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Entries in invasive species (216)


Industry Looks at Boat Design as a Way to Combat Mussel Invasion

Zebra mussels on shopping cart

For years, resource managers focused on education, regulations, and boat inspections to help stop the spread of invasive species such a zebra mussels. But in late January, a new tactic was initiated as a first-of-its-kind boat design summit was staged here.

“If you can build a better boat, it makes it easier down the line,” said Brian Goodwin of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), which develops safety standards and is a sponsor. “There is no silver bullet that will solve the problem. But this is part of it.”

Other sponsors included the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Minnesota and Lake Minnetonka’s Tonka Bay Marina. Minnesota ranks No. 1 nationally in boat ownership per capita.

Organizers hoped that the event would stimulate recommendations for new designs for the more than 100 boat manufacturers, marina operators, conservation leaders, and biologists in attendance.

“This is a critical piece we need to look at and make sure we’re doing all we can do to reduce the risk,” said Ann Pierce of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “I think it will be extremely beneficial, and not just for Minnesota.”

In addition to attaching themselves to hulls, mussels often stow away on boats in any place that water accumulates, including motors, bilges, livewells, and transom wells. Pontoon boats, the fastest growing sector of the boating industry, and wakeboard boats, which collect water to create wakes, especially are conductive for aquatic hitchhiking. For example, lifting strakes on pontoons enable them to go faster, but they often are sealed only at one end, allowing small mussels entry at the other.

“For a lot of companies, it’s going to be a retooling,” said Bob Menne, owner of Premier Marine, the fourth-largest pontoon manufacturer in the nation, and the only one, he said, to weld strakes and keels to keep out zebra mussels.

“We take it as a very serious issue,” he said.


Troublesome Invasive Plant Returns to Potomac River

Sassafras River Association volunteers collected these water chestnuts from creeks and streams on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

A troublesome old invasive has reared its head once again on the Potomac River. While sampling fish populations, biologists with Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) found a dense clump of water chestnuts, covering about ½ acre of water, near a boat rental dock in Pohick Bay Regional Park, 25 miles south of the nation’s capital.

Response was quick, as VGIF organized volunteers to hand pull the troublesome plant this past fall.

Water chestnut is probably a lot more troublesome and invasive potentially than snakeheads might be,” said biologist John Odenkirk.

“It was dense, but we got it. Hopefully, we nipped the potential for this plant to take over the bay and shut it down.”

Because it is an annual that sprouts from seeds, this fast-growing exotic is not susceptible to herbicides. It can be controlled only by pulling or mechanical harvest. The seeds have sharp needles that can attach to wildlife, clothing, and other items for transport to new areas, and they can remain viable in sediment for more than a decade. Just one acre of plants can yield enough seeds to cover 100 acres.

Native to both Asia and Europe, water chestnut was first confirmed on the Potomac in 1923, with a two-acre bed expanding to cover 41 miles of river, from Washington, D.C., to near Quantico, Va., in just two years. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the dense, floating mats restricted navigation, harmed fisheries, and killed off submersed plants with their thick canopy.

The Army Corps of Engineers mechanically harvested the infestation and the plant was considered mostly eradicated from the Potomac by 1945. But limited hand harvesting continued into the 1960s.

USGS is studying this more recent invader to determine its species and lineage. Its spiny seed pods don’t resemble those of water chestnuts found in Maryland and other states. Additionally, VGIF and volunteer stewards will keep an eye out for future outbreaks. 


New York Legislation Reminds Anglers to Clean, Drain, And Dry

Giant salvinia on boat trailer in Texas. TPWD photo

New legislation in New York makes anglers and other boaters responsible for taking common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. That means that they should clean, drain, and dry their boaters and trailers to remove plant and animal matter before transport or launch.

“New York’s new law is the latest, but not the last,” said Gene Gilliland, National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “Texas and Arizona passed clean, drain, and dry laws a few years ago.

“It is said that there needs to be legislation to enforce common sense,” he continued. “Checking your boats for clinging plants or debris, cleaning it by removing materials or power washing after you’ve boated in contaminated waters, removing the plug to drain your boat’s bilge or livewell, and drying the boat thoroughly to prevent the spread of any sort of plants or critters should be automatic --- an unconscious habit --- for all boaters.

“The fact that it is not a habit results in laws that force the issue.”

Starting in November, offenders in New York waters will receive a written notice for a first violation, along with educational materials regarding invasive species. A fine of up to $150 will be issued for a second offense, up to $250 for a third offense, and no more than $1,000 for a fourth.

Additionally, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has adopted regulations that prohibit boats from launching or leaving agency access sites without taking these precautions. Also, several local municipalities and state organizations have adopted local laws to minimize the spread of invasives, including boat inspection and washing requirements.

In 2014, New York adopted its first mandatory inspection program for boat launches on Lake George.

DEC points out that invasives threatened both tourism and sport fishing by outcompeting native species for food and habitat. Additionally, they can spread diseases, and, once established, are nearly impossible to eradicate because they have few natural predators in their new environments. Nationwide, they annually cause about $120 billion in damage.

“As much as people don't like government regulation, the problem here is one of how easily a system can be contaminated,” Gilliland said.

“A single boat can be responsible for introducing invasive mussels or plants. If boaters do not police themselves, to protect water resources, states may take drastic measures, such as we've seen in California, where boats are banned altogether from some waters.”


Lionfish Are Malicious But Delicious

Can we eat enough lionfish to keep them from damaging native species and marine ecosystems? Probably not.

But it won’t hurt to try.

Last month, the first “Celebrity Chef Lionfish Challenge” was presented during the annual SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier conference on sustainable seafood. Co-hosted by SeaWeb and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), the Challenge brought together seven top regional chefs to prepare their signature lionfish dishes.

Some of the recipes that they came up with include lionfish succotash, lionfish wreckdriver style, and lionfish with crawfish sauce piquant and creole cream cheese grits. Check out all of them here.

According to NMSF, “While visually stunning, the lionfish is an invasive species plaguing marine ecosystems in U.S. waters, particularly the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

“As conventional population reduction methods have proven unsuccessful, organizations are innovating. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation  and SeaWeb hope a secret weapon – America’s chefs – will spread the word that lionfish are malicious but delicious.”

Lionfish were first confirmed in U.S. waters in the 1980s and, with few natural predators and a fast breeding cycle, their presence is now permanent. They have had significant impact in the Flower Garden Banks, Florida Keys, and Gray’s Reef national marine sanctuaries.

Reduction of the lionfish population is a priority throughout the ocean community and, among their many functions and services, the sanctuaries serve as sentinel sites for control efforts. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has just released its Lionfish Response Plan. At Flower Garden Banks, NMSF-funded expeditions have removed quantities of the predators and provided data used to improve population control techniques. 


Corps Suspects Anglers, Hunters of Spreading Hydrilla at Kerr lake

Kerr Lake hydrilla

A management plan for hydrilla control at Kerr Lake (Buggs Island) incorporates a “get tough” approach to those who intentionally introduce the fast-growing exotic plant. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of violators.

That’s because rangers and biologists suspect that anglers and waterfowl hunters are intentionally spreading the invasive.

“It is a crime to knowingly or unknowingly spread noxious and invasive vegetation like hydrilla,” said Mike Woman, project manager for the reservoir on the Virginia-North Carolina border.

He added that the notion that introducing the plant is a good idea is “short-sighted.”

Yes, hydrilla attracts bass and ducks, but it rarely can be contained or controlled. It smothers native plants, as it diminishes oxygen levels and water quality with its biomass. Additionally, recent research has revealed that it can play host to an alga that is deadly to waterfowl and predatory birds that eat them, including eagles.

Hydrilla coverage in the 50,000-acre fishery increased by 230 acres to 1,116 in 2014, puzzling biologists. But then a Corps staffer happened upon internet blogs that extolled the benefits of hydrilla for anglers and hunters. That discovery prompted the agency to conclude that a small number of misguided sportsmen are spreading the plant.

In addition to pursuing these violators, the Corps also has incorporated public education, herbicide application, and sterile grass carp into its strategy.

With assistance from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, the agency stocked 13,320 carp during 2013. Another 4,200 were added in 2014, to make up for an estimated 30 percent mortality with the initial stocking and to address the increase in hydrilla.

The Corps also intends to plant colonies of native, beneficial plants. They will be started in cages to prevent predation by carp and turtles.

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