A tiny water flea could cause major
headaches for anglers and cottagers in central Canada
this summer as the latest invasive species makes inroads
into inland lakes.
The spiny water flea, native to waters around Great Britain
and the Caspian Sea, was first spotted in the Great Lakes
in the 1980s, likely brought here in the ballast water
"They're certainly spreading year by year
quite rapidly and from lake to lake," said Norman Yan,
a York University biologist studying the species in Dorset,
"They were in all of the Great Lakes by the end of the
1980s and first spotted in other lakes in 1989. Then they
spread to 50 other lakes that we're aware of."
The spiny water flea with its barbed tail is just the
latest of 160 species introduced to the Great Lakes basin
over the past 500 years.
It has already caused sports anglers to cancel fishing
trips that feed the northern tourist economy and might
precipitate a drop in lakefront property prices.
"We do know that in Canada and the U.S., when a lake gets
a bloom of these things and word gets out, people will
cancel a fishing trip," said Hugh MacIsaac, a professor
at University of Windsor's Great Lakes Institute for Environmental
As fishers troll for fish, their lines drag behind the
boat. In a lake full of spiny water fleas, the lines cut
through clumps of fleas, MacIsaac said, creating a "major
"Animals in the water get snagged by the (fleas') tails
on fishing line ... What you end up getting is a whole
mass of animals accumulating on these spots on the fishing
"When you retrieve the fishing line you can't do it --
the ball won't fit through the eyelet on your fishing
Biologists such as MacIsaac and Yan are tracking the fleas,
asking the public to report sightings to the ministry
of natural resources' invading-species hotline, so they
can predict where the creature will thrive next.
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