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  #1  
Old 02-07-2008
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Aquatic Invasive Species

Untitled Document Aquatic Invasive Species

We hear and read a lot these days about what it means to be “green” and what we can do to improve the quality of our environment. It impacts our lives in many ways; community recycling programs, hybrid automobiles, new materials that are biodegradable, and news everyday about the cost of “global warming.” Some say that what many are doing is more talk about “green” than being “green.” This leads to a lot of skepticism about the movement toward cleaner air, cleaner water, and a cleaner environment, its claims and its commitment. However it impacts us, there is little doubt that the awareness about the need to be “green” is growing and this is prompting new initiatives that may shortly move us to another level in our commitment to do more to keep the environment clean. We seem to be at a turning point in terms of public awareness and political energy.

How does this apply to boaters? Well everyone is aware of what it means to keep the waters clean; stashing trash rather than throwing it overboard, recycling, using onshore restrooms before leaving shore, avoiding fuel spills, and scrubbing desks with fresh water to limit the use of detergents.

But the other day I received a press release from BoatUS regarding another serious problem with our waterways. The problem is with Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS). “Invasive species” sounds pretty grim. Are these just small, little extra-terrestrials? No, but they are serious. Aquatic Species which are native to waterways in other areas of the world, can have a significant impact on our ecosystems when introduced to our rivers, lakes, bays and oceans. We call species that are not native to their current habitat, "exotic." Exotic species become "invasive" when they negatively affect the native ecosystem and native species by encroaching on habitat and food sources. They include both aquatic plants and aquatic animals. Invasive aquatic plants adapt to living in, on, or next to water, and can grow either submerged or partially submerged in water. Invasive aquatic animals require a watery habitat, but do not necessarily have to live entirely in water.

  Zebra mussels grow in clusters.
“So what,” you say. Aquatic Invasive Species have been introduced throughout the United States and are harming the natural resources in our ecosystems and threatening the our use of these resources. The Izaak Walton League of America estimates that invasive species cost the United States nearly $130 billion each year. That is the size of the proposed rebate program to stimulate our economy. For boaters, the impact is more direct. Aquatic Invasive Species reduce game fish and other native wildlife populations, ruin boat engines, jam steering equipment, increase the operating costs to produce drinking water and maintain our power plants, and affect human health.

Here is the story of Zebra Mussels from the University of Michigan website:

  • Zebra mussels are a barnacle-like mollusk (mussel) native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia
  • They were discovered in Lake St. Clair in 1988 and have spread to all five Great Lakes.
  • They attach themselves to hard objects such as submerged rocks, dock pilings, boat hulls, and native clams and mussels (killing them).
  • They clog water intake pipes at power plants and water treatment facilities and cost millions to control each year.
  • They have contributed to declines in Great Lakes fish, such as yellow perch.

  Watermilfoil is often transported on outboard engines.
The Eurasian watermilfoil is no better:
  • It is a submerged aquatic plant that can form thick mats in shallow areas of lakes and rivers.
  • Mats of watermilfoil can displace native aquatic plants, interfere with swimming, and entangle boat propellers. Once established, the plant is nearly impossible to eradicate.
  • Discovered in North America in the 1940s, Eurasian watermilfoil has invaded nearly every U.S. state and at least three Canadian provinces. Watermilfoil spreads by floating on water currents or clinging to boats, motors, trailers and fishing gear.

And it is not just Lake Michigan. The Water Chestnut is a problem in the Chesapeake Bay. According to ChesapeakeBay.com, Water Chestnut is an aquatic plant native to Europe, Asia and Africa. The water chestnut was introduced to the eastern United States during the 1870s. Here is the problem.

  • Water chestnut colonization creates a canopy that interrupts the passage of light through water, which is necessary to maintain a well-functioning ecosystem.
  • Water chestnut colonies crowd out and alter the habitat of many native species.
  • The dense mats created by water chestnut colonies block navigable waterways for boaters.
  • The water chestnut seed is a danger to bathers and beachcombers, its hard spikes capable of tearing through shoe leather

And just recently, The East Bay Municipal Utility District in the San Francisco Bay area restricted recreational boating in six reservoirs to prevent the spread of two non-native mussels. Boats from Southern California and San Benito and Santa Clara counties will be banned from using the six reservoirs — some of them popular recreational lakes. The goal is to prevent the spread of these mussels and to protect the water system and the environment from the severe damage that these mussels cause.

On any one day, an estimated 3,000 species are transported in the ballast water of ocean-going vessels around the world. These little devils, like the green crab, zebra mussel and Pacific jellyfish, have displaced native species and diminished biodiversity. The economic impact is enormous and the result is often a fundamental disruptions of coastal ecosystems.

Each waterway has its own unique species to be concerned with. The Great Lakes, Massachusetts waters, the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Champlain all have different kind of problems. Local, regional, and national organizations are working to contain and hopefully eliminate the problem. But they need your help.

Recreational boaters often, but unknowingly, spread the “disease.” These invaders typically hitchhike rides on trailers, boats, boating equipments, and fishing gear. But there are things we can do to reduce or eliminate the spread of these organisms. Before you leave the launch, remove all aquatic plants, mussels or other visible organisms and place in the garbage, drain water from your boat, including the motor, livewell, and bilge, and do not release live bait from one location into another.

Several websites focus on the issue of invading species, including www.protectyourwaters.net, www.izaakwaltonleague.org and www.invadingspecies.com, while many others discuss other aspects of “green boating.” You’ll find some great information at www.cleanboats.org, and www.boatus.com.

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Old 04-27-2008
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I read a differing opinion about non-native species in that they are "accelerated evolution". Species can and do spread over time. They also adapt and evolve to new climates. In the process, they almost always displace other species, such as the Mitten crab or the Asian clam in the SF Bay Area displacing native species by competing for the same food source.

In nature, it is ultimately "survival of the fittest", is it not? So the question is, is mans involvement in accelerating this ecological and evolutionary change necessarily a bad thing? Is "different" necessarily a bad thing?

What if another specie moves a specie to a place where it is not native? Such as a bird carrying a seed. The San Francisco Bay is filled with non-native copepods. Is that a bad thing if humans or other life forms do not notice? Is this really a good or bad thing?...or does it matter so long as a human does not do it? Again, is a difference caused by humankind necessarily a bad thing?

Much of it seems to boil down to what specie you are as to whether or not a new species in town is a good thing, a bad thing or has no effect.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not for non-native specie invasions. I just thought I would throw out an alternative perspective on the issue.
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Old 06-25-2008
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Being a biologist, there is alot to be said in response to some of the ideas and opinions presented here. However, one thing needs to be pointed out, in a friendly manner of course: it is always stated and/or written as "species" whether used as singular or plural.
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Old 06-25-2008
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We did a thread just like this about 8 months ago.
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Old 12-08-2008
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I have sailed mostly in Lake Ontario for more than thirty years. As a boy the problem was that phosphates were so thick that visibility in the waters was terrible. When the scourge of zebra muscles came along everyone acted as though the sky was falling - it did not do so. Every one of those muscles apparently filters sixty gallons of water a day. The water clarity improved dramatically. Yes zebra muscles attached themselves to hard objects like rocks and steel pilings but they stayed off of bottom paint like the plague. Yes I had to start using bottom paint on our run about but we always used it on our sailboat so it was no big deal. I started to fish and you should see the largemouth bass, pike and yellow perch we have caught over the years - yes there are some large fish and they are in good healthy numbers. Overall my comparision is that the water quality has improved dramatically as a result of their presence. I am not too old but old enough to remember what it was like before they were here and what it has been like since they arrived - I see no harm done as a result.
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Old 03-01-2009
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Water quality has indeed been improved in the Great Lakes since the introduction of zebra muscles in the mid 80's. The down side that is frequently missed by those who equate clear water with water quality is the very rapid growth of these invaders on city water intakes and powerlant intakes. In some cases plants had to be shut down so that intakes could be cleaned. In addition, anyone who has been to a Great Lake beach knows that now bathers need to wear protective footwear to guard against the very nasty cuts caused by stepping on hard surfaces such as rocks and other freshwater bivalves that are infested with zebra muscles. After reading the first post in this thread I find it somewhat curious that anyone could make the case that zebra muscles do no harm.

Last edited by racer; 03-01-2009 at 08:57 PM. Reason: content
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Old 04-06-2009
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The problem is most prevalent on cargo ships with ballast tanks. Fortunately technology has now been developed which blasts the ballast tanks with microwaves, killing all life within them.

Obviously with the large amount of leisure boats in the waters they too pose a serious risk
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Old 04-14-2009
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Treating ballast water is not as simple as it seems. UV light treatments and microwave treatments have both been shown to be effective, however both can also be cost/time prohibitive to shipping companies that are already feeling the heat of a stressed economy. Passing legislation making treatment mandatory is a whole different ball of wax.

The invasive species that are already in a new environment are likely to be there forever. Once an invasion has occurred, it's sadly too late. The key then becomes early detection and monitoring to stop the spread to other others.

Organizations like Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Commission are working hard to come up with solutions to this difficult social-political-economical-environmental problem.
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Old 07-27-2009
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Ballast water management plans are already mandatory for ships calling on U.S. ports (and many other countries). Ballast water exchange in the open ocean is by far the most common management technique but filtration and UV and biocidal treatments are used as well.
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Old 09-07-2011
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[QUOTE=Chris12345;771243]Just remember that y'all are an invasive species, too.

If you are sailors, even an aquatic one.[/QUOTE]

Yep, we are the most invasive species on this little planet. We even want to invade other planets.
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