Whether they’ve been introduced illegally or stocked, non-native species are threatening our native fish populations.
- The National Invasive Species Act (NISA) authorizes $5 million per year to fund State Aquatic Nuisance Species Plans. However, the Act has never been fully funded and currently each state only gets about $38,000 annually to manage invasive aquatic species.
- In the last 10 years there has been significant progress in invasive species research and policy development, including: new methods to monitor, eradicate, and control species, improved outreach and education campaigns, and wider use of volunteers. These advances need to be better communicated and supported if we are to get ahead of the invasive species curve and reduce their impact.
- Addressing major pathways for invasive species (i.e. live bait transfer or ballast water) is the most efficient way to prevent the introduction of invasive species.
Aquatic nuisances, which also include things like didymo and invasive foreign plants, are a multi-billion dollar problem that is plaguing every state and multiple different habitats. From the pythons in the Florida Everglades, which are changing the food chain, to zebra mussels that are out-competing native species for food, invasive species are having a huge negative impact on wildlife. According to the Washington Post, the Asian silver and bighead carp, alone, can cost as much as $120 billion in environmental and losses and damages each year.
Not all invasive species have been introduced by accident, though. There are projects in many western states to rid the local lakes and rivers of trout species that were stocked by local governments. These trout, such as lake trout and brook trout, have decimated the native cutthroat populations in these bodies of water.
It’s also not a problem that’s limited to freshwater. The lionfish problem in the waters around Florida and in the Caribbean is threatening bonefish and tarpon populations.
Combating invasive species has become a state, federal, and international project. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed a “Carp Czar” to help keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes region, and multiple states have banned the use of felt-soled waders to curb the spread of didymo, or the algae known as “rock snot.”