Stopping the Spread of Exotic Species – Is It Wishful Thinking?

In my home state of Minnesota, the governor has pledged funds to
stop the spread of exotic species. No one wants to see an invasive
species spread, but is it just wishful thinking that we can
actually put a stop to their expansion?

The invasive species getting the most attention in Minnesota
right now is the zebra mussel. It has been found in lakes that get
a lot of fishing pressure, which seems to generate a lot of high
anxiety among neighboring lakeshore owners. Some lake associations
have been calling for their boat accesses to be restricted and
stickers placed on boats that have been used in infested
waters.

The silver carp is gaining notoriety on a national level as being
the scourge that’s spreading. If this hefty jumper makes it into a
river system and grows in numbers pleasure boaters and anglers will
surely be impacted by their presence.

What I find interesting is that we’ve known that zebra mussels were
in the Great Lakes for years but did nothing until they were found
close to home. Silver carp have been a problem for over 15 years
but are now just getting the attention they deserve. Hydrilla,
Eurasion Water Milfoil, rusty crayfish, silver carp, gobies, zebra
mussels and the list goes on. It seems like we only begin thinking
about closing the gate after all the horses have been long
gone.

And these are just the exotics that affect lakes, rivers and
reservoirs. There are hundreds of plant, insect and invasive
reptiles and mammals that kill trees, push out native plants,
destroy natural ecosystems and spread freely.

Is there an answer to the question of stopping the spread? Probably
not. Which means we have to stop adding invasive species to this
already huge list.

In many cases, an exotic species is introduced to the land and
seascape by individuals who think they are in control of their
environment, such as the silver carp that was brought to fish
farms. Or they are inadvertently left behind by a commercial
operation, such as those brought into the Great Lakes by ballast
water. We need a program to define how exotic species are
introduced to our environment so we can stop the spread.

From what I can tell, the programs initiated to stop the spread of
exotic species have little chance for success. Interns at boat
landings trying to educate boaters and helping them remove
vegetation from their trailers stand little chance of keeping
milfoil in check. The spread of the zebra mussel won’t be stopped
until someone discovers a cheap and quick way to completely
disinfect a boat before it is launched.

My answer to invasive species is to stop them before they get here
with any means necessary. As far as the existing exotics, learn to
live with them.

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