Friday, September 30, 2011

Lifelong Lake Michigan Advocate Sounds Fresh Alarm Over Disappearing Fish

(First posted, 8:31 p.m., Thursday, September 29) 
There have been media reports and concerns expressed about the invasive Quagga Mussel and its destructive presence in Lake Michigan, but Jim Te Selle, a shoreline property owner and President of the 30,000-member Coalition of Wisconsin Great Lakes, has raised a fresh alarm with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources over the future of Lake Michigan trout and salmon fishing.

Here's what he sent the DNR last week, and below that, a further explanation he sent me by email Thursday evening:
From: Jim Te Selle 
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 4:39 PM
To: Stephen Galarneau [ed. note - - Director, DNR Office of the Great Lakes]
Subject: Loss of the Great Lakes Trout and Salmon fishery
As you know we had a significant die-off of alewives all around Lake Michigan this summer. It was probably caused by ideal alewife hatching conditions in 2010, which produced a large crop of year-old fish in 2011. 
But because of the cold weather we had this spring, many of the young fish died, causing the big die-off. But there's another reason - the food chain in the lake has been so depleted by mussels that there simply wasn't enough food for these young fish to survive, and they starved to death. 
The conclusion I draw from this is that the situation in the lakes is far more critical than we thought. We need the alewives to support the trout and salmon, but if the alewives can't survive, we're going to see the sport fishing drop off severely and probably end altogether in 3 - 4 years.
It's already happened in Lake Huron, so it's just a matter of time before we see it here. My guess is that 2012 will see a reduction in the trout/salmon catch, after what's been a very good season this year. 
Meanwhile, the mussels are thriving, blanketing the bottom of the lakes and consuming the tiniest members of the food chain. In other words, they're cutting off the food chain at its roots. 
I don't propose to know exactly why this is happening but I'm fairly sure Mother Nature is not the culprit. We are. And because of our state's budget, it'll be at least seven years before we can effectively stop the flow of phosphorus into the lakes.
I had a chance to discuss this with Harvey Bootsma [editor's note: home page added, here] a few days ago, and I think he'll support what I'm saying. But feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in any of this, Harvey.
My idea that you call a conference of people such as Harvey from around the lakes and spend a few days seeing if we can't at least understand the process we're dealing with here, and the sooner the better.
We need a strategy to reverse this process and bring the lakes back to something Mother Nature would approve of.
A pleasant note to end this e-mail - if there's nothing in the lakes to eat, the Asian carp won't come here.
I asked Jim to expand on this a little, and this is what he sent me:
I'm not a professional in this field, but an observer who grew up on Lake Michigan and loves it.
I've lived through the lampreys, the alewives, the salmon, and now Asian carp [and]...who loves the lakes and is becoming more and more concerned that in spite of webinars, groups, meetings, brochures, promises, good intentions, and a lot of talk, not enough is being done to keep them from becoming watery deserts.
We need someone to lead the restoration effort - a strong leader who answers to the public and not a government agency; a person with the experience and concern to manage what is becoming a huge project; and a person who can develop a plan with measurable objectives which the leaders of our two governments are committed to attain.
And we need that person NOW.
Earlier this summer I had seen a letter of Jim's in the Journal Sentinel from the perspective of a concerned grandparent about the health of the lake, and reprinted it, here.

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