cite economic perils of lake invaders Tom Henry
Invasive aquatic species cause billions of dollars of damage
per year to North America’s economy - especially the Great
Fears are rising as to the amount of havoc those invaders
could wreak upon the sport and commercial fishing industries,
which are worth $4.5 billion a year and are responsible
for 81,000 jobs.
Dire economic warnings were issued in separate reports yesterday
by the U.S. General Accounting Office and Canada’s Environmental
Auditor General’s Office. The GAO is the investigative arm
Those well-versed in biological impacts said they are glad
the pocketbook effects are being laid out more clearly.
"We’re particularly pleased they’ve catalogued the economic
harm and not just the ecosystem harm because those two are
linked," Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation’s
Great Lakes office in Ann Arbor, said.
Citing varying reports by the U.S. Office of Technology
Assessment and Cornell University, the GAO agreed the cumulative
effect is well into the billions, but said the total is
so staggering it’s virtually impossible to quantify.
For a glimpse of the Great Lakes problem, consider this:
Zebra mussels alone cost municipalities and industries in
this region some $69 million to remove and keep away from
their water intakes from 1989 through 1995.
The mussels are only one of 146 types of invaders that have
entered the lake chain since the early 1800s - more than
a third of which arrived in the past 30 years. Control costs
do not begin to address the money spent trying to protect
native fish populations or revenue lost by motel operators,
bait shops, and the tourism industry built around those
Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission,
a U.S.-Canada government agency in Ann Arbor, said more
than $250 million has been spent over the past 50 years
trying to combat the vampire-like sea lamprey. The lamprey,
which suck blood and other body fluids out of native fish,
nearly wiped out the valuable lake trout.
On the horizon is a battle with Asian carp, a voracious
eater that escaped Arkansas hatcheries after being brought
to this continent to combat algae. The carp, which grow
to 50 pounds, have migrated north along the Mississippi
River and are poised to enter Lake Michigan at Chicago.
"I haven’t seen biologists this scared in a long time,"
Mr. Gaden said.
The GAO report said that federal inspection regulations
aren’t strong enough to prevent invasive species from slipping
into U.S. waterways in the residue at the bottom of incoming
The solution might rest with eco-unfriendly ideas, such
as chlorinating the tanks. But, as Mr. Buchsbaum noted:
"We are concerned about solving one problem by creating
Invasive species were highlighted in last month’s biennial
report to the U.S. and Canada governments by the International
Joint Commission, a 93-year-old agency that helps the two
nations resolve boundary water issues.
The problem was a running theme of last week’s biennial
State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference in Cleveland hosted
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment
Canada. The EPA’s Chicago office said invasive species are
Lake Erie’s biggest issue.
"The question is, are we really taking this seriously enough,
and it sounds like the GAO thinks we are not," said Dr.
Jeff Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant director.
Jeff Busch, executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission
in Toledo, said that western Lake Erie’s sport fishing remains
popular - so far.
"I don’t think the end point [with invasive species] has
been reached yet. It’s difficult to tell where it’s all
heading," he said.
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