Fish Swimming in Hormones

  • Fish are putting up less of a fight on the line when caught - making them less fun for sport fishing. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

A recent report from the US Geological
Survey confirms past findings that fish
are in trouble. Tanya Ott
reports the hormone estrogen is getting
into rivers and lakes and could reduce
fish populations:

Transcript

A recent report from the US Geological
Survey confirms past findings that fish
are in trouble. Tanya Ott
reports the hormone estrogen is getting
into rivers and lakes and could reduce
fish populations:

The fish have been turning up with lesions and intersexed –
meaning they have both male and female characteristics.

Rob Angus is a fish biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
He wasn’t involved in the USGS research, but has studied the problem for
more than a decade. The culprit?

“You’re a female? You excrete estrogens. Both natural estrogens,
the estrogenst that are in birth control pills, females that are
on estrogen replacement therapy. All of those end up in the
wastewater stream.”

Wastewater treatment plants clean up about 90 percent of the
estrogen, but the remaining ten percent is a problem.

Fish don’t reproduce as easily. And, for sport fishers, the fish
aren’t as much fun to catch. They don’t put up as much of a fight
on the line. That could affect the 75 billion dollars sport fishing industry.

For The Environment Report, I’m Tanya Ott.

Related Links

Interview: Climate Affecting Fish and Game

  • The National Wildlife Federation is concerned about the nation's fish and game species being impacted by climate change. (Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

People are beginning to notice the effects
of climate change – especially people who
get out in nature a lot. Hunters and anglers
with the National Wildlife Federation recently
released a list of some of the game and fish
species that are at risk due to climate change.
Lester Graham talked with one of the members
of the group:

Transcript

People are beginning to notice the effects
of climate change – especially people who
get out in nature a lot. Hunters and anglers
with the National Wildlife Federation recently
released a list of some of the game and fish
species that are at risk due to climate change.
Lester Graham talked with one of the members
of the group:

Lester Graham: Kathleen Law in an angler, a member of the National Wildlife Federation, a former member of the Michigan Legislature, and a retired research scientist. First, what kind of game and fish, besides polar bears and penguins, are at risk because of climate change?

Kathleen Law: Well, everything that nests in the water or tries to have a fishery involved. It is affecting our national and our local bird, deer, the population, the habitat.

Graham: I guess that’s the question, though – how do we know that it’s not something else at work? How do we know that it’s climate change? And, of course, the skeptics will say, ‘how do we know it’s man-caused changes to the climate?’

Law: Well, we can continue being in a state of denial, and wonder where everything went, or we can get ahead. It’s not important to me who’s causing it, it’s, ‘what can I do to help?’

Graham: The US House has passed climate change legislation, the Senate is debating a version. Will the policies in those bills be enough to save some of these fish and game species you’re worried about?

Law: It’ll give us a chance. Without a concerted, willful effort, we have a very limited chance. So, there are things that we can do, that we must do, as a people who want diversity, who want to fish, who want to eat – I like venison. So what do we do to protect that resource and, and in a positive way? Which is the education and resource restoration, I think, is probably the best way to start.

Graham: Opponents of climate change legislation worry a cap-and-trade carbon reduction scheme will cost the economy too much. They don’t want the US to be put at a competitive disadvantage. Will the concerns of hunters and fishers sway any members of Congress to actually support climate legislation, if they believe it’s a jobs killer?

Law: Well, it will certainly be a consideration. The hunters and fishing folk are your constituents, they’re your neighbors, they’re your family. You can look at that, ‘it’s a job killer.’ So is climate disruption a job killer. So, how do we create new jobs? Well let’s get people out planting marsh grass. Let’s, you know, something positive. Something that people can do that makes a difference for them and their neighborhood and their community. That’s positive. That’s hope. We gotta give them hope.

Graham: What is the National Wildlife Federation doing in Washington to affect the debate about climate change?

Law: Well, they have flown in a large contingent of just people who are hunters and fishers and who have represented people in the constituencies to come in and talk to the Senators. Our hunters and fishing people – consider them sentinels. They’re out there in November, hunting ducks. They’re out in April, standing in the water, fishing. These are sentinel people, and to pay attention to what they’re saying is very important, vital, and that’s what we did in Washington DC.

Graham: Kathleen Law is a retired research scientist, a former member of the Michigan legislature, and working with the National Wildlife Federation as part of an effort to save fish and game species the group says is at risk because of climate change. Thanks very much.

Law: Thank you.

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Part 4: Hunters Warned After Dioxin Delays

  • Fish advisories dot the banks of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers. Various forms or pollution, including historical dioxin pollution from Dow Chemical, have led to warnings to avoid certain species of fish and limit consumption for them. Pregnant woment and young children are given more stringent warnings. (Photo by Shawn Allee)

It’s deer season in Michigan, and
hunters are trekking through the woods,
trying to bag dinner or something
special for the holidays. Hunting’s
gotten a little complicated in some
areas recently. Just because you catch
something doesn’t mean you should eat
it. That’s because a stretch of river
in Michigan was polluted with dioxin –
decades ago. In the fourth part of a
series on Dow Chemical and dioxin, Shawn
Allee found the state thinks
old dioxin pollution from a Dow chemical
plant poses a health risk today:

Transcript

It’s deer season in Michigan, and
hunters are trekking through the woods,
trying to bag dinner or something
special for the holidays. Hunting’s
gotten a little complicated in some
areas recently. Just because you catch
something doesn’t mean you should eat
it. That’s because a stretch of river
in Michigan was polluted with dioxin –
decades ago. In the fourth part of a
series on Dow Chemical and dioxin, Shawn
Allee found the state thinks
old dioxin pollution from a Dow chemical
plant poses a health risk today:

It was hard for me to understand why wild game like deer or turkey might be contaminated from river pollution, so I hit up Daniel O’Brien for some answers. O’Brien’s a toxicologist with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. He says the problem starts with dioxin in the river.

“It’s in the sediments in these contaminated parts of the Tittabawassee River, and after flood events in the spring when, say, mud in the river gets deposited onto bushes or whatever and deer browse those, then they pick up soil that way.”

Part of O’Brien’s job is to spread the news about the contamination. He says when you buy a hunting license in Michigan you get this brochure.

“It’s a booklet that has all the regulations for hunting and trapping in it.”

These wildlife consumption advisories are voluntary but they kinda read like owners manuals. They lay out where the dioxin-contaminated animals are. They tell you what animals you can eat, and what parts. For example, no one’s supposed to eat deer liver from the areas – that’s got the most dioxin in it. And, of cuts you can eat, the advisory says how much, and how often. Plus, they tell who should eat less or maybe none at all.

“Kids might be more sensitive. They might have a more stringent advisory than somebody like me who’s kinda your middle-aged man and we might not be as susceptible to toxic effects.”


The idea’s to protect people from dioxin, and the risk it poses for cancer and diseases of the immune, reproductive, and developmental systems. It’s an important job, given how big hunting is in Michigan.

“We have three quarters of a million hunters every year that go afield and harvest half a million white-tailed deer.”

Michigan scientists take the issue seriously, but I’m kinda curious whether hunters do. So, I visit the Saginaw Field and Stream Club. Inside, there’s this paneled wall with faded pictures of club presidents. It stretches from the club’s founding in 1916 – all the way to this guy, current President Tom Heritier.

“We’re still here today.”

Heritier says his club’s smack-dab in the contaminated area and everyone knows about the advisories, but, well …

“With the game advisories, I have not heard one person who has any problem with the deer or the birds around the watershed.”

This goes for him, too.

“Nobody is sick from it. I don’t know of anybody that has died of exposure. That’s never been proven. It’s nothing to take lightly, but then again, it might be a little bit on the overblown side, too.”

The State of Michigan tried to survey hunters like Heritier. Officials wanted to know if hunters were feeding tainted game to young children. That survey never made the budget.

Before I leave the hunting club, Heritier wants to clear something up. He’s actually mad about dioxin. It’s in the environment – he wants it gone.

Heritier: “There’s absolutely no reason for industry to be polluting our natural resources, whether it be air, soil, or water.”

Allee: “Even if it’s not a slam-dunk, for sure, killing people off sort of thing?”

Heritier: “Number one, God didn’t put it there, it don’t belong there. That’s the way it is.”

Well, Heritier wants the environment protected from dioxin, but not necessarily himself.

State scientists say, if Heritier changes his mind and wants to reduce his health risk – they’ll keep printing those game advisories for him.

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

Related Links

Open Season on Wolves

  • Idaho Fish and Game sold 1,825 wolf tags in the first hour. By mid-afternoon the first day, about 4,000 tags had been sold. (Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

It’s open season on wolves starting
today. Lester Graham reports
Idaho has issued tens of thousands
of hunting permits for the first
wolf season since the animal was
taken off the endangered species
list:

Transcript

It’s open season on wolves starting
today. Lester Graham reports
Idaho has issued tens of thousands
of hunting permits for the first
wolf season since the animal was
taken off the endangered species
list:

This is the first time a state has allowed an open hunting season on the wolf since it was protected by federal law.

Jon Rachael is state game manager for Idaho’s Fish and Game. He says there are about 1,000 wolves – far more than the original plan when the wolves were reintroduced.

So, hunters can kill as many as 220 of them.

“The intent of that is to reduce the population slightly. But that would leave us in the neighborhood of about 800 wolves at the end of the year.”

A Montana hunting season would allow another 75 wolves to be killed.

Environmentalists say it’s outrageous to kill so many wolves in the northern Rockies so soon after they were taken off the endangered species list.

The Environmental group Defenders of Wildlife sued to stop the wolf hunting season. A federal judge has not yet ruled on whether to stop the hunt.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

Related Links

Some States Planning Wolf Hunts

  • In some states, there are plans for a wolf hunting season (Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Some states plan to let people hunt wolves. Rebecca Williams reports that’s happening because the US government is taking gray wolves off the federal endangered species list in two places:

Transcript

Some states plan to let people hunt wolves. Rebecca Williams reports that’s happening because the US government is taking gray wolves off the federal endangered species list in two places:

This decision means states in the western Great Lakes and several Rocky Mountain states will have control over wolves.

Some states are calling wolves a protected nongame species.

For example in Michigan, a wolf can only be killed if it’s attacking people, pets or livestock. But in other states – like Idaho and Montana – there are plans for a hunting season for wolves.

Jonathan Lovvorn is chief counsel for the Humane Society of the United States. His group and several others are planning to sue.

“Essentially what we’re worried about is that this is basically going to be a declaration of open season on animals that have been protected for decades.”

The federal decision to take wolves off the endangered species list could be overturned in court. That happened last fall.

If the decision sticks, then the Fish and Wildlife Service will be keeping an eye on wolf populations for at least the next five years.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

Lead Bullets and Hunters’ Meat

  • Condors are harmed by eating meat contaminated with lead from hunters' bullets (Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Hunters have been using lead
bullets for decades to kill game with
little, if any, side effects. But new
research finds that hunters may need
to use more caution when choosing their
bullets. Reporter Sadie Babits has this
story on a hidden danger that’s just
coming to light:

Transcript

Hunters have been using lead
bullets for decades to kill game with
little, if any, side effects. But new
research finds that hunters may need
to use more caution when choosing their
bullets. Reporter Sadie Babits has this
story on a hidden danger that’s just
coming to light:

Tony Hanson has been hunting wild game all of his life. And over the years, he’s
grown pretty attached to what he considers the most cost effective, most efficient
bullet around – a lead bullet.

“It matters a lot to a hunter. You are counting on the range of that bullet. You know
what the bullet can do and you know what the gun will do. You’re out there to take
an animals life, and that’s not something we take lightly.”

The typical bullet used by most hunters is made up of about 65% lead. The bullet is
capped off with a copper jacket. These bullets are designed to handle high speeds and
to kill an animal quickly without breaking apart and sending tiny lead fragments
throughout the meat. Hanson works with the country’s largest conservation group –
Michigan United Conservation Clubs. He says he’s not concerned about possible
lead poisoning.

“Generally speaking, if you make the shot you are supposed to make you’re not
getting any edible meat. It’s not something that really weighs into my thought too
much. ”

Like Hansen, most hunters don’t give lead bullets a second thought. So why worry?

Well, early last spring, food pantries across North Dakota and Minnesota were
advised not to give out donated ground venison. That’s after lab tests revealed tiny
lead fragments in some of the meat.

It generated enough interest that North Dakota launched a study involving some 700
people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked with North
Dakota’s Health Department. They found that people who ate a lot of wild game
tended to have higher lead levels in their blood than those who ate very little or no
wild game.

The results validated similar research involving California Condors. The Condors
almost went extinct in large part because of lead poisoning. You see, the birds would
feed on gut piles and carcasses left by hunters, and, if those hunters used lead bullets,
the condors would get sick.

That old problem still exists. Lead poisoning remains the number one obstacle
standing in the way of restoring the California Condors.

(sound of birds outdoors)

Rick Watson is the vice president of the Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. He says
they’ve tracked the birds through satellites to see what they feed on. They’ve also
shot deer in the same way a hunter would, using typical lead bullets. The animals
were then x-rayed.

“And we were astounded by the results. Typically out of the 30 or so deer all of them
had fragmented lead bullets in them. And we were also amazed about the actual
extent the lead fragments are sprayed throughout the meat.”

Watson says about 5% of a bullet does break apart and some of it gets into the meat.
He’s now working on another study to see the impact of lead bullets on people.
That’s involved shooting more deer, sending the meat to random processors, and
then running that meat through an x-ray machine. The findings, he says support
what North Dakota discovered late last fall.

“And again what we found that 30% of the packages of meat that came back had at
least one fragment of lead in them.”

Not enough to make a person sick, but enough to raise a red flag. Watson says the
solution is simple. Hunters need to use non-toxic lead bullets. But most hunters
aren’t convinced. So-called green bullets are about twice the cost of lead bullets and
hunters don’t believe they are as efficient.

Hunters say they want independent research done before anybody starts making the
switch to non toxic bullets.

For The Environment Report, I’m Sadie Babits.

Related Links

Video Games Shoot Up Energy Bills

  • Playing Sonic on a Wii. The Nintendo Wii uses less energy than Sony's Playstation 3 and the XBox 360. (Photo by Manish Prabhune)

People across the country are firing up one of their favorite gifts they got from the holidays – video games. Mark Brush reports on some surprising results about what home video games can do to your energy bill:

Transcript

People across the country are firing up one of their favorite gifts they got from the holidays – video games. Mark Brush reports on some surprising results about what home video games can do to your energy bill:

Video games are a quick escape into an alternate reality… (snd up) fortunately with multiple lives.

(snd of gunfire)

There’s a war going on in this basement.

Taurus and his partner Walt are using their M-16s, grenades, and knives to fight off the enemy.

(snd)

In real life – Taurus is Will Frey.

He’s a sophomore at Michigan State University.

And he’s been working really hard on his overall ranking:

“So I am currently seven hundred and eleven thousandth”

That sounds really bad.

But actually it’s really good.

He’s better than more than 5 million other people playing Call of Duty 4 on their Xbox consoles.

It’s estimated that forty percent of U-S Households have a video game.

And that number is growing.

The games are played for hours and hours – but they’re also left on – even if nobody’s playing them:

“A lot of sports games – you can’t save in the middle of a game – and the games are like usually a half an hour, so if you’re like twenty minutes and you have to leave, you don’t want to lose that twenty minutes kind of thing you know.”

Frey says he has friends that leave their games on all the time.

They never shut them off.

Some don’t want to lose their progress in a game, and some, he says, are just plain lazy.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says some game designers overlook the energy footprint of these things.

They added up the energy used by all the gamers in the country in a year’s time. And found it roughly equals the juice drawn by a big US city in one year.

The report’s authors compared the energy used by the three most popular gaming consoles.

And the big energy winner was the Nintendo Wii.

It uses about 8 times less energy than Sony’s Playstation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

That’s because the Wii doesn’t have the same kind of high end graphics and sound as the Xbox and Playstation – those take a lot more power to run.

Nick Zigelbaum is an energy analyst with the NRDC.

He says the games should be designed better:

“What people don’t realize is that video game consoles, although they’re very similar to laptops and computers in terms of hardware, they don’t go to sleep or go into idle mode like a computer would.”

Zigelbaum says the power hungry XBOX and Playstation games do have an autoshutdown option.

That means the games will automatically turn off if nobody’s using them.

But the games are shipped with the option turned off.

You have to manually set it.

And not all games are equal.

For some games it’s easy to save your progress – for others…
you might lose your spot in that twenty four hour car race.

Zigelbaum says that’s where the industry needs to step in:

“That’s the issue is that it’s not really standardized, it’s not really uniform throughout the whole software industry. So it would be difficult to really implement a strong auto-shutdown feature.”

Zigelbaum says a strong auto-shutdown feature would be the biggest improvement game makers could make.

That would mean no matter what – your game would be saved when the device shuts down.

If the industry did that – homeowners could save more than 100 bucks a year on their energy bills.

A Microsoft spokesperson said they encourage their users to turn the games off when they’re done.

Zigelbaum and the folks at the NRDC are hoping Microsoft and Sony will go farther – and do a better job when designing their next gaming consoles.

(snd)

Will Frey says his friends don’t really think about the energy they use.

How could you when you’ve got other things to worry about?

“Oh my gosh! That’s why the M-4 is the cheapest gun in the game. Next to LMGs.”

(snd)

That stands for “Light Machine Guns.”

Maybe next year’s gaming consoles will shoot holes in the amount of energy they use up.

For the Environment Report, I’m Mark Brush.

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London Shoots for Low Impact Olympics

  • A projected image of London's Olympic Stadium for the 2012 games (Photo courtesy of London 2012)

There’s been a lot of talk during the Beijing Olympics about China’s

efforts to be more environmentally friendly. The host of the 2012 Summer

games hopes to do even better. Julie Grant reports that London is billing its

Olympics the first low environmental impact games:

Transcript

There’s been a lot of talk during the Beijing Olympics about China’s

efforts to be more environmentally friendly. The host of the 2012 Summer

games hopes to do even better. Julie Grant reports that London is billing its

Olympics the first low environmental impact games:


London already has great sporting venues, so it plans to use places like Wimbledon for the Olympics.

The city doesn’t want to build new facilities that will just sit there after the games are over. Taxpayers in Sydney, Australia, are still paying millions annually for underused facilities built for the 2000 Olympics.

London is building an Olympic Park, but has chosen an old industrial site in a neglected section of East London and hired local workers for the clean up.

90% of the demolition materials have been recycled or reused.

Also, the city doesn’t want the symbol of the games – the flame – to burn fossil fuels and add to the global warming problem. So Olympic officials are searching for a low carbon alternative.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

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Chicago Looks to Beijing for Green Olympics Lessons

  • This is not your typical diesel-burning bus. Beijing now boasts the world’s largest fleet running on compressed natural gas. (Photo by Violet Law)

The Olympics in Beijing are into its final week. The city has delivered blue skies and
taken other steps to make the games environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, the City of
Chicago is bidding to host a green Olympics in 2016. The bid committee members are at
the games to observe. Violet Law is in Beijing and has this report:

Transcript

The Olympics in Beijing are into its final week. The city has delivered blue skies and
taken other steps to make the games environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, the City of
Chicago is bidding to host a green Olympics in 2016. The bid committee members are at
the games to observe. Violet Law is in Beijing and has this report:

(sound of a bus pulling up and announcing the stop)

As more Chinese are getting richer they are driving more. But most still catch the bus to
the Olympic venues, because there’s no parking for spectators. Officials have added
special bus routes to take people to the games – for free.

(sound of a bus pulling away)

But this is not your typical diesel-burning bus. Beijing now boasts the world’s largest
fleet running on compressed natural gas. That means less pollution and CO2 emissions.

Doug Arnot is in Beijing. He oversees the planning of operations and sports venues for
Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. He says Chicago can do even better if it gets to
host the games.

“We believe that by 2016 all of our buses and all of our vehicles in the Olympic fleet will
be alternative energy or hybrid vehicles. That will have a huge impact on the
environmental imprint if you will of the Olympic Games.”

(sound of an English-language announcement of an Olympic venue stop on Beijing
subway and the noise of the train speeding through the tunnel)

Beijing has had to tackle a host of environmental problems. Most people know about the
city’s massive efforts to clean the air. But it also opened five new subway lines just in
time for the Olympics. Its added wind power generators.

But hosting the Olympics might have made one problem worse.

(sound of water fountain)

Beijing already has a water shortage. For the Olympics, workers planted trees and
flowers and added thirsty landscaping all over the city. New parkland and an urban forest
form the bulk of the Olympic Green.

‘Friends of Nature’ is the country’s oldest grassroots environmental group. Zhang Boju is
the head of research. He’s torn over seeing all this greenery.

“We think this grassland and man-made forest is a very, very important part of greener
Beijing, but it also has some problems. Is this fit for Beijing, a city which has limited
water resource?”

Hosting the Olympics has spurred the government to open up new facilities to recycle
water.

Achim Steiner heads the United Nations Environmental Programme. Steiner says he’s
pleased to see that China has seized the opportunity. His agency will issue a report
assessing the environmental impact of the Beijing games by the end of this year.

“What the Olympic Games provided was an opportunity to showcase and create a
platform to demonstrate what is possible if you’re determined to address these issues. A
great deal has been done and shown in the last seven years. What we are looking for here
is what kind of long lasting improvement the Games have brought.”

Beijing will take advantage of all these improvements. All of the newly built venues will
stay. Some, including the iconic Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, will be converted into
commercial use. The wind power generators will produce enough energy for 100,000
families.

There are also small things that show how hosting the Olympics has made Beijing a
greener city. Doug Arnot of the Chicago bid committee is taking notice.

“Every event you go to sometimes it’s not the big idea that you see, but the smaller idea
that you see. One of the things I’ve noticed is the staff and volunteers and the way they
have addressed green issues. They’re very conscious of where the recycling waste
baskets are. That may seem to be a small issue. But when you have tens of thousands of
people at your venues on a daily basis, it is very important.”

And Chicago is hoping both the small things and the big changes in its environmental
approach will win it a chance to host a green Olympics in 2016.

For The Environment Report, this is Violet Law.

Related Links

Deer Poachers Getting Trigger Happy?

  • Wildlife officials encourage hunters to help thin the population of CWD, but some hunters may be taking it beyond what is legal according to regulations. (Photo by Dr. Beth Williams, University of Wyoming, courtesy of CWD Alliance)

In states with deer herds affected by Chronic Wasting Disease, wildlife officials have
encouraged hunters to help them thin the population. But some wardens worry that
poachers are taking this as an invitation to bag game any way they can. Brian Bull
reports:

Transcript

In states with deer herds affected by Chronic Wasting Disease, wildlife officials have
encouraged hunters to help them thin the population. But some wardens worry that
poachers are taking this as an invitation to bag game any way they can. Brian Bull
reports:


It’s illegal to shoot deer at night, from vehicles, or while trespassing. But that’s something
Wisconsin game warden David Youngquist has seen recently. He monitors that state’s
Chronic Wasting Disease eradication zone. Youngquist says in that area, there are nearly
six times as many deer as is healthy for the herd:


“Our agency feels that if we can get deer numbers down, we can halt the disease. But we
still enforce the road hunting the same as we ever
have. We want hunting to be safe.”


Youngquist says poaching activities are on the rise, because some people think bagging a
deer is the main thing, whether it’s done legally or not. In some of these eradication
zones, a record number of citations have been handed out.


For the Environment Report, I’m Brian Bull.

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