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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Local Anglers Off and Reeling!

Somewhere in the channel between Lake Simcoe And Lake Couchiching is a $500 perch with a headache. Twelve-year-old Jody Croon of Orillia was fishing from a dock in The Narrows when he spotted one of the 62 tagged fish in the Orillia Perch Festival. He let down his line so fast the sinker bonked the perch on the head. "It took off after my sinker hit it," said Croon. "I don't know where it went after that." Croon is one of the hundreds of anglers of all ages trying their luck in the 12th annual Perch Festival, running from April 24 to May 15.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trout program leaving lake unbalanced

A collapse of Lake Simcoe's herring population may relate to a government program to stock the lake with one of its main predators, the lake trout, says a professor working with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

"One has to wonder if we've got the right balance," David Evans, an adjunct professor at Trent University who has been analyzing data relating to the lake, said recently.

"We have to be concerned about (the herring's) continued existence in the lake," said Evans, who, still in the process of studying data, has yet to publish any findings.

He said rainbow smelt, a species introduced in 1962, is another of the trout's prey that also may have seen its population plummet due to bolstered trout numbers.

"It's possible that lake trout are putting undue predatory pressure on that prey," he said.

Every year, the ministry stocks the lake with about 100,000 lake trout because the fish - as is also the case with lake whitefish - no longer reproduce naturally.

"It has been stocked for many, many decades," Evans said.

Phosphorous loading, identified as a major factor in Lake Simcoe's diminished water quality, has also been connected to the fish's inability to reproduce naturally.

Phosphorous - contained in fertilizer and detergent - causes more plant growth and, consequently, reduced oxygen levels.

Though Evans speculated too many lake trout may have led to fewer herring and smelt, he said there are other factors to consider, including phosphorous, climate change and invading species.

Zebra mussels remove algae, which provide nourishment for the zoo plankton that, in turn, serve as a food source for herring, he noted.

"Nothing is stable in Lake Simcoe because there's so much going on," Evans added.

Lake Simcoe Groups Unite

Lake Simcoe Groups Unite

    Provincial interest needed in Big Bay Point resort development

A number of Lake Simcoe environmental groups
are calling on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Minister of Municipal
Affairs and Housing, John Gerretsen, to declare a provincial interest in the
proposed Big Bay Point Resort development by Kimvar/Geranium. The groups are
seeking to ensure that the Province, and not the Ontario Municipal Board, has
the final say on the protection of the Lake.
The development of 1,600 resort units (fractional ownership), 400 hotel
units, a 1,000 slip marina and 18-hole golf course could seriously threaten
the water quality of Lake Simcoe.
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature
and Ladies of the Lake all say this declaration is mandatory to protect Lake
Simcoe. The sufficiency of recently announced studies to determine the impacts
of the proposal on the Lake is also being left to the OMB, providing further
reason to make the declaration say the groups.
"The sheer size and impacts of this development mean we're in uncharted
waters and need to be extraordinarily cautious before approving anything,"
said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. "Leaving the
defence of Lake Simcoe to the Ontario Municipal Board is a ship-wreck waiting
to happen."
Environmental groups around the Lake are still steaming over the
province's refusal to intervene and stop the development of Moon Point, one of
only three natural shoreline areas around the entirety of Lake Simcoe. The OMB
approved development of monster homes and septic tanks on the site despite
clear evidence of salamander habitation, possibly the nationally threatened
Jefferson Salamander.
On April 5, 2007, the Province released a Memorandum of Settlement
relating to Big Bay Point that requires the developer to complete three
studies to the satisfaction of the Province, before the developer can get any
planning approvals. However, if the developer disagrees with the Province, it
is the Ontario Municipal Board and not Provincial environmental experts who
will decide.
Ultimately, this case proves the need for adopting strong environmental
legislation that covers the entire Lake Simcoe watershed. Individuals,
non-profit organizations, and community associations should not have to shell
out to protect land in a watershed already suffering the effects of phosphorus
"Alteration of the natural environment on this scale should not proceed
in advance of imminent planning reforms, including possibly extending the
Greenbelt to Simcoe County," said David Donnelly, counsel to Environmental
Defence. "Until the people of Ontario have a definitive answer to how much
development Lake Simcoe can take, particularly focusing on cumulative impacts,
all new development is premature in my opinion."
On March 1, 2006, the McGuinty government acted to protect Lake Simcoe by
declaring a provincial interest in the so-called UCCI Development in
Oro-Medonte. Yet that proposal called for only 386 units and a golf course, a
fraction of the Big Bay Point development footprint.
The environmental groups noted that the 1,000 marina slips nearly triples
the current number and will make the marina over twice as large as any marina
on Lake Simcoe and could make it one of the largest on the Eastern Seaboard.
No members of the citizens' groups working to protect Lake Simcoe were part of
the process that established the number of units and boat slips. This was
established in negotiations between Geranium and the County. If as few as
10 per cent of the unit owners had seadoos, it could mean an increase of
160 seadoos in the immediate lake vicinity.
"There are members of our Board," said Ladies of the Lake Co-founder
Annabel Slaight, "who do believe that modern developments, properly situated
and carefully planned with environmental protection as a goal, may help the
environment. But we have insufficient evidence-based information about the
impact of human activities for this large, possibly precedent-setting lakeside
development. It might be taking us closer to the tipping point, and no one, as
yet, has even the criteria for measuring the cumulative impacts of the human
"Lake Simcoe is one of the jewels of southern Ontario and must be
protected," said Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for
Ontario Nature. "Left out of the Greenbelt, and the target of exponential
growth under the Places to Grow Act, south Simcoe County is a magnet for new

For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521, ext. 232, (647)
280-9521 (cell),; Annabel Slaight, Co-Founder
of the Ladies of the Lake, (905) 476-7575,; Wendy Francis,
Director of Conservation and Science, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404,; Jon Johnson, Board Member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe
Coalition, (416) 972-7444,

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cottagers, get ready for a smelly summer

OTTAWA (CP) - Frank Borgatti still remembers a time he didn't have to wear shoes to go swimming.

The longtime cottager recalls the days he used to spend with his two kids, playing barefoot in the shallow waters of their property on Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe, Ont.

Then the zebra mussels moved in and going into the water without shoes became a dangerous affair.

"Since zebra mussels arrived, you can no longer walk in the water like you used to," Borgatti laments. "Now you have to wear shoes. It's virtually impossible to avoid them."

The razor-sharp mollusks, with a propensity to stick to boats, docks and just about everything else, have already inflicted plenty of damage on unprotected feet and water-intake pipes.

But things may be about to get much worse.

Cottagers, get ready for a smelly summer.

A new study says zebra mussels may be changing the chemistry of lake water in Canada, spurring the growth of potentially toxic - and smelly - bacteria.

Masses of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are becoming more common in Canadian lakes because of the mussels. Some species of cyanobacteria secrete chemicals that alter the taste of drinking water and create a foul odour. Others emit toxins that can be potentially harmful to humans.

The bacteria bloomed in the 1960s and '70s, nourished by lake water polluted by phosphorus, a chemical component of household detergents. But cyanobacteria in Canadian lakes declined after phosphorous was banned from detergents 30 years ago.

"However, over the last decade, we're starting to see cyanobacteria re-emerging, and we believe it's due to zebra mussels altering the lakes' water chemistry," says Andrew Laursen, co-author of the study and a professor of chemistry and biology at Ryerson University in Toronto.

The study, published in a recent issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that zebra mussels are picky eaters - they don't care for blue-green algae.

The mussels collect the algae in mucous that they release back into the water. Nitrogen converts to gas when the mucous begins to break down, and phosphorous is left over. This might make the water crystal clear, but it's wreaking havoc with ecosystems.

"A high phosphorous-to-nitrogen ratio favours cyanobacteria growth and, with zebra mussels in the water, all of a sudden we've started seeing it again," Laursen says.

It's hard to predict which lakes will be affected because cyanobacteria growth can loom up literally overnight.

"You might look at a lake and see nothing day after day and then all of a sudden, bam, it's green and smells," says Laursen. "It's almost instantaneous because cyanobacteria reproduce and divide exponentially."

Laursen's research team simulated the ecosystem of lakes by constructing water columns, some with zebra mussels and others without. Oxygenated water containing food for the zebra mussels was pumped from the bottom to the top of each column.

The researchers found the ratio of phosphorus to nitrogen went up when mussels were present, creating favourable conditions for toxic cyanobacteria to grow.

Zebra mussels were first discovered in 1988 in Lake St. Clair, near Detroit. It is believed the tiny mollusks were brought to North America from eastern Europe in the ballast water of transatlantic ships.

Since their discovery, zebra mussels have rapidly spread through the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River system, and many inland lakes in southern Ontario and Quebec.

Frank Borgatti and his family are just some of the thousands of unlucky victims of the zebra mussel invasion. And now he's worried that an outbreak of cyanobacteria could lower property values.

"If people become aware of this problem, they might not be inclined to purchase lakefront property," Borgatti says. "All of a sudden the benefits of the lake that we had growing up aren't available to our kids or grandchildren."

Zebra mussels have clogged Borgatti's lakewater intake pipe several times, and he says he cuts himself on the razor-sharp pests everytime he goes in the water.

"You can't avoid them no matter what you do. You can't eradicate them," he says. "It's like a plague."

Laursen says cottagers can take steps to cut down on the risk of cyanobacteria developing in lakes by curbing their use of certain dishwashing detergents that still contain phosphorous, and making sure septic systems are efficient.

But zebra mussels aren't going anywhere, he adds.

"We've reached a point where we've learned to deal with zebra mussels as a reality. They're here to stay."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Orillia Perch Festival

Orillia Perch Festival
Orillia, USA - 21 April 2007 to 12 May 2007
This year will mark the 26th annual Orillia Perch Festival taking place from April 21st to May 12th 2007.The festival is a family day out where kids lucky enough to catch a tagged perch can win prizes.Fishing is a popular pastime in the area and the tackle shops always do brisk business.Photos from previous events show the kids lifting their prizes aloft after managing to catch one of the tagged perch.Orillia borders Lake Simcoe and Couchiching on the Trent-Severn Waterway and is regarded as an all-seasons tourist destination.It is about 90 minutes north of Toronto and is known for its waterways and countryside, with various parks and heritage sites.The town has an opera house, a casino, museums of art and culture and various cruise boat companies.