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Monday
Apr082013

Feds Say 'Pshaw!' to Asian Carp Threat

The frustration of watching a government that won’t acknowledge a threat to one of the world’s most valuable freshwater systems is perfectly captured by Chris Evans in “Trying hard not to find Asian Carp.”

Check it out at Cleveland.com.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Lt. Col. Jim Schreiner of the corps is quoted as stating: 'We are taking a prudent approach in considering the threat as real.'

“No, you're not. You're wasting millions of tax dollars and valuable time to discredit the very real and immediate threat these plankton predators pose to the Great Lakes.

“More than 30 million people depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water. The lakes float a $7.5-billion-dollar commercial fishing industry and 800,000 jobs. In Ohio alone, tourism on Lake Erie generates $11.5 billion annually and supports 117,000 jobs, according to a July 2012 survey funded in part by the state tourism office.

“These fragile liquid assets are as critical to the economy as the auto industry. Obama supported and continued the bail out of GM and Chrysler without batting an eye. But he turns a blind eye to carp encroaching on the Great Lakes. Why? Apparently, he believes it is more politically expedient to pander to his Illinois maritime cronies, who oppose the only sure solution: hydrological separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.”

Friday
Apr052013

Help Stop Aquarium Trade from Destroying our Fisheries

Fishing guide Steve Chaconas with a Potomac River snakehead.

How much damage is being done to our waters and our fisheries by the aquarium trade and its irresponsible customers? Far more than you might think.

In my previous post, I quoted a University of California professor who said, “Globally, the aquarium trade has contributed a third of the world's worst aquatic and invasive species.”

Now a biologist friend has provided me with what looks to be the source for that statistic. It is contained in a paper published in 2004. That being the case, I suspect that 1/3 is, by now, an underestimate of the problem.

Sadly, I also suspect that this eye-opening expose has been read by few outside the scientific community. It needs to be read by anglers, environmentalists, and especially by our members of Congress, who have the Constitutional authority and obligation to protect us from this assault on our fisheries and other natural resources by the aquarium trade.

I hope that you will take a look at it --- it’s only eight pages --- and that you will pass it on to others, including your Congressional representatives.

Here’s the introduction, and please note that internet sales are a huge part of this problem:  

"Aquatic invasive species are just a mouse click away from any home in America. There are more than 11 million hobbyists in the U.S. alone, supporting a $25 billion-per-year worldwide industry in aquarium and aquatic ornamental species, most of which are available through mail order and over the Internet (Kay and Hoyle 2001).

"For example, although water hyacinth is banned in many states, and took Florida over 100 years and considerable expense to control (Schardt 1997), it remains available over the Internet for $4.

"While aquarium release is one of the five top avenues for introduction of non-native invasive species (Ruiz et al. 1997), it has received relatively little attention from both scientists and policy makers. The aquarium and ornamental species industry is growing by 14% annually worldwide, and the majority of export dollars enter developing countries.

"Far outstripping the per-pound value of harvested wild fish, ornamental fish harvest and culture is being promoted as a pathway to environmentally sustainable development by the Fisheries Resources Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, this largely unregulated industry poses a serious but mostly unrecognized threat to marine and freshwater ecosystems as a source of invasive species."

In a nutshell:

 

  • A third of the world’s worst aquatic invasive species are aquarium or ornamental species.
  • The lucrative aquarium trade will never be environmentally sustainable unless the consequences of escapees are considered.
  • Regulations to prevent unwanted species introductions from aquarium and ornamental sources currently lack authority.
  • A white list of native or safe alternative aquarium and ornamental species will help prevent unwanted introductions.

 

Here’s a link to the paper, entitled Beyond ballast water: aquarium and ornamental trades as sources of invasive species in aquatic ecosystems.

And here’s a link for information about H.R. 996, Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act. It would set up a white list and a black list for exotic species.

And --- big surprise! --- it’s opposed by the U.S. Herpetoculture Alliance.

Here is a portion of the alliance’s mission statement:

“Our primary mission is to fight for and to protect the rights of herpetoculturists nationwide by impacting regulatory actions at the federal, state and local levels.”

This organization isn’t directly responsible for the exploding population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades and iguanas spreading throughout much of Florida. But it is supportive of lax regulations and policies that allowed these things to happen, as well as the invasion of our waters by snakeheads, cichlids, hydrilla, Eurasian watermilfoil, and many other problematic fish and plant species.

Please, tell your members of Congress to do something about this ever-growing threat to our waters and our fisheries. 

Wednesday
Apr032013

Aquarium Trade Is Source for 1/3 of 'World's Worst Aquatic and Invasive Species'

Bullseye snakehead captured by Florida bioloigsts. FWC photo.

Snakehead, Oscar, Jack Dempsey, Burmese python, iguana, hydrilla, Eurasian watermilfoil.

We have the exotic pet industry and its irresponsible customers to thank for all these troublesome species, as well as many more.

But don’t take my word for it.

"Globally, the aquarium trade has contributed a third of the world's worst aquatic and invasive species," said Sue Williams, an evolution and ecology professor at the University of California, Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Williams also is the lead author of a recent report about the aquarium business in California. Go here to see some of the disturbing evidence.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Herpetoculture Alliance opposes proposed federal legislation --- H.R. 996, Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention act---  that would put controls on the industry and better protect our lands, waters, and native species.

Here are a couple of random examples of what the pet industry has done to our waters:

On Lake Tahoe, researchers looking for invasives scooped up a 4.2-pound goldfish in their trawls.

"During these surveys, we've found a nice corner where there's about 15 other goldfish," environmental scientist Sudeep Chandra of the University of Nevada, Reno, told LiveScience. "It's an indication that they were schooling and spawning."

And in Florida, biologists netted a 14-pound, 3-ounce bullseye snakehead while conducting an electrofishing survey. Had the fish been caught on hook and line, it would have been a world record. 

In reporting on that catch, the Miami Herald says this:

“Gestring said the FWC also considers the bullseye snakehead permanently established in Northwest Broward. Scientists expect they will eventually escape into the Everglades but believe the warm-water species probably wouldn’t survive north of Orlando.

“In the Northwest Broward canal system, they don’t appear to have wreaked ecological havoc, Gestring said. After a decade, there is no sign they’re doing any more damage than 22 other foreign fish that also have settled in Florida’s freshwater canals and lakes.”

Tuesday
Apr022013

Activist Anglers Needed to Help Combat 'Sinking Your Empties'

Photos of Clackamas cleanup by Dave Eng.

As you fish our rivers, lakes and coastal waters, this season, please also help care for them. And I’m not talking about just properly disposing of your own trash; I’m talking about helping counter a nationwide epidemic of shameful behavior.

As the photo above reveals, our fisheries are being buried in empty cans and bottles by slob recreationists. When they take to the water, their main concerns are drinking to excess and then discarding the evidence so that they won’t be ticketed and/or arrested for driving a boat while under the influence or some other charge related to possession of alcohol.

Rudy Socha at Wounded Nature --- Working Veterans recently alerted me to this problem. On many waters, he says, the perpetrators even have a term for this strategy: “Sinking your empties.”

He also told me, “It seems to be the skeleton in the closet that everyone knows is there and yet no one has wanted to discuss it.”

It’s going to be discussed at Activist Angler. And one of the first things I want to emphasize is that I do not believe that fishermen are a major contributor to this problem, especially those who belong to such conservation organizations as B.A.S.S., Trout Unlimited, Recycled Fish, Coastal Conservation Association, and National Wildlife Federation.

I won’t point fingers at those whom I suspect. I’ll leave that to anglers and their specific waters. They know them better than I.

Dave Eng knows the Clackamas River in Oregon, and here is what he says:

“The Clackamas is widely used in summer, as it is near Portland and allows people to float on anything from tubes to pool toys. We will have several thousand users on a hot day.”

They leave behind their cans and bottles, he adds, “as it is against the law to have alcohol in the county parks and a large bunch of users are under-age as well.”

 And the second thing that I want to emphasize is that we, as anglers, are stewards for these waters. We were the first conservationists and we remain the most important.

What can you do about this problem? Well, plenty of anglers, through various clubs and chapters, already are picking up trash along shorelines and around launch ramps. Extend that cleanup into the water, as Eng and his friend Joe do on the Clackamas. Depending on the water, you might want to coordinate the effort with your state wildlife agency or local government.

Also, if you see people trashing our fisheries with cans and bottles, report them. Thanks to cell phones, you can immediately contact authorities.

Finally, talk about the problem. Shameful behavior can be difficult to continue when exposed to public scrutiny and criticism.

Let’s not keep this skeleton in the closer any longer. 

Monday
Apr012013

Exotic Species Are Killing Loons --- Not Lead

As preservationists --- many with an anti-fishing agenda --- continue to press for bans on lead fishing tackle to protect loons, read the following story to see what is really killing the birds. This is a real danger, not one manufactured to support an ideology, with little basis in science and fact.

And it provides a tragic example of how introductions of exotics can have unforeseen consequences.

Chain of Environmental Consequences Slaughtering Birds