Posted by: Vicki Burns | October 13, 2011

Blue-Green Algae Fouls Minaki, Gunn Lake and Lake Winnipeg Late in the Season

In the last few days I’ve spoken with a couple of people about severe algae blooms in several locations in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario this fall. The unseasonably warm temperatures we enjoyed in September and early October was great for many outdoor activities but it was also great for encouraging the blue-green algae to bloom.

image of dog looking at water filled with blue-green algae

Blue-green algae at Minaki, Sept. 2011 photo courtesy of Todd Sellers

The Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation (LWWSF) recently published a Phosphorus Budget Study which details some interesting facts about water quality issues in Lake of the Woods and our warm fall is consistent with one of the most interesting facts they’ve presented.  According to their data, the Lake of the Woods now sees on average, one month longer ice free days throughout the year. In general the ice is freezing up 2 weeks later than it used to 40 years ago and thaws 2 weeks earlier. Todd Sellers, the Executive Director of the LWWSF, says this is great news for people who want to enjoy being on the water at the lake but the downside is that it offers a longer growing season for the algae. As Todd puts it, climate change is a real factor in the growing concerns about blue-green algae.
Robert T. Kristjanson, a fisher from Gimli Manitoba, was one of the other people who described some very big concerns with blue-green algae on Lake Winnipeg this fall. He and other members of the fishing industry encountered very thick algae near Grindstone on Lake Winnipeg.  Robert described it as “the worst he’s ever seen – it was like a wall clogging their nets so that the fish wouldn’t go near them.”It’s frustrating for Robert that the only time the algae makes news is when it washes up on busy beaches. He and other fishers often encounter it out in the middle of the lake where not many people will see it.
As I mentioned in a previous blog this summer, blue-green algae is becoming more of a problem in many areas around the world. We know that decreasing the excess nutrients of phosphorus and nitrogen getting into our waters is the solution and we also know how to accomplish this. What’s missing are the financial resources and the political will to make it happen.

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