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Entries in invasive spcies (3)

Wednesday
Feb272013

Anglers Paying for Consequences of Invasive Species 

Photo from Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Anglers aren’t responsible for introducing aquatic nuisance species to our waters, even though they are going to be the ones who pay the highest price in terms of cost, inconvenience, and diminished access.

Certainly some have spread mussels and plants inadvertently via their trailers and boats. Even a few have moved illegally moved plants in ill-advised attempts to improve fisheries.

But the aquarium and plant nursery industries brought milfoil, water hyacinth, and other troublesome aquatic plants to our waters, while commercial ships introduced mussels in their ballast water, via the Great Lakes.

Still, fishermen, especially B.A.S.S. members, are showing that they can be the adults in the room for this battle.

“As anglers, we know about invasive species; others are not as educated,” says Ken Snow, conservation director for the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation. “That’s why our members spend days at the ramps to help educate.”

New Mexico’s Earl Conway adds, “We have several members that volunteer to do boat inspections, and we are very close to being able to do our own inspections at club and state level tournaments. The state officers know that bass boats are clean and that we are educated and cooperating with them.”

In West Virginia, Jerod Harman has been training anglers to clean livewells and boats for two years. “We do this training at meetings and on our website,” he explains. 

He’s also working with the state to create segments about aquatic nuisance species for the television program “West Virginia Outdoors.”

In Oregon, Lonnie Johnson has recommended that clubs hold their own inspections during tournaments, while Washington’s Mark Byrne says, “We’ve been talking about this for a long time.”

Anglers, he adds, are not complaining about doing what they can to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species.

What can they do. What can you do?

“Clean, drain, dry.”

If you’re a bass angler, this phrase should become as familiar to you as “catch and release.”

It’s included in the new voluntary guidelines being developed for recreational activity by the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF), an intergovernmental organization chaired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The ANSTF also has recommendations for motor boaters (nonanglers), non-motorized boaters, scuba divers and snorkelers, and seaplane operators.

The hope is that this advice will help prevent the spread of problematic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, Asian carp, golden alga, and didymo (also called “rock snot”).

Of course, many states , counties, and municipalities aren’t content with voluntary guidelines. Economies, water supplies, and recreational activities all could be devastated by these invaders. As a consequence, inspections, sticker programs, and other strategies designed to minimize risk are being initiated, with collateral damage taking shape as increased fees and more limited access.

For example, Colorado has implemented a mandatory boat inspections program, with funding provided by a hike in registration fees. In California, registration cost could go up as much as $10 in 2014 to finance a mussel monitoring, inspection, and eradication program. Concern is understandable, as Lake Tahoe could sustain economic losses of as much as $20 million annually if mussels are introduced, according to officials.

Attentions these days mostly are focused on the West, Great Plains, and Upper Midwest. Mussels and Asian carp are expanding north, threatening inland waters, while the shellfish have crossed the Continental Divide. But even southern waters are at risk, as evidenced by Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission making “permanent” last fall an emergency order for some of the state’s waters, after zebra mussels were found in Lake Ray Roberts. The order requires boaters leaving any of the listed waters to drain their boats completely.

“We see tougher inspection programs coming up more and more,” cautions Susan Shingledecker, director of environmental programs for the BoatUS Foundation. 

She helped develop the ANSTF’s new proposed guidelines, and urges anglers and boaters to follow them, showing that “we are doing all we can.”

Concurrently, she hopes that states will bring consistency to their programs to reduce confusion and  anxiety among anglers and other boaters.  “State by state would be preferred to lake by lake,” she adds.

Here are the angler recommendations in more detail:

Inspect and clean off plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access. Scrub any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush. 

Drain water from boat, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell, and portable bait containers away from ramp.

Dry everything at least five days, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.

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

Tuesday
Nov082011

Congress Could Weaken New York's Regulation to Keep Out Exotic Spcies

Zebra mussels on Lake Erie beach.

Here’s a perfect example of why invasive species cost this nation billions of dollars annually and do irreparable harm to our fisheries and other natural resources:

Congress seems poised to pass a bill that would negate New York’s tough new regulations for ballast water in ships enroute to the Great Lakes.

Zebra mussels and dozens of other exotics have entered the Great Lakes in ballast water. Along with altering ecosystems with their filter feeding and prolific colonies that smother habitat, the mussels block water intakes, costing states, municipalities, and industries billions of dollars in maintenance and control costs.

Here is what Buffalo News says:

“The measure exempts ballast water — the water kept in the hulls of ships to keep them balanced, and the main repository for alien invaders like the zebra mussel — from the federal Clean Water Act and any tougher state regulations . . .

“If the bill becomes law, international standards that environmentalists decry as too weak would be the main barrier between invasive species and the Great Lakes . . .

“New York’s proposed ballast water standards are 100 times more stringent than pending international ballast water standards for existing ships — and 1,000 times more stringent for new ships — prompting the shipping industry to complain that the technology doesn’t exist to meet the new rules.”

Of course, the main argument against tough standards for ballast water is that it will increase the cost of doing business for the shipping industry and thus hurt economic recovery.

Perhaps those who make such arguments are unaware of the damage that zebra mussels --- brought to this country by ballast water --- have done to this country’s economy, not to mention our fisheries.

And with weak standards for regulation of ballast water, if the next exotic that could be just as damaging as the zebra mussel is not yet in the Great Lakes, it soon will be.

Thursday
Sep082011

Great Lakes Attorneys General Ask Other States to Help Combat Federal Government, Invasive Species

File this one in the “Why didn’t we think of this before?” folder.

But better late than never, and I applaud attorneys general in the Great Lakes states for taking this action.

They are soliciting support from 25 other states that have been harmed by invasive species spreading out of the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River. They are asking them to join in demanding immediate action by the federal government to develop a permanent ecological separation between the two ecosystems at Chicago.

By the way, the connection was made decades ago so that Chicago could flush its sewage downstream, instead of allowing it to pollute their water supply in Lake Michigan. Defenders of the connection, including the Obama administration, now insist that it must be maintained for  commercial navigation.

“We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes and into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. 

“This is not just a Great Lakes issue, it is a national issue.  By working together we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it’s too late.”

Read more here.