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June 18, 2014: The bi-national committee of advisors to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission recently passed a resolution that calls on state, provincial and federal governments in the United States and Canada to prohibit the sale by 2015 of cosmetic or personal care products containing plastic microbeads. Advisors expressed concern that fish and wildlife mistake microbeads for food, which harms health. The resolution supports legislative action pending in several Great Lakes states.

Advisors noted that the cosmetic and personal-care product industry produces many facial scrubs, body washes, toothpastes and other products that contain tiny plastic abrasives called "microbeads". These multicolored, very small, buoyant pieces of plastic are rinsed down the drain, passed through wastewater treatment plants, and discharged into waters. The first open water survey of the Great Lakes for plastic, conducted in July 2012, found some of the highest concentrations of microplastic ever recorded on earth, and microbeads from personal care products made up the majority of microplastic under 1 millimeter in size [1: Eriksen, M. et.al. (2013). Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 77, 177-182].

Once microbeads are discharged into the water, they persist - that is, they do not break down or degrade over time - and collect toxic chemical pollutants on their surface. The committee - representing recreational and commercial fishing, Aboriginal communities, public-at-large, academia, and state agencies - were concerned about the impact microbeads have on the fisheries of the Great Lakes. These toxic-coated microbeads are mistaken for food by organisms throughout the aquatic food web, where they can cause physical blockages and internal damage and serve as a pathway for dangerous pollutants to enter the food web and contaminate the fish and wildlife.

Advisors pointed out that plastic microbeads are not an essential component of cosmetics and personal care products and a number of companies have never used them in their products. Other companies have voluntarily committed to stop using microbeads in their products. Natural, safer materials such as ground almonds, oatmeal, and sea salt provide a comparable abrasive "scrubbing" quality and do not pose a threat to the marine environment.

"The concentrations of microplastics in the Great Lakes rival the highest concentrations of microplastics present in the massive 'floating garbage dumps' that are found in the middle of the world's oceans," said John Jackson, Chair of the Canadian Committee of Advisors. "Every time we wash our face or brush our teeth with a product that contains microbeads, we are contributing to this wasteland. This is a key example of where individual action can make a difference - Great Lakes citizens not only have an opportunity to do the right thing, we have a duty to stop buying and using these products."

"We were unanimous," said U.S. committee chair Denny Grinold from the Michigan Charter Boat Association. "Advisors agreed that microbeads present a real and serious problem for the Great Lakes fisheries. We do not know yet how best to remove them from the system, what the long-term impacts will be on the health of the fish populations, or if there are human-health implications, but we do know that we can prevent more microbeads from entering our Great Lakes - we can stop this problem at the source and that is just what this resolution aims to do."

A copy of the resolution is available on the Advisors' web page: www.glfc.org/staff/resol2014_2.pdf.

Great Lakes Fishing Interests Urge Immediate Replacement of the Straits of Mackinac Pipeline

Binational advisory committee deeply concerned about condition of aging pipeline

The bi-national committee of advisors of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission urged immediate replacement of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Michigan and Huron. The call - which came in the form of a binational resolution, approved during the advisors' annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois - joins a growing chorus of concern, information requests, and calls for action from Great Lakes organizations, congressional members, and citizens.

The committee - representing recreational and commercial fishing, Aboriginal communities, public-at-large, academia, and state agencies - stressed that a spill anywhere in the Great Lakes Basin, particularly in the Straits of Mackinac, would have far-reaching implications on fishery restoration, fish habitat, the health of the ecosystem, and the recovery of the Great Lakes, affecting the economic and physical well-being of millions of people who live, work, recreate in the basin and subsist on Great Lakes fish.

The Enbridge Energy Inc. owned pipeline, Line 5, which runs beneath the Mackinac Bridge in the Straits of Mackinac, is more than sixty years old and consists of 2 parallel pipelines that are each 4 miles long and 20 inches in diameter. Recent underwater inspection of the pipeline conducted by the National Wildlife Federation showed the pipeline is structurally unsupported in many areas and is exhibiting signs of significant deterioration. The area where the pipeline runs under the Straits is especially sensitive and vulnerable as it is subjected regularly to intense environmental stressors such as fast-moving currents and frequent ice-cover. Advisors noted that each day, 22 million gallons of crude oil, primarily tar sands (called bitumen), and natural gas fluids flow through Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline. The pipeline was not initially constructed to transport diluted bitumen (called dilbit) which requires higher pressure than conventional crude oils to move through the line; the higher pressures increase the likelihood of corrosion and ruptures on the pipeline. Enbridge recently began pumping 10% more oil through Line 5 and has proposed a series of small pipeline projects that will further increase the daily load by 1.8 million gallons.

"An oil spill due to a pipeline rupture at the junction of the two lakes would be catastrophic," said U.S. committee chair Denny Grinold from the Michigan Charter Boat Association. "An Enbridge-owned pipeline was responsible for the spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010 that absolutely devastated that ecosystem. The spill, which is the largest on record in the lower forty-eight states, resulted in roughly one million gallons of dilbit being released into the river and an estimated one billion U.S. dollars for clean-up, which is still not completed. Perhaps the scariest part of the Kalamazoo River spill is that a federal review found that the spill was a result of Enbridge failing to repair known pipeline defects and a lax government oversight of pipeline maintenance and spill-response plans. We absolutely cannot afford to let this happen again, especially in an area where containment and clean-up would be nearly impossible."

"The resolution reflects widespread agreement across two countries that an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac is not just a Michigan crisis or a U.S. crisis—it's an international crisis," said John Jackson, Chair of the Canadian Committee of Advisors. "This pipeline is old, unsafe, and being used in a manner for which it was not constructed. It needs to be replaced immediately using the best technology that is available. An oil spill from Line 5 is a devastation that can be avoided and we, as stewards of the Great Lakes, have an obligation to act now before it is too late."

A copy of the resolution is available on the Advisors' web page: www.glfc.org/staff/resol2014_1.pdf.

About the Great Lakes Advisory Committee

The Committee of Advisors consists of both U.S. and Canadian representatives, from First Nation, commercial, recreational, academic, agency, and public fishery interests in the Great Lakes Basin. Advisors provide advice to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission; U.S. advisors are nominated by the State Governors, and appointed by the commission. Canadian advisors are nominated by the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and appointed by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

[Editor's Note: Enbridge is the company to whom the Canadian Federal Government just gave permission to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The Enbridge record is not exactly a confidence builder.]


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