Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/5/2012 (1731 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Scientists in Israel are the latest to condemn Canada's decision to cease funding for the Experimental Lakes Area.
The ELA is a unique research area consisting of 58 lakes near Kenora, Ont., which allows scientists to conduct research on entire lakes. The program and most of its scientists are based in Winnipeg. The federal government announced May 18 it will no longer fund the program, part of an overall $80-million budget cut to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The program received $2 million a year.
"The Experimental Lakes facility has a lot to offer to non-government research labs involved in ecosystem-manipulation research," said Erin Filliter, director of communications for Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, on May 18. "We look forward to facilitating a transfer to a private organization."
But the decision has been met with disbelief and anger from scientists around the world. Most recently, nine scientists from Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research wrote to Canada's ambassador to Israel to decry the decision.
"By shutting down the ELA facility, the Government of Canada is stamping out the ability of the world scientific community to conduct the research required to formulate sound environmental policies," wrote Dr. Assaf Sukenik, a senior scientist at Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research. The letter, dated May 30, says there is no other comparable research facility in the world.
"ELA whole lake experimental approach has shown time after time that only large-scale studies can provide a reliable basis for environmental policy," wrote Sukenik.
Condemnation of the decision has poured in from around the world over the last two weeks.
Cynthia Gilmour, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, wrote to Ashfield and Environment Minister Peter Kent on May 21, asking for the ELA closure to be reconsidered. "By shutting ELA, you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues," she said.
Gilmour said research at ELA on mercury contamination recently resulted in regulations on mercury emissions for coal-fired power plants. In turn, mercury concentrations in rain across North America have begun to decline.
The North American Lake Management Society, based in Wisconsin, wrote to Ashfield May 25 to express the disappointment.
The 17 researchers, biologists, chemists and others who currently work in the ELA section of the fisheries department haven't been heard from because there is a gag order imposed on them from the government.
Shortly after the decision to close the ELA was announced, a regional director issued a warning to current and some recently retired scientists from the ELA section all media inquiries should be directed to the communications office.
Diane Orihel said scientists are wary about ignoring the warning because it hasn't been decided yet how many may find work in other parts of the department.