Posted by: Vicki Burns | August 24, 2011

Lake Winnipeg’s Blue-Green Algae Bloom Just One of Many Around the World

Satellite image of Lake Winnipeg with blue-green algae bloom in north,photo from the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium

Today I was doing some research about how common blue-green algae is this summer. Instead of just “Googling” Canada as I often do, I left it wide-open putting blue-green algae 2011 in the search box. I was fascinated and dismayed to see reports of it, literally, around the world. From the State of Victoria in Australia to the UK and on up to the Baltic Sea in northern Europe and throughout North America, almost from coast to coast it is really blooming.
There are several American states including Oregon, Indiana, Oklahoma, Vermont, Kansas and Florida that have issued warnings to the public about staying out of waters that have signs of blue-green algae. In Kansas, there have been 3 dog deaths recently, one of which is confirmed as a result of toxic blue-green algae and the other 2 are suspected. There have also been 17 cases of human illness this year in Kansas that are suspected to be related to exposure to blue-green algae although it is not yet conclusive.
In Canada, there have been warnings about blue-green algae blooms in almost every province this summer. In my province of Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg, which often has massive blooms does have a large bloom in the north basin of the lake as evidenced by this satellite image but not much in the south basin which is where most cottagers locate. However there have been Algae Advisories in place on several smaller lakes in Manitoba including Falcon Lake, Pelican Lake, Killarney Lake and Rock Lake.
So this has made me realize that the challenges we face in the Lake Winnipeg watershed are shared by hundreds of other jurisdictions. Too much phosphorus and nitrogen getting into our waterways is causing problems all over the world. With this many countries suffering the negative environmental and human health effects of an overload of blue-green algae, I hope our collective efforts will push forward the changes that we all need to make.


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