July 30, 2008

Agencies Test Aquatic Invasive Species Readiness


Contact: Freda Tarbell of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, +1-814-332-6816

Boaters, Anglers Asked to Help Keep Invasives Out of Local Waters

ERIE, Pa., July 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 30 representatives of local, state and federal agencies and community groups boarded boats and headed for Eries Presque Isle Bay today to measure their response capabilities should an aquatic, non-native species invade the Great Lakes.

More than 180 non-native aquatic species have been documented in the Great Lakes and the introduction rate of new species is quickening.

According to Lori Boughton, head of the Department of Environmental Protections Office of the Great Lakes, some of the invasive species are harmless, while others like the zebra mussel, sea lamprey and round goby, have damaged the ecology and economy of the region.

These organisms prey on or directly compete with our native species for the same limited resources, threatening Pennsylvanias biological balance, said Boughton. While preventing new introductions is the single most important thing we can do to combat aquatic invasive species, it also is important to detect and respond quickly to new infestations. This week we are improving our preparedness by testing the abilities of multiple jurisdictions to communicate and respond in a coordinated fashion.

The on-the-water exercise is part of a three-day mock aquatic invasive species response exercise developed by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and hosted by DEP.

A table top exercise preceded the on-the-water session to help familiarize participants with the roles and responsibilities of each agency or organization in a real-life response.

The Great Lakes ecosystem is a priceless natural resource and this exercise is helping ensure that we are ready to protect it, said Gary Gulezian, director of the Great Lakes National Program Office. Pennsylvania is demonstrating how all levels of government can work together to pool their resources and prevent new invaders from becoming established.

During on-the-water exercise in Presque Isle Bay, participants practiced coordinated trawling and electroshocking fish sampling techniques to better prepare themselves for a real-life situation where such methods could be used to confirm the presence of an invasive species.

Harmful aquatic invasive species are introduced and spread through a variety of means; one of the most prevalent pathways is the unintentional spread by boaters and anglers.

Water recreationalists and sportsmen who visit an infested waterway may unknowingly pick up an uninvited aquatic hitchhiker and deliver it straight to the bay, said Boughton. Recreational boaters and anglers can play an enormous role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species by cleaning, draining and drying their boats each time they leave a body of water.

CONTACT:Freda Tarbell

(814) 332-6816

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

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