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U.S. EPA REGION 5 NEWS RELEASE
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CONTACT: Karen Thompson, (312) 353-8547

For Immediate Release
No. 03-OPA129

State of the Great Lakes Report gives bald eagle recovery a plus,
non-native species threat a minus

CHICAGO (Aug. 20, 2003) The State of the Great Lakes 2003 report, released today by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, reveals information on over half of the 80 Great Lakes indicators originally proposed in 1998.

Indicator data, collected over the past four years, are being applied in an effort to get a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the environmental condition of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Decision-makers from federal governments, states, provinces, First Nations, tribes, non-governmental organizations, academics, industry, recreational groups, sport fishers, commercial fishers and health professionals participated in
indicator development and assessment.

"The information from the indicators gives Great Lakes managers a clearer picture of how our existing programs are working and provides a direction for future environmental restoration and protection activities," said Thomas V. Skinner, Great Lakes National Program manager.

The State of the Great Lakes 2003 report finds the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem mixed, based on lake-by-lake and basin-wide assessments of 43 indicators.

Positive signs of recovery include:
- Lake trout in Lake Superior remain self-sustaining;
- Some Lake Ontario lake trout are reproducing;
- Bald eagles nesting and reproducing along the shoreline are
recovering;
- Persistent toxic substances are declining in fish;
- Phosphorus targets have been met in all lakes except Lake Erie.

Negative signs of degradation include:
- Phosphorus levels appear to be increasing in Lake Erie;
- Long-range atmospheric transport is a continuing source of
contaminants to the basin;
- Continuing entry of non-native species is a significant threat to the ecosystem;
- Scud (Diporeia, bottom-dwelling organisms that are critically
important to the aquatic food chain) are seriously declining in
Lakes Ontario and Michigan;
- Type E botulism outbreaks are occurring in Lake Erie, resulting in deaths of fish and aquatic birds;
- Urbanization threatens natural habitats in lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron, as well as the Lake St. Clair-St. Clair River-Detroit River ecosystems;
- Numerous fish advisories exist on all five Great Lakes.

The State of the Great Lakes 2003 report publicly presents information compiled and discussed at the binational State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference held in October 2002 in Cleveland.

Senior leaders from Great Lakes government and non-governmental organizations met at the 2002 SOLEC to discuss lake and river basin assessments and basin- wide indicator reports. They discussed the challenges of land use, habitat degradation, climate change, toxic contamination and indicator development. "Now, it is critical that the Great Lakes community acts quickly and efficiently to solve these environmental problems," said Skinner.

The State of the Great Lakes 2003 report and supporting documentation on the indicators are available online at www.binational.net.

MEDIA NOTE:
If you would like a hard copy of the report or an interview with EPA Great Lakes scientists, please call Karen Thompson at (312) 353-8547.
 
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