The resultant high nitrogen levels in the water caused eutrophication , which resulted in algal blooms and algae masses  and fish kills increasingly fouled the shoreline during this period. There were incidents of the oily surfaces of tributary rivers emptying into Lake Erie catching fire: in , Cleveland's Cuyahoga River erupted in flames,  chronicled in a Time magazine article which lamented a tendency to use rivers flowing through major cities as "convenient, free sewers";  the Detroit River caught fire on another occasion.
Each day, Detroit, Cleveland and other municipalities fill Erie with 1. These chemicals act as fertilizer for growths of algae that suck oxygen from the lower depths and rise to the surface as odoriferous green scum Commercial and game fish—blue pike, whitefish, sturgeon, northern pike—have nearly vanished, yielding the waters to trash fish that need less oxygen. Weeds proliferate, turning water frontage into swamp.
In short, Lake Erie is in danger of dying by suffocation. In December a federal grand jury investigation led by U. Attorney Robert Jones Ohio lawyer began, of water pollution allegedly being caused by about 12 companies in northeastern Ohio. The grand jury indicted four corporations for polluting Lake Erie and waterways in northeast Ohio. Facing fines were Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. Mitchell, gave a Press Conference December 18, referencing new pollution control litigation, with particular reference to work with the new Environmental Protection Agency, and announcing the filing of a lawsuit that morning against the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation for discharging substantial quantities of cyanide into the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland.
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Attorney Robert W. Jones filed the misdemeanor charges in District Court, alleging violations of the Rivers and Harbors Act. The controls were effective, but it took several decades to take effect; by , there were signs that large numbers of mayflies were spotted on the lake after a forty-year absence, signalling a return to health. The clearing of the water column is also partly due to the introduction and rapid spread of zebra mussels from Europe , which had the effect of covering "the basin floor like shag carpeting" with each creature filtering "a liter of fresh water a day," helping to restore the lake to a cleaner state.
The lake has since become clean enough to allow sunlight to infiltrate its water and produce algae and sea weed, but a dead zone persists in the central Lake Erie Basin during the late summer. Coli contaminations,  possibly caused by storm water overflows after heavy downpours. Since the s environmental regulation has led to a great increase in water quality and the return of economically important fish species such as walleye and other biological life.
The globs of oil, the multicolored industrial discharges, the flotsam from shoreline cities, the fecal and bacterial wastes are no longer dumped in the lakes in vast quantities. Joint U. There was a tentative exploratory plan to capture CO 2 , compress it to a liquid form, and pump it a half-mile m beneath Lake Erie's surface underneath the porous rock structure. Lake Erie is home to one of the world's largest freshwater commercial fisheries.
Lake Erie's fish populations are the most abundant of the Great Lakes, partially because of the lake's relatively mild temperatures and plentiful supply of plankton , which is the basic building block of the food chain. Common non-indigenous fish species include the rainbow smelt , alewife , white perch and common carp. Non-native sport fish such as rainbow trout and brown trout are stocked specifically for anglers to catch.
Attempts failed to stock coho salmon and its numbers are once again dwindling.
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Commercial landings are dominated by yellow perch and walleye , with substantial quantities of rainbow smelt and white bass also taken. Anglers target walleye and yellow perch, with some effort directed at rainbow trout. A variety of other species are taken in smaller quantities by both commercial and sport fleets. In the s and s, as pollution in the lake declined, counts of walleyes which were caught grew from , in to 4.
The combination of overfishing and the eutrophication of the lake by pollution caused the population to collapse, and in the mids, one species of walleye called the blue walleye was declared extinct. But the Lake Erie walleye was reportedly having record numbers, even in , according to one report. The longest fish in Lake Erie is reportedly the sturgeon which can grow to ten feet long and weight pounds, but it is an endangered species and mostly lives on the bottom of the lake. Estimates vary about the fishing market for the Great Lakes region.
But since high levels of pollution were discovered in the s and s, there has been continued debate over the desired intensity of commercial fishing. Commercial fishing in Lake Erie has been hurt by the bad economy as well as government regulations which limit the size of their catch; one report suggested that the numbers of fishing boats and employees had declined by two-thirds in recent decades. The other feared the lake was being emptied. Commercial fishing is now predominantly based in Canadian communities, with a much smaller fishery—largely restricted to yellow perch —in Ohio.
One account suggested that Canadian fishermen are "still at it and making money" and they "know how to fish" by "using the old nets. However, there are reports that some Canadian commercial fishermen are dissatisfied with fishing quotas, and have sued their government about this matter, and there have been complaints that the legislative body writing the quotas is "dominated by the U. Still, the commercial fishery is the target of critics who would like to see the lake managed for the exclusive benefit of sport fishing and the various industries serving the sport fishery.
According to one report, the Canadian town of Port Dover is the home of the lake's largest fishing fleet, and the town features miniature golf, dairy bars, French-fry stands, and restaurants serving perch. The lake can be thought of as a common asset with multiple purposes including being a fishery.
There was direct competition between commercial fishermen and sport fishermen including charter boats and sales of fishing licenses throughout the lake's history, with both sides seeking government assistance from either Washington or Ottawa , and trying to make their case in the "court" of public opinion through newspaper reporting.
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Management of the fishery is by consensus of all management agencies with an interest in the resource and include the states of New York , Pennsylvania , Ohio , Michigan and the province of Ontario , and work under the mandate of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The commission makes assessments using sophisticated mathematical modeling systems.
The Commission has been the focus of considerable recrimination, primarily from angler and charter fishing groups in the U.
This conflict is complex, dating from the s and earlier, with the result in the United States that, in , commercial fishing was mostly eliminated from Great Lakes states. One report suggests that battling between diverse fishing interests began around Lake Michigan and evolved to cover the entire Great Lakes region. The lake also supports a strong sport fishery. While commercial fishing declined, sport fishing has remained.
The deep cool waters that spawn the best fishing is in the Canadian side of the lake. In winter when the lake freezes, many fishermen go out on the ice, cut holes, and fish. It is even possible to build bonfires on the ice. In a freak incident in , warming temperatures and winds of 35 miles per hour and currents pushing eastward dislodged a miles-wide ice floe which broke away from the shore, trapping more than fishermen offshore; one man died while the rest were rescued by helicopters or boats.
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The day began with fishermen setting down wooden pallets to create a bridge over a crack in the ice so they could roam farther out on the lake. But the planks fell into the water when the ice shifted, stranding the fishermen about 1, yards offshore When fishermen realized late Saturday morning that the ice had broken away, they began to debate the best way off. Some chose to sit and wait for authorities, while others headed east in search of an ice bridge Others managed to get to land on their own by riding their all-terrain vehicles about five miles east to where ice hadn't broken away.
When the rescued fishermen made it to shore, authorities had them line up single-file to take down their names. The lake's formerly more extensive lakebed creates a favorable environment for agriculture in the bordering areas of Ontario, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. The Lake Erie sections of western New York State have a suitable climate for growing grapes, and in Chautauqua County there have been many vineyards and wineries in the area as well as in Erie County in northwestern Pennsylvania.
The drainage basin has led to well fertilized soil. The north coast of Ohio is widely referred to as its nursery capital. Lake Erie is a favorite for divers since there are many shipwrecks, perhaps 1, to 8, according to one estimate,  of which about are "confirmed shipwreck locations. There are efforts to identify shipwreck sites and survey the lake floor to map the location of underwater sites, possibly for further study or exploration.
Among the diving community, they are considered world class, offering opportunities to visit an underwater museum that most people will never see. In , the 19th-century sidewheeler Atlantic was discovered. Dow , the Elderado "steamer-cum-barge" ,  the W. Hanna ,  the Dundee which sank north of Cleveland in ,  the F. Prince ,  and The Craftsman. The finding of the well-preserved wreck of the Canadian-built British troop transport warship Caledonia , sunk during the War of , has led to accusations about plundering of the site and legal wrangling about whether the vessel should be resurfaced in time for the bicentennial of the end of the war.
There are numerous public parks around the lake. In western Pennsylvania, a wildlife reserve was established in in Springfield Township for hiking , fishing , cross-country skiing and walking along the beach. Crystal Beach, in the village of Crystal Beach, Ontario , at the eastern end of the lake, is one of several South-facing beaches on the Canadian side. It is therefore well situated for sun-bathers, facing the sun from sunrise to sunset.
Lake Erie islands tend to be in the westernmost part of the lake and have different characters.
Powerful winds, heavy rainfall recipe for more flooding in region
Some of them include:. Kayaking has become more popular along the lake, particularly in places such as Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The lake is dotted by distinct lighthouses. A lighthouse off the coast of Cleveland , beset with cold lake winter spray, has an unusual artistic icy shape, although sometimes ice prevents the light from being seen by maritime vessels.
A New York Times reporter, biking through the region in , found the Ontario town of Port Stanley to be the "prettiest of the port towns" with a lively "holiday air" but no "ticky-tacky commercialism". There are numerous vineyards around the lake, including ones on Pelee Island which makes wines including pinot noir, riesling and chardonnay.
People can rent summer houses and cabins near the lake to enjoy the beaches, swimming, as well as be close to activities such as wine tours and fishing and water parks. Coli bacteria. It was described as a "spit of sand, trees and swamp that arcs off the shore" with seafood restaurants and beautiful sunsets.
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I spent the next couple of hours riding that guy's creaky, brown three-speed across the flat, open island in a flawless summer breeze. I saw kilometres of gentle, swaying soybean fields. Occasional dense stands of trees. A red-brick schoolhouse attended by 10 children. A dozen cars — most of the drivers offering a wave. No stoplights. Certainly no chains or corporations.