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Entries in Pennsylvania (3)


Carp Threat Moves East

This Asian carp was caught at Kentucky Lake, Photo by Steve McCadams.

Asian silver carp DNA has been found as far up the Ohio River as Wheeling, West Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa. That’s bad news for East Coast river fisheries.

The silver is most noted for leaping from the water when frightened, injuring passing anglers and other boaters. But the most damage is being done to our waterways, as silver and bighead carp crowd out and outcompete native species for food and habitat.

"Unfortunately, the test results provide some evidence that this invasive species could be in the upper Ohio River in Pennsylvania," John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania and Boat Commission.

 "This is an early warning sign, since we don't know for certain the origin of the genetic material. We don't know if the eDNA came from live or dead fish or if it was transported from other sources, like bilge water or storm sewers, or even waterfowl visiting the basin."

For years, most of the focus was on the fear that Asian carp would devastate fisheries in the Great Lakes when/if they gain entrance. But now they also are threatening the inland waters of Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota, as well as the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers and their reservoirs, including Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

Read more here.


PFBC Looks to EPA to Help Save Susquehanna Smallmouth Fishery


A “perfect storm” of stressors is destroying one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the nation. Algae blooms, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and pollutants annually decimate young-of-the year bass, leaving the Susquehanna River with a steadily declining number of big fish and little recruitment to replace them.

Since the first disease outbreak in 2005, biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have been studying the problem on the river that flows from Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, N.Y., to Chesapeake Bay, draining about half of the state’s land area. Their conclusion: The problem is too complex for them to solve without additional help.

“That’s why we’re trying to convince the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to put the Susquehanna on the (impaired waters) list,” said John Arway, PFBC executive director.

Despite the Susquehanna’s biological and recreation impairment, the state Department of Environmental Protection decided not to include the river on the list, forcing the PFBC to look elsewhere for help.

 “We’ve also had meetings with our members of Congress,” Arway said. “This is extremely important. If the river goes on the impaired list, then there’s a time clock to fix it. But that clock doesn’t start until the problem is formally recognized.

"Putting it on the 303D list would mean that there’s a plan and we’d be eligible for grant money and we could prioritize how to spend it.”

The PFBC has support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its campaign. In a letter to the EPA, Region 5 Director Wendi Weber wrote the following:

“We concur with recent scientific assessments that indicate a chronic problem exists with recruitment of smallmouth bass in the river.

 “We are also concerned with the recent rise in reported skin lesions on bass, as well as emerging evidence of inter-sex, possibly caused by endocrine disruption compounds in the water. The Service believes the suite of warning signs exhibited by the smallmouth bass population is cause for careful and thorough assessment of environmental conditions in the river. While exact linkages and root causes seem to remain unclear, we believe the evidence suggests that environmental stressors are affecting the biota in the river.”

And just how much have those environmental stressors impacted smallmouth bass? “We’d typically get 1 ½ to 2 good years for every 1 bad year (of reproduction). Now, we will be lucky if we get 1 out of 8,” said Geoff Smith, a biologist who has studied the river.

He added that the number of adult fish in the river “has plateaued to low densities historically.”

 “As the older fish die of old age, we’re not seeing the recruitment we need to replace them,” Arway said

He points to dissolved phosphorus in the river as a “principal stressor.” Right at the time bass are born, he added, “We’re seeing blooms of nuisance algae from the west shore to the east shore.”

That results in low dissolved oxygen, which in turn, compromises the immune system of young bass.

“We need to trace it (phosphorus) to the source,” Arway said. “We need to know where it comes from. That’s why we need to be on the 303D list.”

Additionally, biologists have identified these contaminants in the river that could cause endocrine disruption:

Thirteen flame retardant compounds, 2 personal care products (triclosan), 14 organochlorine pesticides, and 9 other pesticides.

They’ve also confirmed Largemouth Bass Virus.

“That’s not likely a factor (for abundance). But just carrying that virus might add to the stress,” Smith said.

Possibly most disturbing, though, is that similar problems with smallmouth recruitment now have spread into the Susquehanna’s tributaries and even outside of the basin, to the Allegheny and Delaware.

Anglers, meanwhile, “were madder than a hornet’s nest for a time,” Arway said. That’s because the PFBC implemented mandatory catch-and-release for the middle 98 miles of the Susquehanna and prohibited targeting of bass on nests from May 1 to June 15.

“But now they understand and they’re behind us. They’re working with us,” the PFBC executive director added.



Snakeheads: Where Will they Slither to Next?


The northern snakehead is among the next wave of invasive species that threatens the Great Lakes, according to a team of university and government researchers. Unheard of in U.S. waters during 2001, this predator now is established in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York waters, and poses an increasing threat to the aquatic health of Chesapeake Bay, which faces a host of other assaults as well. 

“I think this one is coming,” said research scientist Ed Rutherford. “People will bring them in live for the aquarium trade. It’s also been found in live markets around Toronto.”



Meanwhile, my friend Capt. Steve Chaconas, a Potomac River guide, has been watching the snakehead's progress since the beginning. He emphasizes that a catch-and-kill strategy still is necessary, but points out that the catch-and-release ethic of many anglers is beginning to complicate management of this invasive.

Here's his assessment of the situation: