Fisherman on Lake Erie and around the Great Lakes have known for a decade
that invasive species are a serious threat, but government officials in the
U.S. and Canada finally got around to stating the obvious in concurrent
reports issued last week.
The agencies said not enough is being done to stop invasive species from
entering the Great Lakes. The lack of action over the past 17 years is
costing billions of dollars annually as sport and commercial fisheries
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission strongly agreed with the reports issued
by the Auditor General of Canada and the U.S. General Accounting Office.
Invasive species present a very real and significant economic and
environmental threat to the Great Lakes, said commission chair Bill Beamish.
To point out at this late date that not enough is being done to stop
invasive species is a slap in the face. Lake Erie angling already has
suffered greatly since the arrival of zebra mussels, quagga mussels, round
gobies, spiny water fleas, white perch, sea lampreys, fish hook fleas, ruffe
and a host of other visitors.
Fishermen have complained. No one ever seemed to listen.
Sportsmen also know that the barn door has been open for far too long.
Without the rigid controls needed to slam the door on the exotic organisms,
they have arrived and flourished.
No matter how many reports are issued, the invasive species are here to
stay. Removal is impossible. Like carp and sea lamprey, they will flourish
and impact native species of fish.
The floor of Lake Erie is blanketed with zebra and quagga mussels, the
latter blamed for this year's phosphate woes and the "dead zone" of the
lake. Waterfowl biologists theorize the surprising slump in the flocks of
scaup, or bluebills, is the result of the diving ducks eating the mussels,
which concentrate contaminants as they filter-feed Lake Erie's waters to
make them as crystal clear as a goblet of spring water.
Zebra mussells have escaped the Great Lakes as well. The major rivers such
as the Mississippi and lower Missouri have been introduced to the plague
zebra mussels, as have lakes both large and small.
Schools of small, round gobies have exploded in Lake Erie in the past
decade. The gobies feast on the exotic mussels, though they don't seem to
dent the population. The gobies are being blamed for a wave of diseased and
dying fish and birds in eastern Lake Erie, sickened by a virulent strain
type E botulism after feeding on gobies.
The most destructive of the non-native fish is the ruffe, which continues
its march to Lake Erie. First discovered in Duluth Harbor at the west end of
Lake Superior, the ruffe hopscotched to Lake Huron a few years ago and this
summer was discovered in Lake Michigan.
There is no doubt Lake Erie is next for the ruffe, an invasion that would
put the most vibrant population of yellow perch in the Great Lakes in
serious jeopardy. When the ruffe takes over, it pushes other fish, including
perch, out of the area. The shallow water of western Lake Erie is the
perfect habitat for the ruffe.
The invasive species continue to arrive from Europe in the ballast water
ocean freighters. The U.S. and Canadian reports say that measures to stop
the invasion, such as ballast-water monitoring and ballast-water exchange,
have not prevented the arrival of new aquatic organisms.
Even worse, the reports forecast it will take another 10 years to develop
and implement ballast-water management techniques that work.
A stumbling block is the economic impact of stringent ballast-water
standards that would result in a zero discharge of invasive species. In the
meantime, the losses keep piling up, the list of non-native organisms in
Great Lakes gets longer and the fishing continues to decline.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
© 2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
Copyright 2002 cleveland.com. All Rights Reserved.
"If we ignore nature.....maybe it'll go away."
/"Unless stated otherwise, comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of the North American Native Fishes
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes Association
/ nanfa_at_aquaria.net. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get help, send the word
/ subscribe, unsubscribe, or help in the body (not subject) of an email to
/ nanfa-request_at_aquaria.net. For a digest version, send the command to
/ nanfa-digest-request_at_aquaria.net instead.
/ For more information about NANFA, visit our web page, http://www.nanfa.org