SETAC North America Letter to Fisheries and Oceans Canada Regarding Closure of Experimental Lakes Area

12 June 2012

The Honourable Keith Ashfield
Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Parliamentary Office, House of Commons
Room 107, Confederation Building
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

RE: Closure of Experimental Lakes Area

Dear Minister Ashfield:

The Board of Directors of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in North America (SETAC North America) urges the Government of Canada to reconsider its decision to close operations at world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) near Kenora, Ontario.  SETAC North America is a non-profit, worldwide professional society comprised of individuals and institutions from academia, business, and government engaged in:

  • the study, analysis, and solution of environmental problems;
  • the management, regulation and sustainability of natural resources;
  • environmental education; and
  • research and development.


SETAC's mission is to support the development of principles and practices for protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity.  Our organization represents nearly 6,000 members globally, including more than 525 in Canada.

We are very concerned about the recent decision to close the ELA.  The ELA is an invaluable resource not only for Canada but also for the rest of the world because of the ecosystem-scale research that has been and continues to be conducted there. The more than 40 years of monitoring ecosystem processes at the ELA has provided long-term results that are an essential baseline for ecological research, including global concerns related to climate change.  Landmark findings on endocrine disrupting chemicals, flame retardants, nanomaterials, and mercury contamination continue to be derived from research conducted at this unique setting.

Regulatory actions around the world continue to be shaped by ELA research.  Environmental data and findings from the ELA have been disseminated globally, resulting in the improvement of human conditions, protecting the environment, and saving millions of dollars for citizens and government agencies.  For example, one of the past SETAC North America Board of Directors, Dr. Karen Kidd, led a whole lake study at the ELA.  Her work yielded key scientific findings that
 
 elucidated the manner in which environmental estrogens can impact both fish populations and ecosystems.  Ongoing work at the ELA is very important to our future understanding of chemical and stressor impacts on ecosystem processes.  

Given the current pace of technology and innovation, the future will undoubtedly bring new policy issues and research questions with solutions requiring ecosystem-level experimentation.  The ELA has assisted both Federal and Provincial Health and Environment Ministries with their mandates to protect human health and the environment.  ELA research directly supports legislation related to pesticides, water resources, environmental protection, guideline development, toxics reduction, climate change, and particularly environmental contaminants of emerging concern.  Work at the ELA often involves collaboration with researchers from the U.S. government and other U.S. research institutions (e.g., ongoing work related to mercury), which can offset research costs by including grants from external agencies.

Having the continuous baseline data provided by the ELA will permit future research teams to address questions at the science-policy interface with more certainty.  Without the ELA, acquiring such a sophisticated level of understanding of future environmental issues will require significantly more time and larger budgetary expenditures as the baseline condition will need to be determined before new research can be initiated.

SETAC understands the need for responsible management of public funds.  However, closure of the ELA will adversely affect the research interests of many of our members and constrain informed decision making and public policy on a global level.  We ask that the Government of Canada reconsider its decision to close operations at the ELA.

Sincerely,
 
Greg Schiefer, Executive Director
SETAC North America
Telephone:  850-469-1500
Email: schiefer@setac.org
 

 
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