We have heard about invasive species like sea lamprey and zebra mussels, and the damage they can do in Lake Champlain. Now, a new invasive species threatens to move into the region. A partnership of environmentalists and sportsmen is teaming up in an effort to stop it.
The invasive species is known as the spiny water flea. Unless preventive measures are put in place immediately, the pest could become a real problem for trout and other sports fish in the lake.
Bill Howland, who manages the Lake Champlain Basin Program, told WCAX News, "There's a number of species that are in the Great Lakes now that we really don't want here."
Howland says the spiny water flea is not a flea at all, but a crustacean, about a centimeter long. It eats the same organisms that smaller fish feed on. It showed up in the Great Sacandaga Lake near Glens Falls, N.Y., just last October. That lake feeds into the Champlain Canal.
James Ehlers of the Lake Champlain International Fishing Derby said, "The spiny water flea is just a seven-mile canal feeder ride away from Lake Champlain."
Ehlers said the water flea has the potential to devastate the fishery. "And once it's here, it's here," he said. "And then we will find out what its true impacts are, and we may be sorry we ever did at that point."
Lake advocates say one strategy is to urge fishermen to check their boats whenever they leave one body of water for another. Drain the bilge, clean all gear. Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has stepped up with around $100,000 in federal funding to study another strategy to keep spiny water fleas from migrating to other waters in the Champlain basin. With avenues of entry from both the north and the south, the Champlain basin is vulnerable.
Meg Modley, Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator for the Basin Program, said, "We are working with parties with the New York State Canal Corporation and others in the New York State DEC, and even in Vermont, to address the need for a feasibility study for a filtration system or some kind of barrier to prevent the spread of this species into Lake Champlain."
Howland said one advantage of an aggressive program to prevent the spread of invasive species is that it should work against 140 other non-native species found in the Great Lakes that have not migrated into Lake Champlain -- at least yet.
Howland added, "We don't want it in Saranac Lake, we don't want it in Waterbury Reservoir, we don't want it in Lake Elmore. So there are many, many small efforts that collectively are vital."
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