Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entries in invasive species (193)

Monday
Jun302014

Hunters Reduce Cormorant Population on Santee Cooper System

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Nearly 12,000 fewer cormorants are eating fish in the Santee Cooper system.

That’s because the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) granted permits to 1,225 hunters to shoot the birds Feb. 2 to March 1 on Lakes Moultrie and Marion. Forty percent of those reported back, with a final tally of 11,653.

The agency said the hunt was necessary to reduce predation on forage, including herring, shad, and menhaden, as well as on juvenile game fish and catfish.

“In addition, cormorant harassment has been linked to significant winter kills of adult redear sunfish too large to swallow,” it said. “Permanent damage to flooded bald cypress and tupelo trees used for roosts has also been documented.”

For decades the birds were protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and their numbers exploded as resident populations established themselves on large lakes and impoundments. Recently, though, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted states permission to reduce their numbers.

Mostly only agency personnel have been involved in these efforts. But South Carolina decided to enlist public assistance to reduce shoot the birds that anglers love to hate. Permits were granted to those who attended a training session and agreed to follow the strict rules.

“The taking of cormorants will be restricted to the legal boundaries of the Santee Cooper lakes and will be allowed only in areas where waterfowl hunters can legally hunt waterfowl,” SCDNR said.

While many were pleased with the state’s first cormorant hunt, some were not.

“When I requested scientific evidence from SCDNR to justify this proposed hunt, none was provided,” said Norman Brunswig of Audubon South Carolina. “I strongly suspect that none exists. Rather, as I’ve said, I believe that the SCDNR has been pushed and bullied into an unnecessary slaughter of a native non-game bird, by fishermen, fishing guides, and a few powerful but misguided politicians.”

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

Thursday
Jun052014

Snakehead Numbers Decline

Maryland DNR photo Good news from the snakehead front, as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that catch and distribution of the exotic predator in the Potomac River was lower in 2013 than in 2012.

In announcing the finding from the Tidal Bass Survey, biologist Joe Love said, “The 2013 observations represent the first decrease in catch and distribution since the species was first discovered in the Potomac River (2004). It is not clear whether the cause of the decline is increased angling effort or other factors.”

But angling effort has increased considerably in recent years, aided by initiatives from both DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Additionally, the state is providing more incentive for catch and harvest of snakeheads by instituting a state record program and including an invasive species category for awards in the Maryland Fishing Challenge.

Not all the news regarding snakeheads is good, however, as two adults were captured by electrofishing for the first time ever in the Wicomico River. Anglers had reported catching them there as early as 2011.

“It appears that it takes two years between angling reporting and collection by Maryland DNR’s Tidal Bass Surveys,” Love said.

Additionally, adult snakeheads were collected from the Patuxent, in numbers similar to 2012.

“Based on suitable habitat for northern snakehead and the population estimate, we calculated that there were about five per acre of suitable habitat,” the biologist explained. “Reports for Little Hunting Creek and Anacostia River ranged from four to nine northern snakehead per acre.”

The invasive fish also was collected “in relatively small numbers” from the Rappahannock, Rohde, Blackwater, and Nanticoke Rivers.

A small snakehead was captured in a trap from a ditched area that connects the Blackwater to the Little Choptank. This suggests that the fish could use this pathway to also colonize the latter, the biologist said.

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 . . .