she doesn’t
expect the new findings will lead to a change in
policy – but she says they do lend credence to the
plight of many Great Lakes fishermen.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.