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Entries in Great Lakes (112)


Politicians Failing to Combat Asian Carp Threat

The Toledo Blade offers a great opinion piece that captures the frustration many of us feel because our elected officials seem to have every intention of allowing Asian carp to invade the Great Lakes.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The environmental watchdogs who have been sounding the alarm for well over a decade are understandably disgusted with the apparent lack of political will to apply the appropriate fix, no matter how painful or how politically bitter it might taste in the area around ground zero -- that Chicago waterway.”

I’ve said in the past that we now are enduring catastrophic problems with invasive aquatic species because of four special interest groups: shipping, aquaculture, and the exotic pet and plant industries.

Actually, as the editorial points out, there’s a fifth group equally responsible: self-serving politicians. They care only about catering to those who will fund their re-election campaigns and not about looking out for the public interest. As a consequence, they bow to those other four special interests ---- time after time after time . . .


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Mussels Filter Life Out of Great Lakes

Lake Michigan photo courtesy of robojamie.

Accu Weather offers this basic article that explains what zebra and quagga mussels are doing to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Here is the most important paragraph:

“The invasive species are doing significant damage on the ecosystem, particularly for native mussels. The zebra and quagga mussels anchor themselves onto the native mussels, which hinders their ability to function. The waters in the affected lakes are so clear because the algae and other organisms are being wiped out, which are supposed to provide a food source to many other aquatic creatures.”

During my years as a conservation writer, I’ve learned that too many people mistakenly associate clear water with a healthy ecosystem. Even worse, they think “the clearer, the better.”

Actually, ultra clarity indicates the base of the food chain is weak or nonexistent, and, as a result, fish and other aquatic creatures will have a tough time surviving. That’s why sport fisheries all over the Great Lakes are declining.

The same could happen in some inland fisheries as zebra and quagga mussels become established and their populations explode.


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.