Problems with Invasive Species
Woody, I have read over the new emergency and proposed regulations. Many of our initial concerns were addressed by the DEC. We now are not limited as to the amount of bait whether bought or personally collected. We can keep bait purchased for up to seven days. Connected waters like the Lake and Niagara River have been reconsidered as one body of water. The list goes on... What we need to do is understand we still have a problem, neither we nor the DEC created the problem. The DEC is responding the best it can, the bait and fish regulations could have been much stricter. The DEC is trying to protect the ecosystems beyond the Great Lakes that is a very important.
Many other people and I have been preaching for a long time "aquatic invasive species are the single greatest threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem" we have felt the impact by the changes to our fishery. Zebra mussels cleared the water not cleaned it as many people think. They have altered the entire ecosystem. Food once suspended through the entire water column is now concentrated on the bottom. No big deal? This could be the reason we have dead zones, botulism episodes and declines in some fish species. Gobies.. no big deal? They prey upon sportfish fish eggs, displace native fish, and are a vehicle for the transport of chemical pollution up the food chain.
Without any doubts we have felt the impact of these invasive species although it has not been felt directly in our wallets like VHS. However, despite what we think we have been paying for invaders like zebra and quagga mussels. Industries around the Great Lakes have to spend billions of dollars to clean water intakes, heat exchangers, plumbing, lost production due to down time as a result of extra maintenance. In the factory where I work we constantly have to address issues caused by zebra mussels in pipes. These costs have been added to our electric bills and the products we buy. These costs are forever that is the how insidious invasive species are once introduced they are here forever. It is just now with the high price of bait sportsmen are feeling the impact first hand. It will certainly be a hardship and inconvenience, but it is just the hard reality of an invasion.
I believe the DEC's response to our initial concerns were well addressed. The only issue I have now is public awareness of the severity of the problem, and the new regulations. This is not like any other fishing regulation change. It needs to be addressed in a manner that accents the importance of the countermeasures and prevention. I believe the DEC should send every holder of a fishing license a postcard alerting everyone of the VHS concerns and regulations. I believe that at every point of sale there should be literature distributed with the sale of a license. We can not wait for the reprint of the regulations book.
Will the costs or fears of invasive species "chase" people away from the outdoor tradition of fishing... most likely yes. I recall when mercury was discovered in perch back in the 1960's and the first health advisories were issued, my father stopped fishing. What once was a weekly tradition of catching our supper ended abruptly. As a kid my whole life changed, what was once very important was gone. There maybe kids today who will have the same experience and same sudden change in their lives; I hope not.
We have an opportunity let's not miss it. Too often events seemingly out of our control change our lives. We are like pawns on a chessboard being moved by more powerful entities. Power is in most part just a perception. Well, we can become that powerful force. We have seen the impact of our letters. Our club founders were powerful they did the impossible, got gill nets banned. Yet they were no different than you or I today. They were inspired, organized and drivers of an idea that was right. We can stop the invasion of aquatic invasive species, it is as easy as closing the St Lawrence Seaway or disinfecting the ballast tanks of all ships that cruise the Great Lakes. Let's follow the example of our club founders and make a positive impact on the health of our ecosystem. Let's be drivers of change not be driven by change.
By Thomas Marks, NY Director, Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council
Posted on Tue, December 29, 2015