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Entries in pollution (44)


Sick Susquehanna Bass Fishery Needs Your Help

Smallmouth bass with a malignant tumor was caught by an angler in the Susquehanna River near Duncannon, Dauphin County. Photo by PFBC

Neglect destroyed a world-class bass fishery at Florida's Lake Apopka. Fifty years later, is history about to repeat itself on Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River, as well as Chesapeake Bay, which it flows into?

Since 2005, anglers and fisheries biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have noted lesions and sores on smallmouth bass, as well as a declining population because of what is believed to be disease-related delayed mortality in young-of-year fish. In 2013, the Washington Post noted that Susquehanna's smallmouth bass might be the "canary in a coal mine" regarding the river's health. Last June, the U.S. Geological Survey found intersex bass, likely a consequence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, in three Pennsylvania waterways, with the highest incidence in the Susquehanna.

More recently, officials documented the first cancerous tumor. The discovery made media headlines both because of its rarity and the ominous overtones that it conveys regarding the health of this river that provides 50 percent of the fresh water flowing into Chesapeake Bay, site of a recent Elite Series tournament.

"As we continue to study the river, we find young-of-year and now adult bass with sores, lesions, and more recently a cancerous tumor, all of which continue to negatively impact population levels and recreational fishing," said John Arway, PFBC's executive director. "The weight of evidence continues to build a case that we need to take some action on behalf of the fish."

To PFBC's credit, it has been sounding the alarm about the "sick" fishery for years, as well as lobbied the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to categorize the lower portion of the river as "impaired."  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also has petitioned for that designation, as have the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited and American Rivers. Until the waterway receives that designation, a comprehensive plan can't be developed to address the problem, which probably is pollution.

But DEP has argued that it makes recommendations based on water quality and not species health.  Thus far, it has refused to recommend that the Susquehanna be included on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) impaired waters list.

 "Although we share the continuing concerns about the health of the smallmouth bass population, we do not have sufficient data at this time to scientifically support listing the main stem of the Susquehanna as impaired," the EPA said in a statement.

In other words, for government bureaucrats, sick fish do not equate to a sick river. Yeah, it probably was something they ate.

Prompted both by the inaction of environmental agencies and concern for the future of this world-class fishery, the PFBC recently launched a "Save Our Susquehanna!" campaign so that the smallmouth fishery doesn't die of neglect. And it's going to need your help.

Until the end of this year, PBFC expects to take in at least $3 million from sales of about 130,000 resident and non-resident fishing licenses. When it reaches that threshold, funds from additional sales will be dedicated to projects aimed at reducing pollution in areas of the river where diseased fish have been found. To kick start the effort, the agency already has pledged $50,000, and, once anglers provide a matching amount, work will begin.

Those who purchase licenses also can show their support by buying "Save Our Susquehanna!" buttons for $10 each. Both are available at PFBC's Online Shop, as well as from licensing agents around the state. Finally, people can contribute by sending checks made out to the campaign to PFBC, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106.

"Protect the waters of the river, and you protect the waters of the bay," said B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. "Purchasing a fishing license or making an additional donation is an investment in the future of river smallmouth and Chesapeake Bay largemouth bass fisheries."

Arway added, "The Susquehanna River is sick and someone has to take steps to fix it before it is too late. We need leadership to begin working on fixing problems that we know exist."

Despite spending millions of dollars on rehabilitation projects in recent decades, Florida resource managers have been unable to restore Lake Apopka's bass fishery to what it once was. Sadly, it seems, they waited too long. Let's hope  that the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay fisheries do not suffer similar fates.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)



Early Warning System Created for Harmful Algal Blooms

Lake Erie algal boom. Photo by Michigan Sea Grant

Four federal agencies have joined forces to create an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems.

Harmful algal blooms have emerged as a significant public health and economic issue that requires extensive scientific investigation,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use satellites to gather color dates from freshwater bodies during scans of the Earth. They then will share the findings with state and local agencies so they can provide public health advisories when needed.

“In addition, the project will improve the understanding of the environmental causes and health effects of these cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms in the United States,” NOAA said in a press release.

NOAA added that these blooms are a global problem. “Cyanobacteria (blue-green alga)  is of particular concern because it produces toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish, or shellfish,” it said.

HABs have been on the increase since the mid 1990s, according to Michigan Sea Grant College Program. In the Great Lakes, malfunctioning septic systems, products with phosphates (dishwater detergent) and nitrogen (lawn fertilizers), and urban and agricultural runoff likely have contributed.

“Some scientists also link the increase of harmful algal blooms to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and the ability of the mussels to filter feed,” Sea Grant said. “Essentially, they eat the good algae and phytoplankton but release organisms like blue-green algae back into the water intact.”

HABs annually cost the nation about $64 million because of loss of recreational usage, additional treatment for drinking water, and decline in waterfront property values. In August 2014, Toledo, Ohio, an algal bloom in Lake Erie forced Toledo, Ohio, officials to temporarily ban consumption of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents.

The new collaborative network will build on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study microscopic algal communities in the ocean, which play a role in climate change, ocean ecology, and the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean.


Noise Pollution Can Hinder Fish Reproduction

We know that water pollution can harm the ability of fish to reproduce. But noise?

Yes, noise pollution can as well, according to scientists at the University of Auburn who looked at blacktail shiners spawning in tributaries of the Chattahoochee River.

To attract mates, male shiners emit bursts of sounds, similar to a cat’s purr, and, to help protect eggs in the nest, they make popping sounds that warn away intruders. They do so in streams that already are “noisy” with water flowing over rocks and down small waterfalls.

And nearby road traffic noise can mask shiner communication even more, reported Daniel Holt and Carol Johnston in Biological Conservation.

Using hydrophones, the researchers determined that the shiners, similar to other species, have developed an ability to communicate via a “quiet window” in the spectrum of natural noise. But road traffic noise, especially trucks crossing nearby bridges, overlap that window and potentially drown out the fish talk as far as 12 kilometers away.

“In order for an acoustic signal to be an effective source of communication, the signal must be successfully detected and interpreted by the intended receiver. One potential barrier to acoustic communication is background noise,” the scientists said.

“Our calculations suggest that road traffic noise propagates to an extent that virtually entire watersheds are impacted by this noise pollution, especially in urban areas.”


BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Gulf Oil Spill

BP will pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, which polluted the Gulf of Mexico five years ago.

“Today‘s settlement moves the wildlife and habitat of the Gulf Coast forward on the road to recovery. It’s time to look ahead to the future and work toward getting real, on-the-ground restoration projects done," said Steve Bender, director of Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of more than 800 sportsman and outdoors groups, organizations and businesses working on Gulf Coast and Mississippi river Delta restoration.

“Because Congress passed the RESTORE Act in 2012, 80 percent of the money BP pays as a result of the Clean Water Act penalty will be returned to the Gulf Coast for much needed restoration and to improve the region’s long-term resiliency. Repairing the ongoing damage from the oil spill is also of utmost importance going forward, and the settlement dollars BP pays through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment will help the areas devastated by the spill – including habitat that supports world-class hunting and fishing."

The Gulf Coast region is an ecological and economic driver for the entire nation, and sportsmen and women care about ensuring this national treasure is restored for future generations to enjoy. With as many as 14 million waterfowl migrating to the Gulf’s warm shores annually, and salt and freshwater fishing unlike anywhere else on the planet, we must make sure this entire region – including the endangered Mississippi River Delta – is on the path forward to long-term health and recovery. We look forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure every dime of oil disaster money goes to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.”


Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved.

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.

A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.

Recent studies estimate 1,000,000 birds died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.

Modeling for a recent stock assessment projected that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010 as a result of the spill.

A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.

A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

A recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans believe BP should pay maximum fines under the Clean Water Act for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

VP has identified 19 projects from Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast that have the greatest potential to restore our coast. 


EPA Plans to Force More Ethanol Into Fuel

Despite the negative effects and abject failure of ethanol, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to force more of it into our fuel in 2015 and 2016.

The only ones who will benefit from this are those who grow corn and produce ethanol, and possibly their political friends in Washington, D.C. who receive something under the table. Ethanol-blended fuel is less efficient than regular gasoline. It’s also harmful to the environment and has caused millions of dollars in damage to outboard and other internal combustion engines.

And by mandating that more ethanol be used in gasoline, EPA increases the likelihood that even more engines will be destroyed.

Go here to speak out against the decision.

And check out this posted at Boating:

  • Corn ethanol does not lower CO2 compared to gas.
  • Corn ethanol causes a larger dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Corn ethanol leads to nitrogen fertilizer polluted ground water.
  • Corn ethanol leads to pollution from pesticides.
  • Corn ethanol leads to plowing of grass lands to add corn fields.
  • Corn ethanol leads to destruction of forest lands to add corn fields.
  • Corn ethanol is increasing the Ogallala Aquifer depletion.
  • Corn ethanol pollutes the air with formaldehydes and acetaldehyde.
  • Corn ethanol use leads to higher levels of ozone pollution.
  • Corn ethanol is often distilled using coal as a heat source.
  • Corn ethanol distillers exhaust high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) pollution.