The failure of elected officials to protect our waters from aquatic invasive species is becoming more and more evident, not only in the damage done by these exotics but in restricted access for anglers and other boaters.
Here’s an example: Earlier this summer, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved an emergency order requiring all boats using its three public boat ramps to be inspected.
That in itself doesn’t restrict access. But the limited hours that inspectors will be at the launch sites does. For example, if you want to go fishing mid-day Monday through Thursday, you can’t. Or, if you do, you will get a ticket for violating the order.
It’s certainly understandable that the city wants to prevent the spread of invasives such as mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil by hitchhiking on and in boats.
But in bowing to special interests for decades, our state and federal governments unquestionably have caused this crisis. For example, they’ve allowed commercial shipping to introduce zebra and quagga mussels --- along with dozens of other species --- into the Great Lakes via ballast water from ocean-going ships.
They’ve allowed the exotic pet industry and plant nursery businesses to sell problematic species that now degrade our waters, including milfoil, hydrilla, water hyacinth, parrot feather, giant salvinia, and Brazilian elodea, among others.
And they’ve permitted fish farmers to bring in silver, bighead, black, and grass carp, which now infest the nation’s rivers and threaten sport fisheries.
Of course, that wasn’t the intent of any of these special interests. But shipping has opposed stricter standards for ballast water, while the others have insisted that they would be damaged economically if not allowed to import with few restrictions.
And officials have allowed these lobbies to mostly get what they want without consequences. Now, this irresponsible behavior is causing billions of dollars in damage to our country economically and environmentally, as well as forcing access restrictions on anglers and boaters to prevent further spread of this invasives.
Certainly, responsible fishermen and the fishing industry should help contain these invasions. Wisconsin provides an example of that, where bait shop owners are helping educate anglers about how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives.
Meanwhile, anglers and the industry also must be vigilant and active against those who will use concerns about invasives to advance an anti-fishing agenda. Hints of that agenda show clearly in a recent article in the Pioner Press.
Check out these excerpts about how to keep Asian carp from spreading up the Mississippi River:
"Another option? Eliminate recreational boating from the lock and dams."
"Another suggestion is to limit fishing in Pool 2, to give native fish a chance to flourish before the carp arrive."