Another exotic zooplankton found in Great Lakes

By John Hageman
Contributing Writer

Toledo, Ohio — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed the presence of another exotic species of zooplankton, called Thermocyclops crassus, in western Lake Erie.

The EPA cites its significance as being the first invasive species detected in the Great Lakes since the bloody red shrimp was confirmed in 2006.

The zooplankton, a copepod, which to the naked eye superficially looks like an active (aquatic) flea or a silverfish when viewed through a microscope, is similar to native copepod species.The genus has a widespread distribution worldwide, found in Australia, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa, and it prefers warm, fertile water.

In North America, it was previously discovered in 1991 in Lake Champlain in Vermont and in the sediment of a transoceanic ship entering the Great Lakes during a 2001-2002 study. They remain in low densities and are not believed to be impacting the Lake Champlain ecosystem.

Their effects on the Great Lakes ecosystem are unknown yet, but their discovery underscores the ongoing threat and irreversible harm of new aquatic invasive species introductions into the U.S. through ballast water.

So far, at least 185 species of invasive plants and animals have been introduced into the Great Lakes, with many causing significant ecological damage to North American fisheries, agricultural crops, forests, and wetlands.

Billions of dollars are spent each year to deal with the effects of the sea lampreys and zebra mussels that have irreversibly damaged fisheries and clogged drinking water, industrial, and energy production pipelines, along with other infrastructure.

The National Wildlife Federation is urging the U.S. Senate to re-establish measures to protect the Great Lakes from further introductions after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that removed the authority of the U.S. EPA to regulate ship discharges.

The amendment, called the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (S 373), also prohibits states from applying their own ballast water discharge rules to protect water in their jurisdictions in the absence of suitable federal safeguards.

Yet once again, Congress is attempting to permit company profits to trump the environmental well-being and leaving the working class taxpayer to deal with the aftermath.

Marc Smith, policy director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center says, “This discovery is serious and troubling and underscores how U.S. water, communities, and businesses remain vulnerable to harmful invasive species dumped here by foreign ships. Congress needs to do its job and resist weakening Clean Water Act protections that allow us to protect our waters, communities, economy, and way of life.”

Whenever these transoceanic ships have brought in aquatic invasive species, taxpayers have gotten stuck with a permanent, disastrous, and expensive problem to fix, leading experts say, not only in the Great Lakes, but in the Chesapeake Bay, Columbia River, Gulf of Mexico, San Francisco Bay, and the Mississippi River system to name some others.

Some of the most injurious species include the Norway rat, zebra and quagga mussels, round and tube-nosed gobies, Chinese mitten and green crabs, Asiatic clam, New Zealand mud snail, emerald ash borer, Asian long-horn beetle, spiny and fish-hook water fleas, hydrilla, and possibly diseases, such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

The St. Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal allows nuisance fish species including sea lamprey, white perch, and alewife passage around Niagara Falls and into the Upper Great Lakes.

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