Sailboards on Lake Winnipeg
It’s been one year since the Global Nature Fund chose Lake Winnipeg as the Threatened Lake of 2013 worldwide due to the extensive blue-green algae blooms that are fouling the lake every year and over 35 years since scientists have been ringing alarm bells . Although Lake Winnipeg is only one of many lakes around the world suffering from this growing threat, it is the 10th largest lake in the world and Canada’s 6th Great Lake so it draws international attention.
“If there has been any progress in cutting the amount of phosphorus that is getting into the lake, we don’t know about it” says Vicki Burns, spokesperson for the Save Lake Winnipeg Project. “We have not seen any data on the annual amounts of phosphorus going into the lake for 7 years, even though government staff is collecting the data every year. That is simply too long”.
Some blue-green algae blooms contain toxins that are very dangerous to both animals and humans. Over the past year, there has been new research from Oregon State University finding that the toxicity in blue-green algae blooms is increasing and from Australia linking a toxin found in some blue-green algae, BMAA, to motor neuron disease such as ALS, Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
“The threats associated with blue-green algae blooms are growing” says Vicki Burns. “We need action now to stop this unhealthy trend. Another year has passed since the Threatened Lake Designation and we still cannot measure any progress.”
When questioned on progress made since the Global Nature Fund designation, Living Lakes Canada advisor Bob Sandford said: “I am deeply concerned about two matters in particular. First, I don’t think the average Manitoban has any idea of how serious this problem has become and how much it may impact the prosperity of the province and region in the future. Second, Manitobans have yet to realize that governments can’t solve a problem of this magnitude on their own. While the will clearly appears to exist to organize around solutions, critical players remain absent from the table resulting in efforts remaining largely atomized for want of broader commitment and adequate funding and support. But there is progress.”
To start, the Save Lake Winnipeg Project is calling for a commitment from all 3 levels of government to invest in upgraded sewage treatment for all Manitoba sources within the next 10 years; and a commitment to release annual data about the amount of phosphorus entering the lake.