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Entries in Great Lakes (108)

Monday
Jul162012

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.

Friday
Jun222012

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.

Monday
Jun112012

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.

Friday
Jun012012

Canada Pledges Funds for Fight to Keep Carp Out of Great Lakes 

 Canada border inspector makes a carp bust. Ministry of Natural Resources photo.

Canada is joining the fight to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. During the next five years, it will allocate $17.5 million toward prevention, early warning, rapid response, and management and control.

"The Great Lakes is the largest freshwater system in the world and represents one of Canada's most valuable assets," said Keith Ashfield, minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

"We are committed to working with our American counterparts to continue to protect the Great Lake basin. Together these measures will go a long way toward our ultimate goal of stopping Asian carp from entering and becoming established in the Great Lakes."

Read the official press release here.

During the past year or so, Canada border inspectors have stopped several truckloads of carp enroute from the United States to Toronto and other cities with large Asian populations. I applaud their vigilance, and now this financial commitment.

But I fear that it might be money wasted because of our government’s failure to address the threat in a timely and efficient manner, as Asian carp knock on the door of the Great Lakes from this side of the border.

Friday
May252012

Asian Carp Found in Chicago Park Lagoon

Two large bighead carp have been discovered in a lagoon of Chicago’s Garfield Park.

The Chicago Sun-Times says the fish “were about 60 pounds apiece and probably have been there for many years, perhaps brought there when the pond was stocked or by a fisherman’s bait bucket, state Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris McCloud said.”

The newspaper also says that the lagoon isn’t connected to Lake Michigan or canals that connect the lake to the Illinois River.

That does not re-assure me. These fish were introduced by people, perhaps intentionally, as happened with snakeheads on the East Coast. If people put them in this lagoon, they also can release them into the Great Lakes or any other number of waters.

Read the full story here.