A new study finds that eating contaminated fish from the Great Lakes might have adverse effects on more people than once thought. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A new study finds that eating contaminated fish from the Great Lakes might have adverse effects on more people than once thought. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
For a long time health experts have recognized that small children and women of childbearing age should limit the amount of Great Lakes fish they eat. Fish contaminated with PCB’s, Polychoilnated Biphenyls, could cause developmental problems for children. This new study finds that men should also reduce their exposure to the contaminants. Susan Chantz is a researcher at the University of Illinois and the principal author of the study.
“We are seeing some impact of PCB exposure from Great Lakes fish on memory functions of adults.”
The decade long study found people who eat a lot of fish from the Great Lakes, a couple of pounds a month, generally had lower scores on memory and learning tests than those who ate less fish. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld the right of Canadian municipalities to restrict the use of pesticides within their boundaries. The decision marks the end of a 10 year lawsuit between the town of Hudson, Quebec and two companies – Chemlawn and Spraytech. The companies had sued the town, claiming municipalities did not have the power to control pesticide use. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says that Canada’s unique political structure has set a challenging precedent:
The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld the right of Canadian municipalities to restrict the use of pesticides within their boundaries. The decision marks the end of a 10-year lawsuit between the town of Hudson, Quebec and two companies – Chemlawn and Spraytech. The companies had sued the town, claiming municipalities did not have the power to control pesticide use. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says that Canada’s unique political structure has set a challenging precedent.
In Canada we have so many different levels of government each with its own area of responsibility. The problem is these areas frequently overlap, causing a bureaucratic nightmare. This particularly Canadian phenomenon has been dubbed jurisdictional gridlock.
Look at how we handle pesticides. They have to be registered federally in order to be manufactured and marketed. Provincial permission is required for companies to sell or apply them. And at the local level, municipalities can enact by-laws concerning their application.
In the U.S., by contrast, the handling, distribution and licensing of pesticides all falls under federal jurisdiction. So at least you only have to deal with one level of government, which should save time and effort.
But a recent victory by the town of Hudson, Quebec has demonstrated that sometimes a lot of red tape can actually be a good thing. The town’s battle to control the use of pesticides within its borders went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The court not only upheld their right to protect local health and the environment, it also encouraged other municipalities to follow the Hudson example within the broad domain of Canadian and international law.
This wasn’t just a victory for community activists in Hudson. The Supreme Court decision gave all Canadian communities the power to take action on their own behalf. And believe me, they’re seizing that power. In the wake of the Hudson decision, towns and cities right across the country are in the process of enacting legislation that would severely restrict the use of pesticides within their borders.
This is a remarkable turn of events. And it clearly demonstrates the power that one small community can have. Jurisdictional gridlock may be a pain to wade through, but in light of what happened in Hudson, it can also be a really good thing.
Mallards are the most common duck in the Great Lakes region, but their numbers have been declining during the last few years. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Mallards are the most common duck in the Great Lakes region, but their numbers have been declining during the last few years. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Lester Graham reports.
The sportsmen’s conservation group, Ducks Unlimited is involved in a three year study, trying to learn why mallard duck populations are not increasing in the same numbers they once were. Tina Yerkes is a research biologist with the organization. She says starting in the mid-1950’s mallard flocks were growing at a pretty rapid rate.
“In the Great Lakes area, after the mid-80’s until now the production ratio has dropped and it’s dropped pretty sharply. And that for us is a warning bell, if you will, that something is going on in this area that’s causing birds not to do well.”
Yerkes and a team of biologists in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio are tracking mallard hens and their broods. Early indications are that loss of habitat is beginning to affect the duck populations in the region. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Personal watercraft, also known by their trade name “jet skis,” are the hottest sellers among watercraft in the Great Lakes region. They’re causing some heated debate as well. They’ve been banned in many National Parks, and some Great Lakes states are also regulating their use. Last summer, New York passed a law allowing towns to make their own rules for jet skis. Some have already banned them on local lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports on the controversy jet skis are provoking:
Personal watercraft, also known by their trade name “jet-skis”, are the hottest sellers among watercraft in the Great Lakes region. They’re causing some heated debate as well. They’ve been banned in many National Parks, and some Great Lakes states are also regulating their use. Last summer New York passed a law allowing towns to make their own rules for jet-skis. Some have already banned them on local lakes.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports on the controversy jet skis are provoking.
When Jay Schecter relaxes in the quiet of his home on Hannawa Pond in northern New York, there’s one sound he can’t stand.
(Sound of jet ski starting up and driving away)
It’s a personal watercraft, or Jet Ski. It’s easy to get Schecter to talk about last summer when young kids driving jet-skis nearly drove him crazy.
“…y’know, weaving in and out of traffic and wake jumping. The awful noise, going uuuuuuuuuuuuu for literally hours on end.”
(Sound of buzzing Jet Ski)
Jet-skis are different from other motorized boats, not just because they sound different. They ride high on the water’s surface and can easily make sharp turns. So they can come closer to shores and docks at higher speeds than traditional motorboats can.
Schecter heard about the new “home rule” law in New York that allows towns to make their own jet-ski rules. At the same time, he started to hear from his neighbors.
“I started to hear complaints about jet-skis from recreational boaters, big time water-skiers, older gentlemen who’d been on the pond for many years.”
So Schecter spearheaded a campaign over the winter to get the machines banned from the water. The town Board compromised with what amounted to a jet-ski curfew from 6 in the evening to 9 in the morning. The proposal sparked a controversy on the pond that’s divided neighbors into pro- and anti-jet ski camps.
(Sound of motor boat approaching dock; then sound of guys under track)
Just down the shoreline from Jay Schecter’s place, a few motorboats idle up to Alex Vangelo’s dock. Alex and his friends like to get together on hot days like these – maybe get in a little water-skiing after work. None of them own jet skis, but they don’t want any new rules, either. Alex says most jet skiers on this pond are responsible users.
“They’ve got three or four jet skis and they get home from work and they like to get on it and ride up and down the river a couple times. Well, God bless ’em, I say”
Alex’s friend Mark Luthauser loves to cruise around in his motorboat and says his neighbors should have the right to enjoy their jet skis.
“I’d be happier without jet skis on here, but it’s just not fair for me to support something just because I personally don’t like it.”
New York’s “home rule” law is the first of its kind in the country. Other Great Lakes states have a range of Jet Ski laws on the books. But most of them don’t restrict where and when they can be used – they just regulate unsafe and risky operation.
Some people say the problems with jet skis go well beyond noise, safety, and personal freedoms. The two-stroke engines in jet skis are heavy polluters, dumping up to a third of their fuel into the air and water. The most often cited statistic says that one day of Jet Ski play emits as much pollution as a new car driven 100,000 miles. Shawn Smith of Blue Water Network, a national environmental group, says jet skis endanger fish and birds, too.
“The way they’re designed, they don’t have propellers; they’re powered by a jet pump. That allows them to get into waterways where traditional boats cannot. Often these waterways are very shallow and represent some of the most sensitive habitat for wildlife – breeding grounds, nesting areas, that type of thing.”
Groups like Blue Water Network are pushing for more states to consider “home rule” laws like New York’s.
But Industry representatives say advances in technology will soon silence the complaints against the watercraft. Monita Fontaine directs the Personal Watercraft Industry Association. She says new personal watercrafts are already 75% cleaner and 70% quieter than the older models.
“People will have to look at what it is they don’t like about personal watercraft because it certainly will not be the fact that there are any environmental impacts. And people will have to see if, in fact, it’s simple prejudice.”
Back on Hannawa Pond, John Ohmohundro, another jet-ski opponent, says the jet ski controversy is similar to other “man and machine” vs. “nature and neighbor” conflicts, from snowmobiles to boom boxes to ATVs.
“Where does your right to play any way you want to interfere with my right for peace and quiet, clean air, clean water, safety…I’m interested in that issue.”
(Sound of jet ski)
So are many other people. Across the region this summer, residents will be crowding public meetings to consider their own Jet Ski restrictions.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
In a narrow swath of
grass in a roadside ditch, a mallard hen nests her second brood of the
season, a rare event for these ducks. Her first ducklings were killed
by a predator.
Researchers Tina Yerkes
and John Simpson track the mallard hens by radio transmitters. They've
found many of the ducks are killed by agricultural pursuits such as
mowing. Lawnmowers can kill hens that
are nesting in grass.
John Simpson 'candles' an
egg, looking at the silhouette of the developing duckling to see how
near it is to hatching.
In the last decade or so, ducks in the Great Lakes region have not been reproducing as well as they have in the past. The number of ducklings hatching out and surviving to adults has dropped by about 25 percent. Researchers are trying to figure out why this is happening and what can be done about it. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham went into the field with researchers and has this report:
In the last decade of so, ducks in the Great Lakes region have not been reproducing as well as they have in the past. The number of ducklings hatching out and surviving to adults has dropped by about twenty-five percent. Researchers are trying to figure out why this is happening, and what can be done about it. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham went into the field with researchers and has this report.
(sound of quack, quack overhead / cross fade to truck doors and engine startup/ bed of gravel sounds)
Mallard ducks are the most common duck found throughout the Great Lakes states. You’ll see them on farm ponds, college lagoons, and even in big city parks. But recently the mallard’s population hasn’t been growing as fast. The duck’s rate of reproduction has been falling off in the region since the mid-1980’s. Researchers with the sportsman’s conservation group, Ducks Unlimited, are involved in a three year study of mallards to find out why the ducks are not surviving in as great of numbers.
Tina Yerkes heads up the project. In a truck with something that looks like a TV antenna on top, fellow researcher John Simpson and she are in northwest Ohio, near Lake Erie, headed out to find some of the mallard hens. Tiny transmitters were surgically implanted in the ducks earlier this year and the antenna tracks the signals.
“So, this is the whole gizmo setup here. Everyday these guys go out and they track the birds. Each bird has a unique beep, if you will, uhm, a frequency. And that’s basically how we figure out what they’re doing. We started with 57 and you’re down to 38?
JS: Thirty-eight, roughly. And, eleven? JS: Twelve. Twelve have actually been killed, either by predators or farming operations on this site.”
(Truck sound under)
As the truck gets close to the last sighting of one of the mallard hens they’re tracking. John Simpson flips on the tracker and turns the antenna.
(beep beep sound)
He’s pulled over along a fairly busy road, and starts looking around in the roadside grass.
“So, she’s actually nesting in the ditch?”
“Yeah. I’m not entirely sure where her nest is here, so we’ve got to be careful.”
(sound of grass rustling)
It’s hard to believe a duck could find a place for a nest here. Most of the roadside is mowed except for a little strip of grass where we’re looking. She’s one lucky duck. A mower would kill her and destroy her nest.
“There she is right there. See her sitting on her nest?”
The mallard hen is three feet away and she’s still hard to see. John
Simpson has to flush her so that he can take a look at the eggs in the nest.
(Sound of flapping wings)
“There she goes.”
“She’s got a pile of eggs too. That’s her second nest.”
“That’s her second nest?”
“Yeah. She had a pile in her first nest.”
“Twelve eggs? Is that right?”
(Ambience remains under)
The duck lost her first brood to a predator. Since she had nested close to a subdivision, it could have been a dog or cat. But the researchers say in this case it was probably a wild predator, maybe a raccoon.
“And, once we’re finished, we’ll just cover the nest so the predators don’t see it and we leave.”
It’s very rare that a mallard hen tries twice to raise a brood, But in this area the ducks are adopting a lot of unusual behaviors. Since there’s almost no grassland to nest in, hens have nested in hay fields where they’re usually killed at mowing time. One hen made a nest in a large flowerpot. At our next stop we found a duck in the backyard of a mobile home, and her eggs had just hatched.
(Peep, peep, peep of the ducklings)
The owner mowed around the duck’s nest, giving the mother and her eggs a chance to survive. Now that they’ve hatched, they’ll head to the water nearby. Tina Yerkes says development pressures have hurt the ducks here.
“In Ohio, we’re looking at pretty bad brood survival which tells us that probably we need to alter the landscape by putting wetlands back—by restoring wetlands and managed marshes for the broods. And then, probably also coupling that with some grassland habitat, ’cause as you can see, there’s not a lot of grassland habitat for them to nest in here. We need to improve that.”
The Ducks Unlimited researchers are getting some indications about what kinds of things are hurting the ducks ability to reproduce. Besides the loss of wetlands the researchers are finding that farming practices such as frequently mowing ditches and urban sprawl taking up grasslands are all contributing to a high mortality rate among ducklings and sitting hens. But the researchers haven’t collected enough information yet to make any solid conclusions. It’ll be two more years and many more sites before the Ducks Unlimited researchers have enough hard data.
Robert Payne is the Curator of Birds at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. He says while to researchers it might seem pretty clear that people are causing the lower rates of production in the duck population. Information like the Ducks Unlimited group is gathering will be helpful.
“Well, it seems to be common sense: the more people, the more development you have, the fewer places there are going to be for birds. But the people in our society who make the decisions like to have some data out there. (They) Like to know how many ducks, how much land, and so on. Otherwise, these people can’t really figure how much land the really should set aside for the ducks. No data, no well informed decisions.”
(sounds of birds and bullfrogs)
But some people might find data that are supposed to help ducks gathered by a group that’s chiefly supported by people who kill ducks for sport might be a bit of a conflict, or at least very self-serving. Ducks Unlimited researcher Tina Yerkes says there’s a larger purpose here than merely making hunters happy.
“The purpose is not necessarily to create more ducks to shoot, but the purpose is to alter and affect the landscape in a positive way for all the species that need the landscape. So, we’re trying to take a step back and determine what the wildlife needs and help put it back on the ground for the wildlife.”
Predictions are that the human population around the Great Lakes will steadily increase for the foreseeable future, and if the researchers’ early indications hold, it’ll likely affect the duck population even more. This study, when it’s complete, might give policy makers the information they need to find a balance between the needs of people and the needs of wildlife as the conflict between the two grows in the Great Lakes region.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s advisors might not always be impartial. A report by the General Accounting Office finds the EPA doesn’t properly guard against conflicts of interest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A toxic leftover from the Cold War is polluting soil and water at sites across the country. More than two dozen sites in the Great Lakes region could be contaminated by a chemical used in rocket fuel. The chemical was either used or stored at the sites. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Next month, Kirtland’s Warblers will begin their yearly winter trek. They’ll be flying more than eleven hundred miles from their only known nesting ground in Michigan to their wintering grounds in the Caribbean Islands. The bird was one of the first species to be listed as endangered in 1973. But thanks to several decades worth of forest and wildlife management, the bird’s numbers are increasing. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
Some Midwesterners concerned that urban sprawl is eating up too much farmland recently took a bus trip to the east coast. They wanted to visit states such as Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Planners in those states have been dealing with the problem of too many people and not enough land for decades. The bus tour participants looked at different ways to preserve open spaces while still allowing development. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant looks at a program that doesn’t cost taxpayers money: