My Facebook pages

Robert Montgomery

Why We Fish

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

Pippa's Canine Corner 



(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.





Entries in herbicides (8)


Anglers Voice Concerns About Florida Aquatic Plant Management

Herbicide treatment of plants on Lake Okeechobee. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Saying that they've seen enough, Florida anglers are going public with their concerns, hoping to prompt improvement in the way their state manages invasive aquatic vegetation.

"The situation is that they spray, spray, spray, until nothing's left," said Stephen Bishop, one of the founders of Save Florida Lakes and Waterways (SFLW), a recently formed non-profit.

"They claim to only be after the invasive species like the hyacinth, but the facts are they nuke everything. In most areas the hyacinths are all we have left. Our water quality is suffering tremendously. Finding clean water has become extremely difficult.

"We're not saying 'no spray' is the answer," added the tournament angler who grew up on the St. Johns River.  "We're saying there is a middle ground. And we need someone to get out here, actually own what's happened, and re-program how we maintain our waterways."

To help spread the word and build support, SFLW has set up a Facebook page where anglers and others who are concerned can network, as well as post photos that show the aftermath of herbicide spraying.

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which coordinates the spending of about $20 million annually to manage invasive aquatic plants, are sympathetic to these concerns. But they counter that the reality is much more complicated than photos of dead and dying plants.

"Florida is a unique state because of the amount of aquatic vegetation we have and the higher degree of invasive plants," said Ryan Hamm, fisheries administrator for the Northeast Region. "We have 400 plus water bodies that require invasive plant management."

Last year, that management included treatment of 34,000 acres of floating invasives, including water hyacinth, water lettuce, and Cuban bulrush (burhead sedge). Capable of growing 6 inches laterally a day, hydrilla is the fourth target species in the program.

"Floating plants can double in size in two days," Hamm continued.  "With them we use a maintenance control philosophy, treating at the lowest feasible levels.  If we get behind, it could create a crisis and be costlier both financially and environmentally. These plants can take over and shade native plants."

Bishop argues that so many plants have been killed in some waters that organic buildup on the bottom prevents navigation "and wildlife rarely travels there because of it."

But Hamm says that hyacinth and lettuce are "like trees. They grow foliage and they drop it. That can accumulate more than treating and killing plants. We try to keep the (treatment) areas small."

Matt Phillips, a B.A.S.S. member who oversees the FWC's plant management program, acknowledges that sometimes native vegetation is killed. "When plants are mixed, we do have some damage," he said.  "We try to keep it minor.

"And we're selective in our herbicides. For example, 2, 4-D will kill hyacinths, but it also will kill bulrush. So we don't use it around bulrush."

Diquat, he added, is a contact herbicide that "will brown whatever it touches," and that frequently leads to the mistaken belief that the treatment has killed everything, not just invasives.

"But it doesn't kill the roots (of native plants).

"You can't treat lettuce and not hit spatterdock," Phillips explained. "The lettuce is killed and falls out. The spatterdock turns brown. Three days after treatment,  all you see is the brown spatterdock. But we use University of Florida science to follow these treatments. Research shows browning comes back in as little as three weeks."

Bishop agrees that the spatterdock pads do come back. "But the problem is that fish use those pads 100 percent more when combined with another form of vegetation. I think that a large part of that is because the spatterdock pads don't filter the water like eel grass and hydrilla," he said.

"When we find these other forms of vegetation, it's like a switch has been flipped, and you have clean, transparent water, multiple species of wildlife visually active, and high catch rates.

"Yes, they believe that the plants brown and then come back. But I don't. Adjacent eel grass, hydrilla, and dollar pads disappear and never come back."  

Bishop added that he thinks biologists "rely too much on what they study in the lab, and not the real world scenarios. I'd be willing to bet I'm on the water here more than anybody. I study the fishery profusely. To give you an idea, last year I won 20 tournaments on the St. Johns, and finished top three in 20+ others. I genuinely study our fishery day to day."

Hamm thinks such expertise can helpful in managing Florida's invasive aquatic plants. "If you're concerned, get involved in the planning process," he said. "More meetings and more dialogue will be beneficial.  Continued dialogue and building trust will go a long way.

"We biologists are not in it for the money. We want to provide a healthy environment and meet the needs of our stakeholders.  But we always can do a better job and we can do that with better understanding from both sides."

How It's Done 

"Trying to make everyone happy is an impossible task," said FWC's Matt Phillips.

But it's attempted, nevertheless, through the public outreach component of the  aquatic plant management program. That includes public meetings, especially for large public waters, as well as posting work plans for the year at

Hydrilla typically is treated is in late winter and early spring, while floating plants are managed year around because in Florida's nutrient-rich waters they can double in weight in 7 to 10 days.

"We want to meet stakeholder needs and not impact native habitats," said Phillips, a long-time bass fisherman. "And we also recognize hydrilla's benefits."

Plants are sprayed  by a mixture of government and private operators all of whom must be certified by the state Department of Agriculture. And Phillips insists that "dumping" of excess herbicide is myth, not reality.

"Herbicides are provided by us, or they (applicators) are reimbursed," he said. "The profit is in their time on the water. We want them out there on the water, hunting and pecking, looking for small concentrations."

But Steven Bishop, spokesman for Save Florida's Lakes and Waterways,  doesn't believe that applicators always follow the official strategy of focusing on small areas of invasive plants.

"We're not seeing them follow their own guidelines," he said. "I'm not sure if it's the actual applicators, the ones directing the applicators, or the next level up.

"The ones that we've come in contact with seem to have no problem bending the truth about what they are doing instead of actually addressing our concerns. It's like a blame game that no one takes ownership of."

Phillips acknowledged that "any group has bad apples. But because of training, we don't have bad applicators. And we have biologists directing them. We decide what and when. We might have a bad application, but not a bad applicator.

"Applicators are accused of not caring," he continued. "But they live in the community. They love the outdoors too."

FWC receives "lots of questions" about how aquatic plants are managed, Phillips said. "And we have the conspiracy guys who think that we're treating at night.

"We try to be as transparent as possible. But maybe we could do a better job of communicating what we do. "

(This article originally was published in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Milfoil Hybrid Could Cause Even More Problems for Northern Fisheries

Management of problematic aquatic vegetation could get even more difficult, especially in northern bass waters. Recent findings in Minnesota's Minnetonka and Christmas lakes lead researchers to theorize that a milfoil hybrid could be more invasive and tougher to control than the Eurasian variety.

The hybrid is a cross between Eurasian and northern watermilfoil, a native plant.

Using cutting-edge genetic screening techniques, scientists from the University of Minnesota and Montana State discovered that the hybrid was more prevalent in areas treated with herbicides than those with little management. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) said that herbicides might actually promote hybrid growth "and some hybrids may show greater tolerance to treatment."

Additionally, MCWD's Eric Fieldseth said, "As a pilot study, this research gets the ball rolling on understanding hybrid watermilfoil, its impact, and how it can better be controlled. These findings are an important first step toward developing more effective milfoil management strategies."

Researchers also found multiple, genetically distinct genotypes of invasive, hybrid, and native watermilfoil. That underscores the need for understanding the genetic makeup of invasive plants in a fishery before devising a plan to manage them and then following up with more genetic screening to guide future management, MCWD explained.

"With this much diversity in the population, a successful milfoil management strategy may not be a 'one size fits all' approach," added, Ryan Thum, professor of plant sciences and plant pathology at Montana State.

"We're looking forward to seeing how these results compare with what's happening in other parts of the region," he said. "This research could have broad implications for managing milfoil in lakes throughout the Upper Midwest and beyond."


Intersex Male Bass Found in Lake Champlain Tributary

Sixty to 75 percent of male smallmouth bass in a tributary of Lake Champlain are "intersex," meaning they bear eggs.

The watershed for the Missisquoi River already has been a cause for concern because of runoff agricultural pollution that feeds blue-green algae blooms in the lake.

"The alarm to me is that these chemicals are present. They're in our water. They're in our food. We're exposing ourselves to them. To me, that's the alarm," said Vicki Blazer, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist and one of the report's authors.

She added that humans aren't exposed in the same way that fish are, since they aren't constantly in the water and our drinking water is treated. "But that doesn't mean we're not exposing ourselves to many of the same chemicals."

James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, added, "I think they're basically Franken-fish. It's a canary in a coal mine, except it's bass in a river, and there's something monstrously out of balance in the natural system."

The herbicide atrazine could be a possible cause, as could the hormones contained in livestock wastes from factory farms.

"The big thing to me is that we don't truly understand the mix of things fish and other organisms are exposed to," Blazer said.

Intersex bass also have been found in the rivers and streams near and in wildlife refuges in the Northeast, as well as the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


Herbicides, Parasites Likely Causes for Susquehanna Decline

Endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, as well as pathogens and parasites, are the most likely causes for the decline of the Susquehanna River's world-class smallmouth fishery, according to results of a multi-year study by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other agencies.

"We appreciate the assistance of the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and our other partners in the evaluation of many possible stressors to the smallmouth bass population . . . ," said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (FBC).

"The health of the smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River continues to be compromised and this analysis rules out certain causes, prioritizes other uncertain causes for further study, and, most importantly, identifies likely causes which can be targeted for action."

TO FBC's credit, it has been sounding the alarm about fish with lesions and sores, as well as declining numbers, for years, as well as lobbied DEP to categorize the lower portion of the river as "impaired."  That designation would allow for a comprehensive plan to be developed to address the problem.

Until the release of this study, though, DEP countered that it makes recommendations based on water quality, not species health, and refused to recommend that the Susquehanna be placed on the EPA's impaired waters list. Anglers and groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) hope that these findings will help the river get the help it needs.

"The time to start to remedy the sick Susquehanna River and save a world-class smallmouth fishery is now," said CBF's Harry Campbell. "An impairment declaration will start the healing process so that the waterway that millions of Pennsylvanians depend upon, and provides half of the freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay, can benefit from an unwavering level of restoration, resource investment, and pollution study."

Scientists now view temperature, dissolved oxygen, algal and bacterial toxins, and young-of-the-year food quality and habitat as "uncertain causes."  Meanwhile, "unlikely causes" include high flows, ammonia, and toxic chemicals such as pesticides, PCBs, and metals.


Scientists Find More Mutated Intersex Fish in Nation's Waters

All scientists have to do is search new waters, it seems, and the mystery of mutated intersex fish grows more disturbing.

Most recently, they’ve found male smallmouth bass carrying eggs in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Delaware, and Ohio river basins, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey. Male fish at every site sampled had immature eggs in their testes, with the highest percentage in the Susquehanna. Previously in the Chesapeake Bay drainage, research revealed evidence of the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the Potomac.

Vicki Blazer, lead author of the study, said that the pollutants affecting bass, as well as white suckers, “are most likely complex mixtures form both agriculture sources, such as animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides, and human sources from wastewater treatment plan effluent and other sewage discharges.”

"The prevalence and severity of the immature eggs in smallmouth bass corresponded with the percent of agricultural land use in the watershed above the collection sites," the scientist said. "Chemical compounds associated with estrogenic endocrine disruption, in particular estrone, a natural estrogen, were also associated with the extent and severity of these effects in bass."

Meanwhile, a toxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency office in Denver reported that her research on fathead minnows is suggesting that “a very potent synthetic female hormone . . . can wipe out fish populations over several generations, and it’s the male fish that are most affected.”

Previously, Kristen Keteles added, studies had shown that male fish below wastewater treatment plants can lose masculine characteristics and become indistinguishable from females when exposed to estrogen and other endocrine disruptors.

“Our new study found that a potent form of female hormone estrogen used in prescription drugs not only causes the males to look female; it also appears to be toxic to male fish and these effects may impact future generations of fish.”

Fish A is a normal male fathead minnow. Fish C is a normal female. B is a male that was exposed to female hormones in prescription drugs and looks more like a female. Photo by Adam Schwindt

These disturbing discoveries regarding fish, which could portend similar problems for other species, began to emerge in the late 1970s, with anglers fishing wastewater lagoons in Great Britain, according to Whitney Jacobs, a former Conservation Associate at B.A.S.S. who researched the effects of environmental estrogens on male fish while doing graduate work in fisheries at the University of Georgia.

But the first reports of intersex was not documented in scientific literature until 1994 and the first major national assessment of the problem was not published until 2009,  she added.

“Widespread occurrence of intersex in black basses (Micropterus spp.) from U.S. rivers, 1995-2004” revealed intersex in 3 percent of fish collected and in 4 of 16 species--- largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, common carp, and channel catfish.

“However, it was most prevalent in largemouth and smallmouth bass,” Jacobs said. “The study also found the greatest incidence of the condition in the southeastern U.S.”

More recently, a 2014 report from scientists at the University of Georgia revealed these mutations aren’t confined to rivers. In “Survey of Intersex Largemouth Bass from Impoundments in Georgia USA,” they said that 48 percent of male largemouth bass collected from 11 reservoirs without direct municipal or agricultural wastewater inputs were intersex. Additionally, they found the condition in nine of the fisheries.

“The high incidence of intersex males in small impoundments demonstrates the condition is not confined to rivers and suggests that factors other than those previously associated with intersex (i.e., municipal wastewater) may be involved,” the researchers concluded.

Scientists hope that future research will reveal those additional factors. Meanwhile, they believe that fish that live downstream of wastewater treatment plants are most at risk, because of chemicals that can’t be filtered out of discharges.

“Humans excrete hormones and medications, which often end up in our rivers and streams from sewage,” said Keteles, adding that flushing medications also contributes to the problem.

“The water is treated, but many hormones and pharmaceuticals are not completely removed by wastewater treatment plants,” she said.

“My team is trying to determine what this means for fish, and ultimately for people, too.”

How to dispose of medicines properly

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