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Entries in invasive species (186)

Wednesday
May282014

How About Hippos?

If you think that we’ve made a mess of our lands and waters through intentional and unintentional import of exotic plants and animals, you are correct. For example, we now spend billions of dollars annually to control and mitigate the damage done by just four recently introduced species: bighead carp, silver carp, quagga mussel, and zebra mussel.

And in attempts to minimize problems, the government often has made them worse. During the 1940s, the state of Louisiana touted the South American nutria as a way to control water hyacinth, a fast-growing exotic that was crowding out native vegetation in wetlands. Today, the nutria is eating away those same wetlands, contributing to saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion.

In the early 1960s, the states of Alabama and Arkansas allowed import of grass carp to control aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds. By 1970, escapees had established populations in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Today, these troublesome grazers are established in at least nine states and have been sighted in more than 40. Ask just about any bass angler, and he will tell you that the grass carp is public enemy No. 1.

And speaking of carp, we have the federal government to thank for one of the worst management decisions ever in regard to our fisheries. In 1877, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began intensively cultivating and stocking common carp. In fairness, it was prompted to do so both by public pressure and by overharvest of native fish stocks. By the turn of the century, however, it already was regarded as a nuisance.

“Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp,” says the National Park Service.

But you don’t know the half of it. Actually, things could be worse. Much worse. Instead of nutria eating away those Louisiana wetlands, we could have hippos. And who’s to say that these massive “water horses” which can weigh up to 4 tons and eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation a day, wouldn’t have spread east, west, and north?

They are “relatively tolerant of cold conditions,” says the Glen Oak Zoo, which also points out that “many individuals live to 40 years.”

Oh yeah, they also are generally believed to have killed more people in their native Africa than another animal, including lions and crocodiles.

All things considered, I’ll take the nutria, thank you. It tops out at about 12 pounds and is not as likely to charge me at the launch ramp.

But in 1910, Frederick Russell Burnham, a famed American scout and world adventurer, proposed replacing our nation’s depleted wildlife population --- we had hunted deer, turkey, and buffalo nearly to extinction --- with animals that he had encountered in southern Africa.

His proposal lined up nicely with the search for a solution to the growing problem of water hyacinths in Louisiana waters, as well as America’s need for more meat. Writing about this little known piece of American history, Jon Mooallem in American Hippopotamus, says that Rep. of Robert Foligny of New Iberia “liked to plug up problems with big solutions.”

Thus, Foligny introduced H.R. 23261, also known as the “Hippo Bill,” to “appropriate $250,000 for the importation of useful new animals into the United States.” The Washington Post assured readers that they would see shipments of hippos within a few years.

Fortunately for all us, a boatload of hippos never docked in New Orleans. But it wasn’t because of the unexpected discovery of good judgment in Congress. Rather, one representative said that the beasts should not be introduced because unscrupulous hunters would sneak onto the farms and hunt them for trophies.

Yeah, that’s the reason not to import aggressive animals that boast 20-inch teeth and can run at speeds of more than 20 miles per hour.

What turned the tide, though, was that the Department of Agriculture decided to transform swamps and other undeveloped areas into agricultural land to grow more beef cattle.

Thank goodness. Otherwise, we might we watching “Hippo Die-Nasty” instead of “Duck Dynasty” on television.

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

Monday
May262014

Zebra Mussels Benefit Lakefront Property Owners

The damage done to fisheries and water supply infrastructures by zebra mussels has been documented for decades.

But now one researcher has discovered that these exotic shellfish are benefiting a few lucky waterfront property owners, even as they wreak havoc on ecosystems.

“We find that property values generally are higher on lakes with zebra mussels,” said Martin Meder, a University of Wisconsin economics student who decided to analyze state data for 400 lakes.

With the assistance of Marianne Johnson, a College of Business economics professor, he looked at property assessments for sale of houses on lakes known to be infested with zebra mussels.

Meder added that his research doesn’t address the causation, but “with statistical certainty, I can say that zebra mussels are associated with an approximately 10 percent increase in lakefront property prices.”

He theorized that the increased water clarity that comes with a zebra mussel infestation is one reason for the increase.

And, he added, “Some research has shown that they (zebra mussels) disadvantage some unpopular fish species. They blanket the bottom of the lake bed so carp can’t feed . . .

“They also seem to be advantageous to fish species that people like, like smallmouth bass.”

Friday
Apr042014

Minnesota Politicians Get Tough on 'Asian' Carp

Congratulations to Minnesota politicians for serving as a shining example to the rest of the nation, as they deal with the most critical issue related to decimation of our waterways by Asian carp.

What is that issue? How can you ask such an inconsiderate question!

Of course it’s designating a new name for the exotic invaders so that no one is offended. During this utopian era of political correctness, when some want to ban the word “bossy,” what more noble endeavor could there be for those paid by taxpayers?

“Caucasians brought them to America,” said John Hoffman, a Democrat state senator who is sponsoring the bill. “Should we call them ‘Caucasian carp’? They have names. Let’s call them what they are.”

The executive director of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans added that the term “Asian carp” will cause people to “reflect negatively on our community.”

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), meanwhile, testified that her agency was unaware of any comments from the public that “Asian carp” is offensive.

Those folks at DNR should be ashamed of themselves. They should have been on top of this months ago, as should legislatures in other states where these insensitively named invaders are destroying fisheries.

Don’t they know it’s not about whether people are offended? It’s about an obsessive need for government to eliminate the slightest possibility that people might be offended.

As soon as the enlightened Minnesota politicians force DNR to start referring to Asian carp as “invasive carp,” then they could get to work on renaming Eurasian watermilfoil, a troublesome exotic plant that has spread into many state waters. That threatens to offend people of not only Asian descent, but European as well.

And I don’t even want to think about how the zebras in Como Park Zoo in St. Paul must be suffering because of those inappropriately named mussels.

And here are some other offensive names of exotic species that we must get rid of, never mind that they simply are named after geographic areas from which they originated:

African honeybee, Brazilian pepper, Burmese python, Canada thistle, Chinese mitten crab, Cuban tree frog, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, and New Zealand mud snail, just to name a few.

Oh, yeah, and there’s Asiatic witchweed, Asian tiger mosquito, Asian lady beetle, Asian long-horned beetle . . .

Tuesday
Apr012014

Invasive Species Top List of Tourism Concerns in Michigan

Invasives species, including Asian carp, rank at the top of concerns by Michigan tourism professionals.

Tourism industry professionals in Michigan were asked to “identify key issues facing and threats to the integrity of Michigan’s tourism resources.” Since Michigan is a Great Lakes state, the results are not surprising: Invasive species rank as the top threat.

The tourism folks know what they’re talking about, not only for Michigan, but for much of the rest of the country as well.

As a matter of fact, I think that they correctly have identified the top four for many of the states, and they have appropriately placed climate change and increasing the number of wind farms where they belong--- at or near the bottom.

Sadly, a good number of them have bought into the environmental left’s hatred of fracking, when no evidence supports the notion that it poses a threat to our lands and waters. In fact the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, said unequivocally that her agency has found no evidence of contamination.

  • Spread of invasive species (aquatic & terrestrial) – 65.2 percent
  • Lack of/limited funding for resource protection/maintenance – 59.5 percent
  • Declining water quality of our lakes, rivers and streams – 42.7 percent
  • Declining water levels of our lakes, rivers and streams – 41.3 percent
  • Diversion of water from the Great Lakes – 39.3 percent
  • Reduction in historic preservation tax credits – 28.9 percent
  • Closure of Department of History, Arts and Libraries – 25.1 percent
  • Fracking – 24.5 percent
  • Need for better/faster adoption of technology at tourism sites – 20.8 percent
  • Under-appreciation of Native American history and culture – 20.0 percent
  • Climate change – 16.8 percent
  • Spread of infectious diseases – 8.5 percent
  • Increasing number of wind farms – 7.7 percent
Friday
Mar282014

Mapping the Invasion

This screen shot shows zebra and quagga mussel invasion as of 2006.

Nature Conservancy has produced some great interactive maps showing how invasive aquatic species have spread out across the country from their point of introduction.

Featured species include bighead and silver carp, zebra and quagga mussels, Eurasian ruffe, round goby, sea lamprey, and black carp.

Also, in late 2012, the organization released a report saying that aquatic invasive species “cost businesses and consumer in the Great Lakes region hundreds of millions of dollars annually in direct costs and even more from indirect costs related to removal, maintenance, and management of those species.

“Meanwhile, state and federal governments are currently forced to spend additional millions as they attempt to control the impacts and prevent the spread of AIS (aquatic invasive species).”

According to the report, the largest industry affected by AIS in the Great Lakes is tourism and recreation, which is responsible for employing more than 90,000 people in the region, generating $30.3 billion annually in revenue. Costs range from monitoring and controlling AIS to lost revenue from beach closings affecting hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses.