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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Groundbreaking research by scientists at Buffalo State College, translating (from Russian) and analyzing previously unpublished research on Ponto-Caspian fish species, have identified these four species among forty-two as having a high risk potential of surviving current treatment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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Invasive Species Awareness Week

July 12th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Today marks the start of New York Invasive Species Awareness Week.

We know a little bit about invasive species here on the St. Lawrence. In fact, we’ve become a vector for for their movement from our waters to others in the state and provinces. The invasion of non-native, harmful species goes back to at least the construction of the Erie Canal. But it wasn’t until the opening of the River and the Great Lakes to international shipping in the 1950’s that the scope and pace of the invasion threatened to completely upend theH20 Highway natural ecosystem and species dependent on it.

It is estimated that at least 65% of the invasives now in the St. Lawrence – from quagga and zebra mussels, to bloody red shrimp, to round goby, to a hundred more came in through the locks of The St. Lawrence Seaway (or Highway H2O as it has been branded) in the ballast of ocean-going ships (“salties”).

After decades of efforts to stop this traffic in unwanted organisms the Seaway began requiring saltwater flushes in mid-ocean for all salties before they could enter the St. Lawrence system. Since then no new invasives have been identified. New research is raising questions about the effectiveness of this method of stopping invasives. Meanwhile EPA and the Coast Guard have put rules in place requiring treatment of discharges to remove live organisms – rules several U.S. Senators want to undo. And there is still the very real threat of Asian Carp.

It may be the River has not seen its last invasive species. More throughout this Invasive Species Awareness Week.

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