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Putting out the welcome mat for invasive species by Ron Kolodziej

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - Updated: 7:21 AM

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation remains concerned about the introduction and spread of invasive species in the state’s waterways, and will pursue a uniform, national ballast water standard that will leave in place the Environmental Protection Agency’s current standards at least through November 2013.

While I applaud their concern, and this action, where were all the state and federal agencies in the early 1950s when the St. Lawrence Seaway project was begun? The Seaway opened for traffic to ocean-going vessels in 1959, and I can recall expressing my fears of invasive species introductions to various agencies back then (I was a college student at the time).

Not only would this canal system offer unfettered access to the Great Lakes by all sorts of unwanted aquatic visitors, but the ballast tanks on these various vessels could be and would be emptied at various locations and times, dumping all manner of critters into our waters.

Few officials responded to my letters. Those that did merely told me not to worry about it, that there were safeguards in place to prevent this from happening. So much for safeguards; we now have Zebra mussels, Quagga mussels, round gobies, sea lampreys, Eurasian ruffe, spiny water fleas, Asian carp and other foreign visitors, including all sorts of plant life.

According to the EPA, 30 percent of invasive species have been introduced in the Great Lakes system through ballast water. In the early 1990s the U.S. Coast Guard began requiring ships to exchange their ballast water, or seal their ballast tanks, for the duration of their stay here.

All well and good, but where was everyone during the three-plus decades from 1959 to the early 1990s? Instituting all sorts of safeguards in the 1990s was like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

WHAT A SURPRISE

The EPA is also “studying” how invasive species have become established in the Great Lakes hopes these “studies” will help in developing new techniques to predict future invasions. Great. If you read between the lines, the EPA and DEC by extension fully expect there to be future “invasions” by other unwanted species.

In addition, there are other groups who insist the EPA’s standards don’t go far enough and kow-tow to shipping industries instead. According to those groups, EPA’s actions will require only half of all ships to have installed treatment facilities by 2016, with the other half dragging off until 2021.

They describe EPA’s actions as too little and too late to protect the environment and the economy.

CRAPPIE IN RAQUETTE

Now comes news that crappie have been discovered in Raquette Lake. While technically not an invasive species, they are a non-native species. If a population is already established it probably won’t be too long before they’ll be found in every body of water throughout the watershed that connects to the lake.

Crappie are known for their fecundity and in a dozen years or less they’ll be in every lake in the area. According to best estimates, a “bait bucket biologist” likely introduced them to the lake.

They survived and now are on their way to eventual numerical dominance within the fish population. That’s one of the reasons the DEC instituted the baitfish regulations, to prevent something like this from happening. It’s happened before and will likely happen again, but that doesn’t make it a wise move.

If crappie were deliberately planted, the “planter” could face charges. Even if unintentional, the ramifications could be unpleasant.

CROWD OUT TROUT

Crappies will compete with the lake’s current fish populations and it may be difficult in the future to catch many brookies or other trout in the lake. Crappies are a pleasure to catch and they do taste good, but I like catching them in “crappie lakes” where they don’t compete with more desirable species.

For your information, the state record black crappie weighed in at 3 pounds, 12 ounces and was caught in Duck Lake in Cayuga County in 1998; the top white crappie weighed 3 pounds, 13 ounces and came from Sleepy Hollow Lake in Greene County in 2001.

COMING EVENTS

Just a reminder that the statewide walleye, northern pike, tiger muskie and pickerel seasons close in just about two more weeks, Wednesday, March 15. That date also marks the day all ice fishing shanties must be removed from the ice cover on area lakes.

     

Comments made about this article - 1 Total

Posted By: Pat Deyle On: 3/2/2012

Title: Invasive article March 2, 2012

I am the one who first reported Crappie in Raquette Lake to the DEC last August, and have for infor on what Crappie will do if they get out of Raquette Lake via the River to Forked and Long Lake then to Tupper with their Walley populations. I tried the email one of you associates gave me on the phone but it failed rjolodzj@nycap.rr.com

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