Erosion Control

Devouring the Problem

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In a blog on the Stormwater magazine site a couple of years ago, I mentioned a battle taking place in the Great Lakes; invasive lampreys destroy about 100 million pounds of fish each year, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has been spending $20 million a year to try to control them. Researchers had begun using synthesized pheromones to attract the lampreys to specific areas and poisoning them.

Lampreys are just one of the non-native species—albeit one of the more destructive ones—to affect the Great Lakes; others include the Asian carp and the zebra mussel. But other places in the world also suffer from invasive species, and they have different ways of dealing with them. Sometimes, they eat them.

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In Berlin, the local waterways have become overrun with North American crawfish. Officials’ best guess is that aquarium owners released the freshwater invaders. The crawfish are now thriving in the wild, taking over habitat from local shellfish and other animals. Even worse, many of them carry a fungus that we in North America consider fairly harmless, but which is killing the more susceptible European species of crawfish.

Under Germany’s poaching laws, it has until now been illegal to catch the North American crawfish, but that just changed. The city has awarded a single fishing license to a family-owned company, allowing it—encouraging it—to catch as many of the crawfish as it can by the end of the year. Hoping to maximize profits, the company’s 64-year-old owner is trying to convince local restaurants to purchase his catch and add Cajun dishes like gumbo and étouffée to their menus.

The city’s goal is to eliminate the North American crawfish within a few months. There’s a danger, I suppose, that if the new menu items become popular enough, restaurant owners might try to import more of them.

I haven’t been able to find much information on how the lamprey experiment is going; presumably, research is still underway. But as we’ve discussed in Erosion Control, the fight against invasive plants and animals has had a mixed history of success. EC_bug_web

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  1. “Presumably’ research is stil going on? ‘Presumably?” Is it? What are the results? I clicked on the article to find out.

  2. Well, Kudzu is rampant in the south, and shows no signs of going away. It was imported to control erosion, but has been a big bust. Bamboo, imported as an ornamental, is very invasive and difficult to contain.

    Boa Constrictors are a menace in Florida, Nutria (giant swamp rats) are destroying areas in Louisiana. Rabbits have become a huge problem in Australia, and the Norway Rat is everywhere.

    When international commerce begins, invasive species follow, however most of the worst problems have occurred with pets being released into the wild.

  3. They’re actually pythons in Florida, not boa constrictors, but the list of invasive plants and animals is endless. When this Country was settled by the English they appointed a Commission charged with stocking the discovered continent with plants and animals they felt were needed. Thus we have the starling, house sparrow and blue pigeon, just to name a couple. Here in New York State we have entire environmental programs devoted to raising and stocking non-native species. Brown trout (not native to this continent), rainbow trout and Pacific Salmon (not native east of the Mississippi) are all raised and stocked to support sport fishing. Countless native species of minnows, crustaceans, vertebrates, and invertebrates are threatened or have been wiped out by these voracious predators. Yet every sporting license purchased in the great state of New York helps support these programs. Historically I find it ironic that hunting was considered the demise to extinction of the native Passenger Pigeon, whose population was estimated in the billions, when it’s much more likely that an avian disease carried by an English pigeon (or other introduced bird)would be so effective as to wipe out that large a population. Hunters get a lot of blame without much proof. They’re an easy target, no pun intended. And actually thanks to conservation programs paid for by hunters we have successful returns of species like the Eastern wild turkey and Elk. Most environmental management in New York State, and in the country, is based on politics, not sound scientific principles. Just my two cents.

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