Attention Bryan Hayes: This water issue hasn't gone awayTuesday, January 08, 2013 by: Rick McGee
Six months ago, SooToday.com reported on the Harper government 's plans to close a Northwestern Ontario freshwater research facility - the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) - in March 2013, unless a new operator is found.
The only research resource of its kind in the world, the ELA does long-term analysis of pollutants' affects on freshwater ecosystems.
At the time, we asked Sault MP Bryan Hayes (through his Ottawa office) for his comments on the government’s intentions.
He was then a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Hayes didn’t respond to the invitation, despite the importance of freshwater resources to our region's economy and the lives of readers.
The issue hasn't disappeared.
The following news release and letter (a copy of which has been sent to all Members of Parliament) were distributed today to media by scientists attending the Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research in Windsor:
Canadian scientists urge government to save famed research station
WINDSOR (January 8, 2013) – In response to an outpouring of support from their membership at a three-day scientific conference, The Society of Canadian Limnologists has sent an open letter [below] to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield, urging her to reconsider the decision to close the world-famous Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).
The statement of support, drafted at the meeting and released today as an open letter, was supported unanimously by the society membership at their annual business meeting.
The business meeting is held every year during the Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research.
“The looming closure of this facility was clearly on all our minds during our annual meeting this past weekend,” says Dr. Jules (Blais, professor at Ottawa University and president of the society).
“Given the importance of this facility, and the overwhelming prominence of the Experimental Lakes Area at this year’s meeting, we felt we had to capture the support for the program among the scientific community, as well as the continued sense of outrage over the government’s decision to close it.”
This year, with more than 330 delegates attending, ELA research featured prominently in the conference program.
Dr. Ray Hesslein, former scientist-in-charge and retired ELA scientist, was a keynote speaker and received the Frank Rigler Award, the highest honour bestowed by the Society of Canadian Limnologists for outstanding contributions to aquatic science in Canada.
The special symposium organized to highlight past and ongoing research at ELA was often standing-room only.
“The possibility that ELA will be shut down and all of the tremendous work that they do lost is weighing heavily on the minds of scientists.” adds Jules Blais. “Canada's Experimental Lakes Area is the most innovative water research facility in the world. If we lose it, we lose our ability to predict human impacts on water and prevent the damage. It’s our hope that this letter will help persuade the government to listen to Scientists and Canadians alike, and not give up on it’s investment in ELA.”
Canada received a huge blow in 2012 with news that the Government of Canada plans to shut down the ELA.
Employees of Fisheries & Oceans Canada learned last May that research at ELA no longer fits within the government’s mandate and the world- renowned facility will be terminated in March 2013.
The Society of Canadian Limnologists is the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnolog, and offers a Canadian forum to discuss limnological research and issues, to promote aquatic research in Canada, and to support the integration of young Canadian limnologists in the research community.
Editor's note: Following is the letter referenced:
The Honourable Keith Ashfield
Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans House of Commons
January 8, 2013
Dear Minister Ashfield,
On behalf of the aquatic science community in Canada, we wish to express our concern about the status of Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area.
At our annual Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research held on January 3-5, 2013 in Windsor Ontario, which was attended by over 330 Canadian scientists, the contributions of Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) were recognized.
In particular, Dr. Raymond Hesslein, a former Scientist-in-Charge of the ELA, received this year’s Rigler Award, Canada’s highest honor for aquatic science.
A special symposium at this meeting was also organized to celebrate ELA’s accomplishments.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Society of Canadian Limnologists, Canada’s aquatic science community was still in shock that the Canadian innovations espoused at ELA could be terminated, and unanimously recognized the research at ELA for its critical contributions to Canadian fisheries and aquatic sciences.
The science community further recognizes that ELA is not just its infrastructure; it is a group of dedicated professionals who know how to conduct world-class, policy-relevant experiments to protect Canada’s freshwaters.
The capacity for evidence-based science to address Canada’s most pressing environmental problems, including the effects of climate change, invasive species and toxic chemicals, will be severely weakened with the closure of ELA.
The Society of Canadian Limnologists, representing aquatic scientists across Canada, urges the Government of Canada to reconsider its decision to end support for ELA, or at least arrange its transfer to a suitable third party operator prior to the looming March 31st deadline, at which time federal support for Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area is scheduled
to be terminated.
Canada’s aquatic science community awaits further news from you on the status of ELA.
Given the stated intent of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to transfer the facility to another party, we request a reply that indicates your Department’s progress in identifying a new operator, whether any parties are providing bridge funding to support operations and staff in the transition, whether the Government of Canada is retaining liability for the site, and the degree of confidence the department has in this transfer.
Alternatively, if the government is planning on rescinding its decision to end funding to the ELA, we would like information on that as well.
Prof. Jules Blais, PhD, FRCGS
President of the Society of Canadian Limnologists University of Ottawa
Prof. Yves Prairie, UQAM
Prof. Alison Derry, UQAM
Prof. Roberto Quinlan, York University The SCL Membership
Members of Parliament