Boaters play a Key Role in Reducing Spread of AIS
Where is that woman who squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and stepped into the Detroit Tiger dugout as the first woman sports editor to interview legendary baseball manager Billy Martin?
Where is that cocky athlete who charged the net with such fervor she earned a spot on the Michigan State University Varsity Tennis Team?
Where is that brazenly confident person who, in 1974, slipped through customs in the South Africa airport with only two hundred dollars in her wallet, sure she could find a job to support her stay in the country?
I know she’s there, buried under a heaping sand dune of humbling experiences and subsequent self-reflection that seem to mellow her with age . . .
Buried until I hear from a leading scientist in the region that Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) remain the greatest threat to the Great Lakes waterways. It tops the list of threats including sewage contamination, habitat destruction, toxic pollution, polluted runoff, and climate change.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over 180 nonindigenous species have been reported in the Great Lakes basin. The first known to arrive in the Great Lakes was the sea lamprey, first sighted in the 1830s. Almost two hundred years later, the sea lamprey still ravages our waterways, sucking the life out of native fish.
Why does it matter?
Several years ago, The Nature Conservancy commissioned Anderson Economic Group to find the answer. The report points to the impact AIS have on water treatment facilities, power generation, industrial facilities using surface water, tourism, government agencies, the fishing industry, and even everyday consumers. The effects are sobering. According to the report, AIS costs the region over $100 million annually!
But it is the effect they have on our fishing populations that stirs the spirited underpinnings of my youth.
Lake trout, sturgeon, and lake herring are disappearing. Blue pike and Lake Ontario Atlantic salmon are considered virtually extinct. According to the report, fish catches that once measured 147 million pounds per year in the late 1800s, now weigh 110 million pounds. And while the catches should have increased because of population growth and improved technology, the decrease is attributed to a combination of “over-fishing, declining food at key points on the food chain, and the presence of AIS.”
While the science is clear and the economics compelling, it is something else that tugs at the bold, spunky thread of my youth, urging me to claw my way out of the dune of introspection and get involved. It is the memory of a father and a daughter standing alongside a river, casting and mending our lines. It is the picture of us silently waiting, watching for that quick sliver of a fish to dart through the shadows towards our flies. Even now, years after his death, I can feel the deep, intimate connection I had with this man who found peace holding a rod and reel.
It is a memory that should not be denied any daughter of a fisherman. Ever.
Currently before Congress, the bipartisan “Defending our Great Lakes Act of 2015” gives federal agencies the authority to take immediate action to stop the spread of Asian Carp and other invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. Passage depends on our collective willingness to contact federal representatives and make this legislation a priority.
Squaring my shoulders and taking a deep breath, I dust off the sand and add my voice to those insisting, “We can do better! We must do better.” And once again, I am that woman who believes anything is possible!
Please join me in contacting your federal representatives. Direct links may be found on the “Lake Michigan” page of my website. To learn more about the legislation, visit the websites of the co-sponsors, U. S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D), and Representative Candice Miller (R). To read the Anderson Economic Group report, visit The Nature Conservancy website.
While some aquatic invasive species (AIS) may be large enough to see, others are invisible to the naked eye. If you transport a boat, jet ski, wave runner, canoe, kayak, or other watercraft between different bodies of water please:
o Clean boats, trailers, & equipment before and after launch.
o Drain water from bilges & livewells at the ramp before leaving.
o Dry thoroughly before using in a different body of water.
o Dispose of unused bait in trash.
o Disinfect bilges and livewells with ½ cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water.
To learn more visit http://www.michigan.gov/deq
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