In 2007 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) announced the first recorded instance of didymo in New York, found in the Batten Kill section of Washington County. The invasive specie tends to spread into new locations via the felt soles of fly fisher’s boots and is currently impossible to eradicate once present in a new area. Resembling degraded cardboard, Didymosphenia geminata covers water beds in heavy mats. Once these mats have overtaken the floor of the water source, fishermen have increased difficulty maneuvering among the infested waters, bottom dwelling organisms are smothered, and the food chain as a whole is disrupted. NYSDEC Commissioner Pete Grannis reasons that a the process of checking, cleaning, and drying gear thoroughly must become a common chore among outdoor water enthusiasts if the spread of didymo is to be hindered. Vermont has taken legal action in an attempt to thwart the aquatic invader, passing a law that will ban felt-soled angling boots by 2012. Still some believe that this will prove ineffectual, and that didymo will continue to spread through the laces and fabric present on the boots.
Didymo clearly constitutes a considerable threat for admirers of the outdoors and the ecosystem alike. I feel that because aquatic invasive species like didymo are becoming such a conspicuous problem, stronger measures should be taken to hamper their dissemination. For instance, before acquiring a fishing license, it should be required that anglers take a brief quiz on the proper methods for checking, cleaning, and drying their gear. Those who argue that the elimination of felt-soled boots is a futile effort have a valid point. Didymo will likely be able to spread through other pieces of equipment or find transportation in other fabrics. Once prevention has failed, the next steps will be control and eradication. Scientists will need to research new ways to impede the propagation of this invasive organism, whether they be chemical or biological. However, this will give rise to a new set of problems, as the use of chemicals can easily pollute the surrounding environment and the introduction of new species intended to control didymo can have similar destructive consequences.
The situation surrounding didymo, though interesting, leaves several questions unanswered. For instance, scientists have determined with absolute certainty that felt-soled boots can lead to the spread of didymo, but is there any evidence to suggest that the elimination of these boots will lead to a significant decline in the dissemination of this organism? Common sense suggests that the answer is no, as only a single drop of water can transport the organism and didymo will likely find an alternate means of moving about from one water source to the next. This leads to yet another set of questions: is there any effective method of disinfection that can be easily applied to fishing gear? If so, can it be applied to felt-soled boots? If the answers to these questions is yes, then perhaps the ban on these boots is superfluous, and the complaints of fishermen can be mitigated by permitting the continued use of felt-soled boots.
Trapa Natans, or water chestnut, is an aquatic plant found throughout the northeast that can reach up to 16 feet in length. Unfortunately, its primary method of transportation is fruit flowing through moving water or being carried by animals. The Trapa Natans was first introduced to the United States in 1859 where it was researched at Harvard University. Within 20 years, the rapidly escalating Trapa Natans population had spread to the Charles River. Since then, it has spread throughout Lake Ontario in New York and even occupies over 300 acres in just 55 miles of Lake Champlain. While the plant has little human impact besides piercing bare feet, its tendency to create clumps in lakes, rivers, and streams causes oxygen levels and light permeability to severely decrease, threatening the survival of these fragile ecosystems.
Trapa Natans poses a significant threat to the overall ecological health of not just New York State, but the United States. Since the only conceivable way of eliminating its presence involves large sums of money invested in chemical and mechanical warfare, Trapa Natans has easily spread to almost ten states on the East Coast. Its seeds not only last for up to twelve years, but are also spread solely through nonhuman interactions, eliminating a legal process (such as felt boots with Didymo) that could conceivably hamper the spread of many other prevalent aquatic invasive species. In addition, its tendency to clump across entire bodies of water poses an ever increasing risk of eliminating entire communities of organisms, which would wreak havoc on both the ecosystem and the fisherman that rely on these lakes for their food. The next conceivable stage of research should involve potential ways to make the seeds seem unattractive to animals as well as isolating the clumps of Trapa Natans in the areas they already dominate, possibly researching extraction methods for the seeds from moving water. Since it is so costly to destroy the current populations, viable solutions would have to involve hampering the spread of seeds, rather than simply destroying what already exists. Perhaps most important to find out, however, is whether the seeds of Trapa Natans would be affected if an attack was started on the already existing populations.
The Chinese Mitten Crab first arrived on the shores of North America in 1965. One crab, found in Ontario, resulted in widespread discussion throughout the country because no one wanted to see it spread. Unfortunately, it spread and they can be found in California, Maryland, New York, and most recently, New Jersey. In these states the crabs have caused many problems, i.e. clogging San Francisco’s water system, and now that New Jersey has become the next victim, fisherman have begun to panic. According to Gregory Ruiz “40 crabs have been caught, reported and confirmed in New Jersey alone, making that state ground zero right now for mitten crabs.” The state is trying to do whatever it can to contain the population, asking all residents to try and capture any specimen they encounter to prevent reproduction. New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is trying to stop the spread now because the females can produce up to 1 million eggs per reproductive cycle, and that would not end well for New Jersey’s aquatic and marine ecosystems.
The urgency with which the state is trying to address the issue is completely rational. Hopefully New Jersey can manage the situation without it getting too out of hand. These crabs can cause serious issues to ecosystems because they are omnivores, and therefore prey on a multitude of organisms. Aside from the organisms, the crabs have destroyed the physical ecosystems in their previous homes when they burrowed into the walls of riverbanks, causing erosion. Despite Jew Jersey’s efforts, its plan is flawed because it relies so heavily on assistance from civilians. To many people the idea of seeing a live crab disturbs them, but to capture one is in a league of its own. Therefore, I believe that New Jersey should continue to encourage people, but try to unite with other states that have this problem so there can be a joint effort. Also, some people tend to work harder if there is some sort of incentive. Perhaps if a small reward were offered per crab, more people would try to catch them in hopes of profiting. In general, I just want this problem to be handled so that my home, New Jersey does not face any irreversible repercussions.