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Entries in Great Lakes (114)

Friday
Aug242012

Carp Are Doing Damage Even When You Don't See Them

These bighead carp were damaging a Missouri pond without the owner even knowing they were there. USGS photo.

The Journal Sentinel offers an in-depth look about the search for techniques to track Asian carp. But first, it presents this anecdote that typifies damage that invasive species can cause with little or no realization of what’s going on:

A fish pond in Missouri reveals just how stealthy Asian carp can be.

Maybe an acre in size, the pond had been stocked with catfish, bass and bluegills. The owner was pumping it full of fish food, yet the fish appeared to be starving. So in early 2010 the owner called in a consultant. 

"They came out with electrofishing gear, caught some fish and looked at them," said Duane Chapman, one of the country's leading Asian carp experts and a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "The fish were emaciated and he didn't know why. He said, 'There's something wrong here. We need to start over again.' They brought in rotenone and completely killed the pond."

Over the next week, the rotting carcasses of about 300 bighead carp surfaced. The smallest were 20 pounds. The big ones were a border collie-sized 35 pounds. Poisoned Asian carp, Chapman explained, are different from many fish species in that they typically don't surface unless the water is warm enough for gases to build up in their bellies, a process that can take a week.

"It was quite amazing there could be that much poundage in one small pond," Chapman said.

It turned out that a decade earlier the previous property owner had stocked the pond with bighead. They had flourished right under the nose of the new owner, who had smelled trouble - but couldn't see a thing.

I found the story especially interesting because grass carp --- illegally introduced by lakefront property owners who should be arrested --- have done the same thing to the small lake behind my house. Those carp, most of them 20 pounds and more, make up the majority of the biomass.

And just as an acre of land can grow only so many bushels of corn, a lake can sustain only so many pounds of fish. As a result, the bass and catfish in my little lake grow slowly, if at all, with the bulk of the bass being 12 inches or less.

Will what has happened in that pond and my lake also occur if/when Asian carp move into the Great Lakes?

Do we really want to wait and see what happens, endangering a billion-dollar sport fishery? The time is long past due to close the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Right now, it provides an open door for invasive species to migrate from one system to another.

Monday
Aug062012

Fisheries Suffering in Hot Water

Photo from New York Department of Environmental Conservation

The Great Lakes Echo provides a good summary of the multiple fish kills occurring throughout the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions this summer.

“There’s nothing wrong water quality-wise,” said Randy Schumacher, fisheries supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “The species simply can’t tolerate that hot of water for this extended period of time.”

Read the full story here.

Friday
Jul272012

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 . . .

 

 Buy Better Bass Fishing Here

Friday
Jul272012

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.

Wednesday
Jul252012

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.)