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Lake Stewards Slow Invasives

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 | Posted in News

It is too late to keep the fishhook waterflea out of Lake Champlain.

Fishing lines coated by a thick layer of brown water fleas

Thousands of fishhook and spiny waterfleas foul a fishing line in June 2019. Photo: LCBP

The invasive crustacean, native to Eurasia, was first detected in the lake in 2018.

But there are still opportunities to prevent the spread of this and other invasive organisms from the lake to other water bodies.

The Lake Champlain Basin Program’s summer crew of trained boat-launch stewards have been doing that for fourteen summers.

The other part of their mission is to prevent the transport of other nonnative species into the lake, hitchhiking on boats, trailers, and gear.

The stewards help boaters to cleanse their boats and learn boat hygiene to stop the spread of many non-native species, both into and from the lake.

This summer, stewards have already removed and properly disposed of the fishhook and spiny water flea from boats heading home from the Lake Champlain.

Last fall, a steward intercepted some Champlain-bound hydrilla, an invasive plant not yet established in the lake.

Today, the stewards follow coronavirus safety protocols, a topic included in their training, conducted virtually this year for the first time.

A July 6 news release from the LCBP includes further details and the message that boaters should clean, drain, and dry their boats, trailers, and gear.

Slowing the Spread

The fishhook waterflea, like the spiney waterflea (detected in 2014), fouls fishing lines and other gear and competes for food with some freshwater fish.

Individual waterfleas are too small to see with the unaided eye at early life stages. There are no known methods for controlling these organisms once established. Instead, the LCBP and others try to slow their spread to other water bodies.

Members of the seasonal staff of the LCBP’s Boat Launch Steward program rotate among 11 sites in Vermont and New York, including three with hot-water high pressure decontamination stations. The LCBP also trains and supports similar boat-launch stewards in Québec.

Complementing this effort, the Adirondack Watershed Institute operates a similar program at an additional seven boat launches on Lake Champlain in New York, five with decontamination stations. This program is funded by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.

The two water flea species, and the work of the stewards, were subjects of a cover story in Interstate Waters, NEIWPCC’s magazine, last year.

The LCBP is a program partner of NEIWPCC.