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Education recommended to prevent spread of invasive species
The Associated Press
09/26/02

CHICAGO - A sushi restaurant discards fish eggs that later end up in a waterway.

A child dumps a pet turtle into a local lake that eventually empties into the ocean.

The examples seem innocuous enough, but they show how people can unwittingly introduce invasive species, which are non-native plants, animals or parasites that affect oceans and lakes, in the nation's waters.

Panelists speaking before the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy on Wednesday recommended education as one of several ways to prevent the problem from spreading.

"There is a real lack of knowledge out there about what's going on. It's more than just informing people. It's getting them engaged, getting them to care," said Ted Beattie, a member of the commission and president and chief executive officer of the John G. Shedd Aquarium.

Aquariums can play a role by creating exhibits that discuss invasive species and show how they can affect people's lives, he said.

"The more specific we can get, the more effective it can be. We need to make sure the impact of the invasive species hits home," Beattie said.

The commission met at the Shedd Aquarium to hear presentations on coastal and ocean issues concerning the Great Lakes region. Commissioners will use the information they received at the meeting to create recommendations for a national ocean policy.

Examples of the impact of invasive species are easy to find even in urban settings such as Chicago, said Lori Williams, executive director of the National Invasive Species Council. They include the collapse of the lake trout fishery because of invasive sea lamprey in the 1950s, the effect on the Chicago shoreline caused by the zebra mussel and the concern that big head carp could soon enter the Great Lakes.

Many invasive species are introduced accidentally in various ways, including through the ballast water of ships, she said.

Jeffrey Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program at The Ohio State University, said education on the issue is needed but should be entertaining. For example, he said signs could be posted along lines for rides at amusement or water parks that present information about invasive species in an entertaining way.

"No one wants to stand in line and read what a professor would put in a textbook," he said.

James Watkins, a retired U.S. Navy admiral who is chairman of the commission, asked panelists to give the commission more information about the problem of invasive species and the importance of educating the public about it.

"These are the kind of things the commission can help with but we have to have specifics," he said. "We don't see the negative impact as often. You have to show us why this is bad."

© Copyright 2002 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.


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