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Great Lakes Article:

Exotic Species
War on invasive species continues
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times
Published July 2004, posted online Sept. 7th, 2004

DULUTH, Minn. A small pond on the University of Minnesota campus is serving as ground zero for testing of a national program to combat invasive fish and plant species. Participants include the Minnesota Sea Grant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

"The project seeks to prevent the release of aquarium and water garden fish and plants through an education campaign that involves large aquarium-fish retailers, such as PetCo, Wal-Mart and many private outlets," reported Minnesota Sea Grant (MSG).

The group is developing a logo and slogan that will be attached to bags in which fish are carried home from stores. It also will be used on stickers attached to new tanks, as well as in brochures and hobby magazine ads.

"The informational signs used in the Rock Pond project will serve as templates for similar situations across the country," the MSG added.

Because it was filled with goldfish, koi and rusty crawfish (all nuisance exotics), Rock Pond recently was pumped dry. That was done to keep the invasives from escaping the 2-acre pond, which drains into Tischer Creek and, eventually, into Lake Superior. Cost of the project is estimated to be $50,000.

"Unfortunately, Rock Pond appears to be the local dump for unwanted fish by aquarium or water garden owners," said Doug Jensen, coordinator of MSG's Aquatic Invasive Species Information Center.

"The goldfish species could get into local waters unless we make people aware of the issue," he continued. "Fortunately, there's a remedy for the Rock Pond situation because it's a constructed pond with an outflow that needs rebuilding. If similar releases occurred in other area lakes or rivers, attempts to eradicate or control the spread would be extremely costly."

Or even impossible.

Just such a concern is occupying resource managers in Virginia and Maryland these days with the recent discovery of snakehead fish in the Potomac River. (See related story.) If a reproducing population exists there, it could spread up every tributary and down into Chesapeake Bay.

"While not as nasty as snakehead fish . . . goldfish are just as illegal to release into local waterways," cautioned the MSG.

The organization added that more than 38 species of problematic fish and "dozens of plants, crawfish and snails" have been accidentally released into fresh and marine waters of the United States by aquarium and water garden owners.

"Releases of potentially invasive species can impact the economy, recreation and the environment," the MSG report added. "They can cause impaired water quality, clogged waterways, competition and hybridization with native species and diseases. While environmental and economic consequences for most species are unknown, impacts of some infestations have cost millions of dollars for control and management."

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