Fighting Invasive Species

As boating season gets under way, state and local officials are encouraging boaters to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

In addition, the state is considering a proposed regulation that would require boaters to drain boats and remove all plant and animal material from boats, trailers and equipment before launching at or leaving a state boat launch. Violators could face a $250 fine.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation says aquatic invasive species are non-native species that can harm water bodies.

“Invasive species threaten nearly every aspect of our world and are one of the greatest threats to New York’s biodiversity,” the DEC website said. The species can cause or contribute to the loss of native fish.

Two invading species in local lakes include the spiny water flea and eurasian water milfoil.

The spiny water flea is a zooplankton that feeds on other, smaller zooplankton. It was first discovered in the Great Sacandaga Lake in October 2008. DEC has said the flea, native to Eurasia, was probably brought over from the Great Lakes by boaters who did not realize the crustaceans were clinging to their boats or fishing lines.

Spiny water fleas have the potential to congregate on certain parts of a boat, which is how they travel to non-native waters. Once they arrive in such territory, they quickly lay eggs, which sometimes lay dormant for years and therefore are difficult to track, the DEC says.

The spiny water flea has invaded Peck’s Lake and Great Sacandaga Lake.

According to the Lake George Association website, eurasian water milfoil is an invasive aquatic plant native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It was first documented in North America in 1942 in the District of Columbia. It was most likely brought to this continent in the ballast of a ship and has since spread to almost every state.

Eurasian water milfoil has affected East and West Caroga Lake, the Great Sacandaga Lake and Mayfield Lake, the DEC says.

Tom Christopher, Broadalbin Town Supervisor and a member of the Great Sacandaga Lake Association, said the group plans to educate boaters about the spread of the invasive species as boaters come in and out of the lake.

Other invasive species in the state’s waters include the water chestnut, zebra mussel, asian clam and hydrilla, the DEC says.

The public comment period on the proposed state regulation regarding aquatic species ended in February.

Baitfish regulations

Baitfish now are also regulated in New York. According to the DEC website, only certain species can be purchased and used in any water body in New York where it is legal to use fish as bait. These species include the golden shiner, Northern redbelly dace, emerald shiner, blacknose dace and the common shiner. Baitfish also need to be certified.

Use of certified baitfish helps prevent the spread of disease, the DEC says.

Certified baitfish purchased from a bait dealer can be used on any body of water where it is legal to do so.

For baitfish to be considered certified, the seller must provide a receipt that contains the seller’s name, date of sale, the species of fish and the number of each species sold.

The buyer must retain that receipt while in possession of the baitfish. If bait is uncertified, it can only be used in the body of water it was collected in, the DEC says.

These regulations help prevent the accidental introduction of unwanted species, the DEC says.

Invasives in forests

Invasive pests also are in local forests.

One is the emerald ash borer. The DEC said the borer was first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 in southeastern Michigan. This Asian beetle infests and kills North American ash species, including green, white, black and blue ash. All native ash trees are susceptible. As of 2013, the quarantine area for the borer includes much of southern New York and stretches up to Montgomery County and portions of Fulton County.

The state has regulations to help prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer. Firewood cannot be transported more than 50 miles from its origin point, unless treated.

One of the organizations working to halt or control the spread of invasive species in Fulton and Hamilton counties is the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.

Hilary Smith, director of the group, said no new pests have been introduced into the park in the past year.

Smith said invasive species could be considered the “bullies of the natural world.”

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at acleveland@leaderherald.com.