ANN ARBOR — A new study published by the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan provides insights into decisions that Lake Erie anglers make regarding harmful algal blooms, or HABs.
Other studies have explored the impact these toxic blooms have on local economies, including the Lake Erie recreational fishing industry. But little is known about the decision-making that leads to bloom-related financial losses.
In the new study, published online Sept. 7 in the Journal of Environmental Management, researchers took a social science approach to understand why people decide to fish — or not to fish — during an algal bloom.
Study participants disagreed about the extent to which potential health risks or the impact of the blooms on fish affected their decision-making. But they agreed that they prefer to avoid fishing in the blooms because they detract from the overall fishing experience: the blooms stink and are unpleasant looking.
The findings were used by scientists developing the Lake Erie HAB Tracker, a decision-support tool that shows where a harmful algal bloom is now and where it is predicted to move over the next five days.
By engaging people who are impacted by HABs during the development process, scientists were able to design the HAB Tracker in a way that ensures it is useful to the community. The HAB Tracker has supported continued fishing during algae blooms by giving Lake Erie anglers a tool to identify fishing locations that are free of blooms.
The Lake Erie HAB Tracker is a forecast in development by the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at U-M and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.
The first author of the Journal of Environmental Management paper is Devin Gill of CIGLR. Co-authors are Mark Rowe and Sonia Joseph Joshi.
The full study is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479718309459.
Check out the HAB tracker at https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/HABs_and_Hypoxia/habTracker.html.