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Lance Nacio Spoke About Water Quality Issues in the Louisiana Delta - photo submitted
Dr. Walter Piper Spoke About Loons - photo submitted

WAPOA Holds 2021 Annual Meeting and 50th Anniversary Celebration

Web posted September 14, 2021
On August 25th the attendees at the WAPOA Annual Meeting enjoyed the business meeting, the guest  speakers, and the 50th Anniversary Celebration picnic lunch. The meeting was offered in collaboration with the National Loon Center (NLC). Attendees were treated to the best ever cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast, and had the opportunity before the meeting to visit several water quality protection informational booths. At the meeting, WAPOA President Tony Coffey presented a summary of WAPOA’s focus areas and achievements, and the 2020 Financial Report. Three new Directors were elected: Miranda Graceffa, Education; Robb Reid, AIS; and Scott Johnson, Water Quality.

Dr. Walter Piper, Behavioral Ecologist, Prof. Chapman University, and Scientist on the Board of the National Loon Center presented very interesting facts about loon behavior, and also about the declining loon population in Wisconsin. They are predicting a 6% decline annually in Wisconsin, which means they could lose 48% of its loons by 2031. Some of the causes of the decreasing loon population in Wisconsin, such as climate change, loss of habitat, lead poisoning, decline in fisheries, and other factors could be affecting loons in Minnesota as well. These factors may also contribute to a higher rate of chick loss, loss of chick mass (at 5 weeks), and fewer chick broods.

Piper said that banding loons is a powerful tool that has enabled scientists to follow specific loons throughout their lifetime and learn how they choose their territory; that the males decide where to build the nest; and to dispel the myth that they mate for life (they do not). Loons frequently have three to five mates in their lifetime. Dr. Piper said loons have two tasks: staying alive and reproducing. They live up to 30 years, but males typically have a shorter lifetime than females, perhaps in part because they have to endure “fight to the death challenges” from other males. If a male or female loon are “evicted” from a territory, the remaining male or female will accept the new mate.

Under an NLC grant awarded to Chapman University, Piper is studying the loon population in the Brainerd Lakes Area, and on the Whitefish Chain (WFC). Dr. Piper’s group has banded about 80 loons on the WFC this summer, plus additional loons on other area lakes. As in Wisconsin, they make weekly visits to the loons in their spring-fall territories, study them and learn their habits and record the data. WAPOA will follow Dr. Piper’s research to learn how our local loon population is doing.

Lance Nacio, owner of Anna Marie Shrimp in Louisiana, presented interesting facts and stories about “shrimping” and fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. His family has been fishing, trapping, farming for several generations. Lance said that demand for shrimp went up by 70% during Covid, but it has been hard to keep up with demand. A 6300 sq mile “dead zone” in the Mississippi Delta poses many challenges. Poor water quality and clarity, decreased dissolved oxygen, toxic algae, and loss of breeding ponds due to flooding of brackish shrimp breeding ponds/habitat have significantly reduced the shrimp population. And, fisherman must now go much farther out into the Gulf to catch “clean” shrimp (not mixed with other species), which adds time and cost.

Nacio emphasized that development, agricultural and domestic run off, and the resulting phosphorus pollution of the Mississippi River, have significantly adversely impacted the delta. When asked what can be done to prevent further damage in the delta, Nacio stated that managing soil health through use of cover crops, less fertilizer, and no-till farming are being promoted throughout the ag industry. No-till farming involves planting the seeds in holes poked into the ground--not covering them with furrows of soil that carry run-off to local waterways and move further on through the watershed.

Lance shared information about the book Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman by best-selling author Miriam Horn. In her book, she shares stories from a Montana rancher, a Kansas farmer, a Mississippi river man, a Louisiana shrimper and Gulf fisherman about what they are doing to protect lands and waters within the Mississippi River Watershed. This book is available from several sources on line. For more information just search under “Rancher-Farmer-Fisherman”.

Following the speaker presentations and question/answer sessions, meeting attendees were treated to a nice 50th Anniversary Celebration lunch while the video screen displayed lists of WAPOA Business Members, Supporters and Sponsors. Also displayed were the names of Volunteers and area organizations who support WAPOA programs such as AIS Inspections, Water Quality Sampling & Testing, Shoreland Restoration, the Boat Show Booth, the Run for the Walleye, and Communications. Without these dedicated volunteers and organizations, WAPOA would not have been able to protect  our lands and waters for the past 50 years, and appreciates their commitment going forward into the next fifty.

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