species migrate to Great Lakes
Paula Evans Neuman
The News Herald
are invading the area.
Even their names
- tube-nose goby, bighead carp, spiny water flea - are
out of this world, seemingly more suitable for Muppets
than creatures of the deep.
But the more than
160 invasive aquatic species brought to the Great Lakes
in the ballast water of ships from foreign ports are no
They imperil the
health and productivity of the Great Lakes.
"Weíve got this
million-dollar walleye fishery here, and itís in danger,"
said Trenton resident John Hartig, navigator of the Greater
Detroit American Heritage River Initiative and a Wayne
State University professor of environmental management.
"So is our perch
fishery. Our economy is based on the fisheries, and itís
our way of life. We need to be tackling this."
Hartig is a former
president of the International Association for Great Lakes
Research, a group of 900 scientists from the U.S. and
The scientists are
calling for a 10-year target to eliminate new introductions
of exotic species to the Great Lakes, and at least $30
million a year more in federal funding to reach the goal.
the amount of money thatís gone into researching exotic
species in other areas of the country, we are woefully
underfunded for the Great Lakes," Hartig said.
The Great Lakes are
the largest freshwater ecosystem on earth, not counting
the polar ice caps.
Last month, the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality announced that $600,000
from the stateís Great Lakes Protection Fund would go
to studying invasive species.
species are one of the greatest threats to the health
of the Great Lakes ecosystem," DEQ Director Russell
But $600,000 is a
mere "drop in the bucket" compared to whatís
needed, Hartig said.
Over the last 85
years, 79 varieties of alien species have cost the U.S.
economy nearly $100 billion, according to a 1993 report
by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment.
and relatively small annual funding requested by the (Bush)
administration and provided by Congress, and the funds
available through Canadian agencies, are not sufficient
for substantive progress," says a recent report by
The scientists want
to develop better systems of treating ballast water discharged
by ocean-going ships that enter the Great Lakes.
Last month, attorneys
general from four states including Michigan sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency to force the feds to regulate
ballast water discharges.
If the EPA doesnít
regulate ballast, individual states will each have to
craft their own legislation, according to court documents
from the suit.
monitor in-bound goods and products to North America to
prevent alien species from arriving as "hitchhikers,"
the IAGLR report says.
But no similar programs
exist to evaluate risk from vessels entering the Great
Lakes, other than "mandatory ballast exchange for
vessels carrying fresh or brackish water."
The scientists of
the IAGLR also are calling for more research on the bait,
aquarium and aquaculture industries.
of baitfish, aquarium species, and aquaculture species
such as the bighead carp are another vector for alien
species that enter the Great Lakes.
of Asian carp - bighead, silver and black - are poised
to move from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes,"
the IAGLR report says.
(were) originally raised in farm ponds primarily in Arkansas
for plankton and mollusk control in aquaculture."
An electrical fish-repelling
barrier in a canal is the only thing preventing the alien
carp from entering Lake Michigan.
Asian carp grow to
4-feet-long and 100 pounds, eat native fish and have no
known predators in North America.
The earliest record
of an aquatic species invasion in the Great Lakes is the
sea lamprey, first introduced from the Atlantic Ocean
via the Erie Canal during the 1820s, the IAGLR report
By the 1950s, the
sea lamprey, eel-like fish that suck the body fluids out
of large fish, had reduced the lake trout population in
Superior and Huron from 15 million pounds caught each
year to 300,000 pounds.
By 1992, the cost
of controlling the sea lamprey rose to $10 million a year,
according court documents from the statesí lawsuit.
Also of concern are
alien bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoans and microalgae,
which have received little attention so far, the IAGLR
Zebra mussels, introduced
from the ballast water of European vessels in the 1980s,
apparently are responsible for the decline in Lake Michiganís
yellow perch population, although more research is needed,
the report says.