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Entries in Great Lakes (110)


Zebra Mussels, Carp, Other Invasives Costly for Recreation, Tourism

A new report by The Nature Conservancy documents the huge cost annually to consumers, businesses, and government for removal, maintenance, and management of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the Great Lakes region.

“While comprehensive costs estimates are not available, there are many individual estimates focusing on part of the problem,” the report’s authors said. “These cost estimates range from millions of dollars in cost and lost output for individual, large industrial and power facilities to hundreds of dollars spent by individual households to control AIS on their property.

“It is likely that the overall aggregate level of the cost to the Great Lakes region is significantly over $100 million annually.”

Specifically, researchers looked at sport and commercial fishing, power generation, industrial facilities, shipping-related business, public water supply intakes, and tourism and recreation.

With revenues of $30.3 billion a year and employing 90,000, tourism and recreation is most affected, the report said. Multiple costs range from monitoring and control to lost revenues “from tourists not coming to the lakeshore because of aquatic weeds and fouled beaches.”

In making the water clearer with their filter feeding, zebra and quagga mussels also encourage the growth of aquatic vegetation.  “These weeds often wash up on the shores of Great Lakes beaches, along with dead mussel shells, rendering the beaches very unpleasant and almost unusable.”

Meanwhile, states around the Great Lakes spent more than $3.5 million during 2009 and 2010 to help protect the $7 billion sport fishery from invasion by Asian carp. An additional $13 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds was used in 2009 for “emergency actions” to keep the carp out.

 In detailing the ways that AIS impose economic costs, the report revealed that one water treatment facility spends about $353,000 annually to control zebra mussels.

“Some may think that $353,000 doesn’t sound like much in the larger context of business costs,” said Alex Rosaen, primary author and a consultant at Anderson Economic Group. “But when you consider that we have 381 water treatment facilities across the basin, those numbers add up quickly.”

Rosaen added, “As new AIS invade the Great Lakes, new costs will accrue, additional resources will be used, and new initiatives will be needed. Preventing the spread of new AIS into the Great Lakes would benefit each state.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Carp Threat Intensifies as President Plays Politics 

Bighead and silver carp populations dominate rivers in the Mississippi River basin. Will they do the same to the Great Lakes because elected officials failed to act?

DNA from Asian carp recently was confirmed in Lake Erie for the first time. Just as disturbing, though, is that the number of samples testing positive in the Chicago canal system also spiked, meaning that the likelihood increases that the exotic fish are in or about to enter Lake Michigan.

The future of a multi-billion-dollar sport fishery lies in the balance, as does the economic welfare of U.S. and Canadian communities all around the Great Lakes.

In response, our federal government will expedite its study of the problem. Meanwhile, a pathway --- the canal system that connects Lake Michigan to the Illinois River --- remains open for carp to enter the Great Lakes and for an estimated 185 species of exotics to migrate out of the Great Lakes and into the river, which is a part of the massive Mississippi River basin.

But, hey, we shouldn’t worry about it. The feds are “studying” the situation.

This editorial from The Cleveland Plain Dealer does a great job of assessing the situation. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“The latest nonevent in President Barack Obama's attempt to buy time while failing to act to stop the threatened Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes was his administration's announcement Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would expedite its action plan.”

“This week's announcement seems more like an election-year ploy to mollify critics furious over Obama's failure to recognize the gravity of the carp threat. These plankton predators are in the Chicago Area Waterway System that connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Without urgent action, it is only a matter of time until they lay waste to the Great Lakes' multibillion-dollar commercial and sports fishing industry and the 800,000 jobs it supports.”


Action --- Not Reaction --- Needed to Protect Fisheries From Invasive Species

Burmese pythons in the Everglades are but one example of government failure to protect our lands and waters from invasive species. ABC News photo.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a great philosophy for our legal system.

 But it’s no way to protect fisheries from invasive species.

 I delivered that message to the Missouri Conservation Commission Friday, as I spoke in support of regulations proposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It’s a message that public officials at all levels need to know about.

 MDC wants to protect state waters by prohibiting the import and sale of crayfish. That’s because the agency learned that some species already are established outside their native range, bait shop operators don’t know what they’re selling, and anglers too often release unused bait into the waters that they were fishing.

 Not surprisingly, the proposed regulations are opposed by the aquaculture industry and the Farm Bureau. That’s because fish farmers and bait shop owners would lose income --- arguably not much --- if crayfish are taken off the market.

 In my five-minute presentation, I made two points not included in MDC’s excellent arguments for the ban on sale of crayfish:

 No. 1 is that state and federal agencies repeatedly have failed to protect our lands and waters from invasive species. Mostly that’s because of successful lobbying by special interests, with public concerns often ignored.

 For example, failure to rein in the exotic pet industry has resulted in Burmese pythons in the Everglades, about 30 species of exotic fish in Florida waters, and snakeheads in the Potomac and Delaware River systems (Restaurants and markets also contributed to the latter.). And those are but a few examples of the damage done by this special interest.

Plant and nursery businesses have given us dozens of exotic trees, shrubs, and aquatic plants that damage and degrade native ecosystems. Two of the most notable are water hyacinth and giant salvinia, which choke off waterways throughout the South.

In the Great Lakes, the federal government has allowed the shipping industry to introduce dozens of exotic species in ballast water. Zebra and quagga mussels are the most infamous, now threatening lakes, reservoirs, and public water supplies from coast to coast.

And then there’s aquaculture industry. Because of its powerful lobbying in the Mid-South, fish farmers were allowed to import and cultivate silver and bighead carp, which now have spread throughout the Mississippi and Missouri River drainages and are threatening the Great Lakes and its sport fishery, worth $7 billion annually.

No. 2 is the X factor. Scientists generally can predict the impact that invasive species will have. More often than not, the invaders will compete with native species for food and habitat, as well as bring with them the threat of new diseases.

But some consequences simply cannot be predicted. For example, two exotic species ---- zebra mussels and round gobies --- likely have contributed to the death of thousands of loons, gulls, and other fish-eating birds. And eagles are dying because of toxins in an alga that grows on exotic hydrilla.

Missouri’s streams and fisheries are public resources worth millions and dollars and enjoyed by millions of people, I said in conclusion. They should be protected.

To learn more, check out these two Activist Angler posts: Missouri Needs Angler Support to Protect Fisheries from Invasive Crayfish on June 14 and Invasive Crayfish Threaten Fisheries on June 20.


Evidence Grows That Electric Barrier Hasn't Kept Carp Out of Great Lakes

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to study the best ways to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, those rascally silver and bighead carp aren’t waiting to see what the agency comes up with to replace and/or complement what seems to be an ineffective electric barrier.

Here’s the latest from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

 “While it's been nearly two years since crews landed the only live Asian carp specimen above an electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, DNA evidence of the jumbo carp continues to come in --- and the percentage of DNA-positive water samples taken above the barrier this year appears to have grown tenfold over last year.

“The Army Corps of Engineers reported that of the 2,378 water samples taken throughout 2011 in the canal system above the electric barrier, a total of 34 samples were positive. This year, after just one day of sampling the waters above the barrier, the Army Corps reports it landed 17 positive results from 114 water samples.

“In other words, the percentage of samples that tested positive for Asian carp DNA last year was about 1.5%. This year, so far, it has jumped to almost 15%.”

Read the full story here.


Michigan DNR Busts Arkansas Man for Selling Asian Carp

Grass carp photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Congratulations to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). It recently charged an Arkansas fish farmer with a dozen felony counts for illegally selling Asian carp in Michigan.

In this case, the fish involved are grass carp, not silver or bighead. The latter arguably pose a bigger threat to fisheries in the Great Lakes and other waterways.

But grass carp can go damage as well, gobbling up beneficial aquatic vegetation, which provides habitat for fish and other aquatic life, as well as filters sediment and nutrients from the water.

In the wake of devastation by grass carp, fisheries often experience troublesome algae blooms. Additionally, the “biomass” of the carp limits growth and reproduction by other species.

According to the MDNR, the resident of Harrisburg, Ark., is charged with possessing 110 grass carp in a semi-trailer designed to carry live fish. He allegedly sold two live grass carp to undercover investigators May 16 in Midland.

MDNR officials traced the semi-trailer back to the company Farley's Arkansas Pondstockers. They believe Costner used the truck to travel around Michigan selling the live carp in parking lots.

Read the full story here.