Sea Lettuce “a menace taking over PEI”

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The October 12th Charlottetown Guardian reported on an environmental conference held in Montague. The environmentalists in attendance said that “sea lettuce is a menace taking over many estuaries in PEI and must be curtailed in the interests of fishing and tourism.”

Sea lettuce grows in nutrient rich waters and has a distinctly rotten egg odour when exposed to the air at low tide. Its presence indicates problems with the oxygen quality of the water. The growth of this plant is accelerating exponentially around our Island.

“Human activity is the cause and we need to address the problem.  It’s easy to say blame the farmers, but there’s more to it than that. It’s caused by residential influence as well,” says Dr. Andrew Trivett of UPEI.

“Residential influence” includes building housing developments close to the ocean’s edge where storm water can wash a nutrient-rich soup of fertilizers, detergents, and other household and industrial chemicals into the sea. This increase of nutrients, in the form of phosphorous, ammonium and nitrogen, is called eutrophication, which causes red tides, yellow and green slimes and slicks and triggers the growth of sea lettuce.

Sea lettuce growth can already be observed in the estuaries of the North River around the potential CLC megadevelopment at Upton Farm. Yellow signs posted by the Department of Fisheries warn that shellfish harvested there are toxic to humans. Fishers who work these waters transport their oysters elsewhere on the Island to be suspended on lines in cleaner water until all toxins are washed from their systems and they are safe for human consumption.

We ignore the “menace” of sea lettuce growth to the peril of of both our fishing and tourist industries, the life blood of the PEI economy. The proposed CLC housing development at Upton Farm can only increase the danger. We must look to our future, and save this land. The time for lining the pockets of the few to the detriment of our environment is past.

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