Bill Stanley, director of conservation for the Conservancy in Ohio
By Randy Edwards
The morning’s weather report had promised light winds and calm water, but the constant seesaw sway of Captain Paul Pacholski’s 30-foot fishing boat suggested that the report had been optimistic.
“We’ve got 30-mile-an-hour winds right now, and it seems to be building,” he said, grinning at the darkening sky at the stern. “Weather is not an exact science — it’s a lot like fishing.”
As a sportfishing charter-boat captain for 27 years, Pacholski knows about both. Every day from early April to early November, he ferries boatloads of fishing enthusiasts from a marina near Toledo to the fishing grounds of Lake Erie’s western basin in search of walleye, smallmouth bass and yellow perch.
“The western basin is important because it is so biologically rich,” he says. “Its average depth is 24 feet, so you have warm, nutrient-rich water that holds an incredible food base. The larger the food base, the more top predators we have.”
Growing up on the lake, he witnessed many changes, including the vast improvements to water quality brought about by the 1972 Clean Water Act and other regulations. But spending every day on the water gives Pacholski a first-hand look at many of the threats facing Lake Erie, including:
The Nature Conservancy knows how important Lake Erie is to both people and nature, and our scientists share Pacholski’s concerns. In Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes, we’re working on habitat protection and public policy initiatives, especially focused on two important tributaries – the Maumee and the Grand Rivers.
Recent efforts to protect Lake Erie include:
Much of the Conservancy’s work to protect Lake Erie takes place miles away from the lake, and there is good reason for that, explains Bill Stanley, director of conservation for the Conservancy in Ohio.
“If you’re concerned with Lake Erie and you focus only on the lake, you’ve missed the boat,” he says. “There are things happening 100 miles upstream on the Maumee River that influence algae blooms and beach closings in the western basin.
The Conservancy is working with public agencies and other conservation groups to restore the natural interactions between the lake and the rivers and wetlands that empty into it.
“You can't have a healthy walleye population in an unhealthy ecosystem, and you can't have a healthy ecosystem unless all components of the system are effectively linked and functioning properly – upland forests, agricultural fields, tributaries, wetlands, near-shore and open lake areas,” says Dr. Jeffrey Reutter, director of Ohio State University's F.T. Stone Laboratory and a member of the Conservancy's Ohio board of trustees. “The Conservancy’s programs are protecting the components of the system and restoring the links."
Randy Edwards is a senior media relations manager for The Nature Conservancy.September 06, 2011