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Local Fishing Guide Participates in Discussion About Stopping Asian Carp

August 9th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Alexandria Bay fishing guide Matt Heath, owner of Seaway Charters, took part in a Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, basin-wide discussion about the threat of Asian Carp and what is needed to prevent their spread to the Lakes and River.

The meeting, organized by Freshwater Future, included guides from Illinois, Michigan, Ontario, Ohio and Matt.

Their conclusion: Physical separation is the only effective way to prevent the spread of Asian Carp.

As Matt pointed out, “We know from experience that aquatic invasive species have devastating impacts on the Great Lakes all the way down the St. Lawrence River. Preventing future invasions is crucial to protect our waters. Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin have invested time and resources to close their connections, and it’s time we finally shut the front door to keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.”

From the Freshwater Future press release: “Asian carp are voracious eaters, eating up to 20% of their body weight. They spawn rapidly, and can grow to more than 4 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds. To make matters worse, silver carp are easily startled and will jump up to 8 feet out of the water when disturbed by a passing boat. These fish have injured boaters in several states. These destructive fish dominate whole ecosystems, outcompeting native fish, like perch, bass, and walleye, for food and resources. . . Global biological invasions, including the potential carp invasion of the Great Lakes, could cost an estimated $1.4 trillion per year in damages – 5 percent of the global economy.”

We really appreciate Matt speaking out and participating in this very important issue. And we appreciate Freshwater Future for giving local voices a chance to speak out.

More at: Charter Boat Captains from Around the Region Calling on Congress to Separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River

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Congresswoman Stefanik works to remove Bad Ballast Bill tucked Into Defense Authorization Act

May 31st, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and conservation groups around the country are working to ensure the Environmental Protection Agency retains its authority to clean up ballast water discharges.


As reported by the Watertown Daily Times in a May 27, 2016 story by Brian Molongoski, “Non-defense-related legislation tucked away in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, would remove the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority in regulating ballast water discharge from cargo vessels.” The story was also covered by ABC and other media.

Exempt from the Clean Water Act?

Exempt from the Clean Water Act?

Two weeks ago we asked you to contact your Congressperson to stop this from happening. Many of you responded and Congresswoman Stefanik heard you. And although she did what she could, the “must pass” Defense Authorization Act was approved the House of Representatives with language rolling back Clean Water Act protections from the threat of invasive species in ships’ ballast water that our River, and the Great Lakes now have.


Your calls made a difference. Ms. Stefanik has vowed to continue to work to remove the “Vessel Incidental Discharge Act” language from the defense bill.


Let her know you appreciate her efforts and that you support her work to protect the St. Lawrence River. Call her office at (202) 225-4611 or send an email by going to:


This type of advocacy takes resources. If you would like to contribute to our efforts by becoming a member please click here. And keep coming back for updates.





:  (202) 225-4611
or send an email by going to:
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Tell Congress: Do Not Weaken Ballast Water Rules – Keep New Invasives Out of the St. Lawrence River!

May 16th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

After years of struggle the federal government is requiring shippers to take action to clean up their ballast water discharges and stop the introduction of new invasive species.

We on the St. Lawrence River know all too well the scourge of invasive species introduced through the discharge of ballast water into our River and the Great Lakes. Zebra mussels, round goby, eurasian milfoil, and VHS have disrupted the River’s fragile ecosystem, displaced or decimated native species and cost millions each year in eradication efforts and lost economic activity.

Using the clear authority of the Clean Water Act, shippers are finally being required to clean up their act and their ballast water.

But now the House of Representatives is considering a bill that will undo the progress made and once again open the spigot to aquatic invasive species.Ballast Water Discharge

Language that will essentially remove shipping from the requirements of the Clean Water Act has been added to the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 4909), a bill that is considered a “must pass” piece of legislation.

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) is a tremendous step backward for the River and Great Lakes and opens these great waterbodies to the threat of a new wave of invaders.

We need you to contact your Congress person today and tell them “no rollback of Clean Water Protections from invasive species – no VIDA in HR 4909.

If your Congress person is Elise Stefanik:

call her at:  (202) 225-4611

or send an email by going to:

If you vote in a different Congressional District, but love the River and want to protect it from new invasives, you can find contact information for your Congress person here:

Suggested script for a call or email. Personalizing it will give it greater impact:

“I urge Congresswoman Stefanik to oppose the inclusion of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act in HR 4909, the National Defense Authorization Act. Its provisions remove Clean Water Act protections for the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes from the threat of invasive species in ballast water discharges. It is critical to the health of the River and the economy of communities all along it to stop the introduction of new invasive species.”

Please SHARE this with others who also want a healthy St. Lawrence River. Ask them to call their representative in Congress too.

Once you make the call let us know on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #NoVIDA.

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What makes a species invasive?

February 26th, 2016 | Posted by admin

From the National Wildlife Federation

“Invasive species” — it doesn’t sound very threatening, does it? But these invaders, large and small, have devastating effects on U.S. wildlife. Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife. Approximately 42% of Threatened or Endangered species are at risk primarily due to invasive species.

Human health and economies are also at risk from invasive species. The impacts of invasive species on our natural ecosystems and economy cost billions of dollars each year. Many of our commercial, agricultural, and recreational activities depend on healthy native ecosystems.

What makes a species invasive?

round goby

An invasive species does not have to come from another country. For example, lake trout are native to the Great Lakes, but are considered to be an invasive species in Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming because they compete with native cutthroat trout for habitat. An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad pictured left), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes harm.  They can harm the environment, the economy or even, human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label of “invasive”

What you can do to help curb the spread of invasive species

  • Plant native plants and remove any invasive plants in your garden. There are many good native plant alternatives to common exotic ornamental plants.
  • Learn to identify invasive species in your area. Report any sightings to your county extension agent or local land manager. Learn more about invasive species in your state.
  • Regularly clean your boots, gear, boat, tires and any other equipment you use outdoors to remove insects and plant parts that may spread invasive species to new places.
  • When camping, buy firewood near your campsite (within 30 miles) instead of bringing your own from home, and leave any extra for the next campers. Invertebrates and plants can easily hitch a ride on firewood you haul to or from a campsite — you could inadvertently introduce an invasive to a new area.

For more information visit:

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Formidable invasive species won’t be easy to keep out of Great Lakes

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by admin

Invasive species are huge threat to the ecosystems along the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Save The River’s Clean-Up the Ballast Campaign is focused on stopping aquatic invasive species introductions by tackling the primary source – ship ballast tanks.

Formidable invasive species won’t be easy to keep out of Great Lakes by Dan Egan is a great article showcasing the threats and damage caused by aquatic invasive species and how these pesky species enter our waterways. Below is an excerpt from the article. Click here to view the full story.

Haphazard’ hunts for fresh invasions

The pace of invasive species being discovered in the Great Lakes peaked about a decade ago, when a new invader was detected, on average, more than once a year.

To stanch the onslaught, starting in 2008 all Great Lakes-bound overseas vessels were required to flush their ballast tanks in mid-ocean to expel any ballast dwelling organisms, or kill them with a blast of saltwater. No new invader has been detected in the lakes since — a point shipping industry advocates are quick to tout.

Research shows that a saltwater ballast flush can go a long way in killing most freshwater tank dwellers. But most biologists don’t think that’s enough because even if flushing ballast tanks with saltwater eliminates 98 or even more than 99% of certain classes of hitchhikers, boats arriving from ports around the globe are far from sterile.

One Great Lakes-bound freighter can carry enough ballast to fill 10 Olympic-size swimming pools. These tanks can hold not only water but also swamps of sediment that can be teeming with all manner of organisms in all different life stages, from fish eggs to microscopic zooplankton to dormant cysts that evolved over millions of years to survive most anything nature can toss at them.

A 2011 federal report looking at the threat of ballast water to all U.S. ports noted that a study conducted in Australia revealed that sediments from just one freighter ballast tank can harbor up to 300 million viable cysts of primitive dinoflagellates, which scientists dub the “cells from hell” because they can produce a deadly neurotoxin. So a flush that eliminates 99% of this ballast tank’s inhabitants could still carry 3 million potential invaders

That’s just one ballast tank, and that’s just one species.

UWM’s Strickler says there are plenty of freshwater organisms that will indeed wither when hit with a blast of saltwater.

But he considers these species pushovers. He works with animals that, depending on their life stage, can withstand everything from water fresh enough to drink to brews far brinier than the ocean.

“Most of my animals can survive salinity,” Strickler says with a wry smile as he slowly closes his eyes, “they just go to sleep.”

Most biologists, meanwhile, believe it is naïve to think the ballast problem has been solved simply because it’s been several years since a new lake invader has been detected. Sleeper colonies can lurk for years — even decades — before their numbers grow big enough to get noticed. Great Lakes species discoveries also tend to be utterly accidental — a fisherman hauls up a strange cluster of slimy critters coating his nets; students doing a routine survey of a lake bottom stumble upon something their professor doesn’t recognize.

Ballast Image

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Protecting Our North Country Wonders from Ecological Predators

February 22nd, 2016 | Posted by admin

In our observance of National Invasive Species Week we are pleased to share this presentation from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. We recently worked together on an Invasive Species Summit with the congresswoman and other stakeholders across our region aiming to stop the spread of invasive species and mitigate the damage already done.

From Congresswoman Elise Stefanik: Protecting Our North Country Wonders from Ecological Predators

From Lake George, to the St. Lawrence Seaway, to the pristine waters of Lake Champlain, and all of the beautiful mountains and maple trees that run between — our district is home to many ecological treasures.

Sadly, many of these natural wonders have fallen under siege to invasive species that threaten the health and beauty of our natural habitats. When our natural habitats become overrun by species that are not native to these areas, they can damage the environment, pose health risks and even hurt our local economy.

Our environment is our lifeblood in Upstate New York, and we must protect it from these predators to help boost our economy and to ensure we protect our environment for future generations.

This is why, on February 5th, I was proud to join with stakeholders who have been working tirelessly on this issue across our district and across New York State at an Invasive Species Summit in Clayton. Attendees included — Save the RiverThe Fund for Lake George, and representatives from our local and state government as well as officials from the Canadian government, who have been working tirelessly to stop the spread of invasive species and mitigate the damage already done.

Together we explored best practices and information sharing, as well as ideas for working on innovative new solutions to stop this epidemic.

One of the most important things we can do as a community is work together to ensure that our friends and neighbors have the information needed to identify these invasive predators. With this in mind, I wanted to share three common invasive species that threaten our North Country habitats.

invasives map

Map courtesy of the USDA Forest Service

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It’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week

February 21st, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Something We on the River Know Too Much About

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is this week, February 21st-27th. Non-native plants, animals and pathogens harm humans and the environment and cause significant negative impact to our nation and the River region’s economy.

Invasive species have always been a threat to the River. To-date 186 invasive species have been documented in the Great Lakes and River.  Almost 60 aquaticAsian Carp invasive species have been introduced by way of ballast water since opening the Lakes and River to ocean-going ships. The resulting harm to indigenous species has cost many millions of dollars in control and mitigation efforts.

Even with increased regulations commercial shipping still poses a threat and opens the door for new invasive species to enter the River. And relatively new research has produced a list of ten species of eastern European fishes that are at high-risk of invading the Great Lakes and causing significant harm if they are successful even with strict enforcement of saltwater flushes of the ballast of ocean-going ships.

The threat of Asian Carp has been an imminent danger to the Great Lakes and River. Other threats include the live trade of exotic plants and animals and the transport of recreational boats and equipment from one waterbody to another without proper cleaning – an all too common practice that poses a threat to all waters when owners use their boats in different locations.

Last year New York State took a step forward to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and to protect our waters. Now all boats and floating docks launched in New York State must be clean of plant or animal matter. The intent of the new law is to prevent the spread of invasive species from one waterbody to another.

Cleaning your boat and trailer between waterbodies has long been a best practice to stop the spread of invasives. We hope that the state will follow up with extensive public outreach and education. Voluntary compliance is always preferable to enforcement.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is developing new regulations that will more clearly define how boaters must clean their vessels before entering the water. For a step-by-step guide on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species visit:

For more information on DEC boating regulations visit:

For more information about invasive species click here.

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Save The River and SLELO-Prism Host Workshop on Outreach for Aquatic Species

September 24th, 2015 | Posted by admin

[Clayton, New York] Monday, September 21st, Save The River and SLELO-Prism hosted Bruce Lauber and Nancy Connelly of Cornell University’s Human Dimensions Research Unit. Mr. Lauber and Ms. Connelly presented the results of recent research on communication and outreach practices about aquatic invasive species.

Topics covered included what anglers, boaters, and bait dealers think and do about invasive species, the effectiveness of various outreach messages and methods. The capacity for additional outreach was also shared. A round table discussion followed on how to use the research results to increase behavior to prevent the spread of invasive species resulting from outreach efforts.

Attending were representatives of Save The River, SLELO- Prism, New York State Department of Conservation, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Fort Drum Division of Natural Resources and Thousand Islands Land Trust.

“We are pleased to host this event because invasive species are the scourge of our River and of waterways throughout New York State.  Any effort we can make to improve education and to prevent the transport of these environmentally and economically harmful organisms is important,” stated Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River Executive Director.

Kate Breheny, Save The River’s Program Manager said, “These topics go hand and hand with the work we do though our Riverkeeper Volunteer Monitoring Program and trainings. This year we trained over 250 volunteers and will to continue to grow the topics covered and increase our work with invasive species recognition and reporting.”

SLELO-Prism is the St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, a collaborative effort between a large and diverse group of partners, including Save The River, throughout the region to protect the natural and cultural of integrity of aqutic and terrestrial areas of from invasive species.

For more information on aquatic invasive species and what you can do to prevent the spread of them visit or contact Kate Breheny at 315-686-2010.

STR SLELO Workshop

Emily Sheridan, NYSDEC, Rebecca Martin, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Megan Pistolese, SLELO-Prism, Robin Tubolino, Thousand Islands Land Trust, Nancy Connelly, Cornell University, Bruce Lauber, Cornell University, Kate Breheny, Save The River

Published in the Thousand Islands Sun on September 23, 2015.

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Invasive Species Awareness Week Ends, But Not the Invasions?

July 18th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Heard of Caspian Sea Kilka? Black Sea Silverstripe? Black-striped Pipefish? Monkey (not Round) Goby?

Not yet? But maybe soon. These may be the next wave of invaders to swarm the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes.

Which of these is next?

Which of these is next?

Groundbreaking research by scientists at Buffalo State College, translating (from Russian) and analyzing previously unpublished research on Ponto-Caspian fish species, have identified these four species among forty-two as having a high risk potential of surviving current treatment methods and successfully establishing breeding populations in our already overtaxed and reeling waterbodies.

The Seaway and international shippers frequently state: “Since the latest measures [salt water flushes of ballast water tanks] were introduced in 2006, no new aquatic nuisance species have been discovered in the Great Lakes due to shipping.” Chamber of Marine Commerce

This new research calls the longterm effectiveness of salt water flushes into question. To quote the scientists, “Our results also indicate that ballast water exchange, if carried out according to current regulations governing shipping in the Great Lakes, should reduce but not eliminate the probability of future introductions of invasive Ponto-Caspian fishes.”

Their alarming conclusion, “Our updated listing of high-risk Ponto-Caspian fishes includes five species identified previously (the Black and Caspian Sea sprat, Eurasian minnow, big-scale sand smelt, European perch, and monkey goby) and five additional species (the Black sea shad, Caspian tyulka, Volga dwarf goby, Caspian bighead goby, and black-striped pipefish). Of these ten species, four (the monkey goby, big-scale sand smelt, Caspian tyulka, and black-striped pipefish) are likely to survive ballast water exchange as eggs, larvae, or adults based on salinity tolerances. The black-striped pipefish has spread rapidly throughout Europe and could cause significant ecological changes in the Great Lakes, and it is unlike anything currently found in the Great Lakes.

These conclusions make it imperative that the most stringent means possible must be put in place to protect our River and the Great Lakes from the next wave of unwanted invasives. Although very late to the game, the EPA and Coast Guard regulations to control vessel discharge must not be weakened by misguided Congressional efforts to do so. We will keep you posted and raise the alert to see that does not happen.

Summary of the Buffalo State research here:

Fact Sheet prepared by New York Sea Grant here:

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How invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever

July 15th, 2015 | Posted by admin

How invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever, published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Dan Egan.


A primer on invasive species in the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Worth a re-read this Invasive Species Awareness Week.

an excerpt: ” . . . the consequences of opening a nautical freeway into the Great Lakes for globe-roaming freighters proved disastrous — at least 56 non-native organisms have since been discovered in the lakes, and the majority arrived as stowaways in freighter ballast tanks.

These invaders have decimated native fish populations and rewired the way energy flows through the world’s largest freshwater system, sparking an explosion in seaweed growth that rots in reeking pockets along thousands of miles of shoreline. The foreign organisms are implicated in botulism outbreaks that have suffocated tens of thousands of birds on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. They are among the culprits responsible for toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie that threaten public water supplies.”

The whole series deserves a close read. Find it here:

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