Environment Picture

Recreational boaters asked to help thwart spread of invaders

Simple steps can help keep nasty critters, deadly virus at bay
Recreational boaters cannot stop international vessels from dumping Asian or European ballast water into the lakes they treasure.
But they can take steps to prevent the spread of the invasive organisms that come with the ballast.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Office of the Great Lakes suggests boaters be vigilant about protecting Michigan’s waters from invasive species. Aquatic invasive plants and animals threaten Michigan’s diverse ecosystems, and the confirmation of the existence of a new deadly fish virus, viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHS), in the Great Lakes is further cause for concern.

Those enjoying Michigan’s lakes and streams should inspect watercraft and recreational equipment before leaving a lake or other water body, remove any vegetation, drain all live wells, clean areas that may contain water and dispose of unused bait in the trash. Allowing boating and recreational equipment to dry four to six hours in the sun also helps to prevent the spread of VHS as well as zebra mussels and other organisms from one lake to another.

“Over 180 invasive species and the diseases they carry now threaten the Great Lakes’ natural ecosystem,” said Office of the Great Lakes Director Ken DeBeaussaert. “Michigan boasts some of the most pristine lakes and streams anywhere in the world, and they need our help to ensure they stay healthy.”

VHS causes internal hemorrhaging and organ failure in fish, and while it does not pose any threat to human health even if infected fish are eaten, the full biological impact might not be clear for years. VHS has been found in 20 species to date, including muskellunge, smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, lake whitefish, walleyes and Chinook salmon.

Infected fish have been found in Lakes Huron, Michigan, Erie and St. Clair and one inland lake in Clare County. Large fish die-offs in Lakes Huron, Erie, St. Clair and Ontario, affecting more than a dozen fish species, have occurred over the past two years and are attributed to VHS.

Aquatic invasive species not only affect the use of Michigan waters but have negative effects on sport and commercial fishing, industry, municipalities and native fish and wildlife. For more information on VHS and how to prevent its spread to inland waters or for information on new fishing regulations, visit www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.
-Department of Environmental Quality
RELATED TOPICS: water protection
© Copyright Michigan Environmental Council, All rights reserved