For the last two years, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been publishing weekly editorials on emerging issues, our own projects, and grassroots battles to win back local waterways. We have written about our successes, losses, frustrations, and heroes. In the more than two years that we have been writing these articles, however, we have never taken time to discuss one of the most important topics of all: why we do what we do.
Until now. This week, Waterkeeper brings you a first look at some of the reasons we do what we do the beauty and necessity of the Great Lakes, and the signs of peril that make the grassroots battles we describe so critical.
The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater lake system on the planet â€¦ are more than 10 thousand years old â€¦ contain some 35,000 islands â€¦ are visited by 60 million tourists each year â€¦ are home to some 180 species of native fish â€¦ are home to over 100 species of bird provide drinking water for 26 million people â€¦ only naturally replenish 1% of what we take out every year
and the Signs of Peril
Beach postings in Canada and the U.S. are on the rise, averaging 3,000 every summer 100% of Great Lakes fish have consumption restrictions of some kind 2/3 of wetlands have disappeared, rising to 90% in southwestern Ontario The commercial fishery is less than 15% its original size â€¦ 160 alien species threaten natural plant and wildlife Pharmaceuticals in human sewage are altering, mutating fish and frogs. Diporeia the bedrock of the Great Lakes food chain are extinct in some lakes, and disappearing rapidly from the others 300 different toxic contaminants have been found in the Great Lakes
Each one of these threats is enough to signal the need for Canada and the United States to immediately increase protections for the Great Lakes: more money to bring back lost resources, more environmental officers to enforce our environmental laws, and more willingness to stand up to polluters who threaten the few natural assets we have left.