Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24• ENVIRONMENTAL • PAGE 7 MAZINA’IGAN FALL 2016 GLIFWC’s mercury program remains strong after nearly three decades By Sara Moses, GLIFWC Environmental Biologist As it enters its 28th year, GLIFWC’s Mercury Program continues to provide safegiigoonh(fish)consumptioninformationtotribalmembers.Mercuryisatoxic contaminant that is present in all fish and throughout the environment. Within the LakeSuperiorwatershed,mercuryisprimarilyreleasedfromcoal-firedpowerplants and during metallic mining and metals processing, such as during the extraction of iron and copper. But, mercury is a true “global pollutant,” meaning it can remain in the atmosphere for many months, traveling great distances before it is deposited. Globally, the burning of coal, particularly in East and Southeast Asia, still representsamajorsourceofmercuryemissions.But,asof2010,theUnitedNations estimates that the largest global contributor is small-scale gold mining operations that use mercury to separate the gold from other materials. These activities occur mainly in Asia, South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Mercury from both local and global sources eventually reach our waters and enter the aquatic food web, concentrating in fish. Human exposure results primar- ily from fish consumption. Trending downward The good news is that U.S. mercury emissions and, more locally, those from within the Lake Superior basin have decreased dramatically since they peaked in the 1970’s. Between 1990 and 2005, total U.S. emissions due to human activities declined by approximately 59%. Emissions from the eight Great Lakes states by 50%. Even more dramatically, mercury emissions from within the Lake Superior basin decreased by 80% between 1990 and 2010. DatafromGLIFWCandotheragenciesshowsthatthesenationalandregional emissions reductions are translating into decreasing trends in mercury deposition in North America and ultimately mercury levels in local fish, despite increasing emissions in other parts of the world such as India and China. Why are fish from some lakes higher in mercury than the same fish from other lakes? Mercury levels in fish vary significantly from lake to lake. The factors that drive these differences are very complex, making mercury concentrations hard to predict. Some of the lake characteristics that can impact the amount of mercury in the fish from that lake include: • Adjacent wetlands • Lake pH/alkalinity • Fluctuations in water levels (e.g. reservoirs) • Food web structure • Dissolved organic carbon Deposition of mercury to North America, which is a result of both local and global emissions, has decreased 1% to 2% per year since 1990, according to the most recent estimates. The EPA’s Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program, for which GLIFWC assists in collecting fish, has found that mercury in Lake Superior lake trout is decreasing at a rate of about 7% per year. Since its Mercury Program began in 1989, GLIFWC has measured mercury levels in more than 8,100 fish from across the Ceded Territories. The program represents one of the largest and most comprehensive long-term datasets on mer- cury in fish in the upper Great Lakes region. The focus of the program has traditionally centered on mercury levels in ogaa (walleye) from inland lakes, since these are the fish most frequently harvested and consumed by GLIFWC’s member tribes. But over the years, the program has expanded to include other species from inland lakes like perch, northern pike, and muskellunge, as well as several spe- cies from Lake Superior, including lake trout, whitefish, cisco, and siscowet. This spring, nearly 400 ogaa from inland lakes were sampled for mercury testing. This fall, the program will target 100 whitefish from across the south shore of Lake Superior. This work has been funded by the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative since 2010. Smaller fish are safer A critical component of the Mercury Program is outreach and education to tribalcommunities,whichempowersindividualstomakeinformeddecisionsabout safe fish consumption practices. For most lakes, the Mercury Maps recommend a maximum of 2 to 8 meals of ogaa per month for the general population. Because developing brains are particularly susceptible to mercury toxicity, the advice for children and women who are or may become pregnant is more restrictive. For this population, recom- mendations generally range from no more than 1 to 2 meals per month, with some lakes where no consumption is recommended. You can reduce your mercury exposure by eating fish from lakes with lower mercury levels, by choosing to eat smaller fish, or by eating species that tend to have lower mercury, such as whitefish. If you would like more information on how to continue consuming fish while minimizing your exposure to mercury, visit http://glifwc.org/Mercury/mercury. html. This webpage includes links to GLIFWC’s Mercury Maps, which provide lake-specific,color-coded information on mercury levels in ogaa from lakes where they are typically harvested during the spring spearing season. Coal-fired power plants are a significant contributor to mercury pollution. This facility in Ashland, Wisconsin burns both coal and woody biomass to produce electric power. (CO Rasmussen photo) Four years after signing a revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) aimed at restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of Great Lakes waters, the United States and Canada have identified several Chemicals of Mutual Concern (CMCs). These are chemicals that are present in the Great Lakes environment as a result of human activities and pose a threat to human health or the environment. The first set of CMCs, designated in May 2016, includes eight chemicals. Two of these chemicals, mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), may be familiar to some because they are among the major triggers for fish consumption advisories throughout the Great Lakes and the Ceded Territory. Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth but is released into the atmosphere through activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, metallic mining, and metals processing. PCBs,onceusedinthemanufacture of electrical equipment as well as heat transfer and hydraulic systems, are now banned in the U.S. and Canada, but still persist in the environment, and in fish and wildlife. The other six CMCs range from flame retardants to components of nonstick cookware to specialized industrial chemicals. The next step will be the develop- ment of binational strategies to reduce the releases of these chemicals into the environment. At the same time, a second set of potential CMCs will be reviewed for designation as part of an ongoing cycle. Chemicals of Mutual Concern is oneoftenfocusareas,orAnnexes,under the GLWQA. GLIFWC staff has a seat on the subcommittee, which assists the U.S. and Canada in identifying CMCs and in developing binational strategies for reducing their release. GLIFWC staff also participate on the subcommittees for Lakewide Man- agement Plans and Aquatic Invasive Species, and have also contributed to establishingandimplementingthework of a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Task Team under the “Science” Annex.GLIFWCExecutiveAdministra- tor Jim Zorn is a member of the Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC), whichoverseestheworkoftheAnnexes and the overall implementation of the GLWQA. Additional information on the designation of CMCs, the development of binational strategies, and the process for nominating a CMC can be found at https://binational.net or by contacting me at (715) 682-6619 or s.moses@ glifwc.org. U.S. and Canada designate Chemicals of Mutual Concern in the Great Lakes By Sara Moses, GLIFWC Environmental Biologist