Shooting Ourselves in the Foot: An Invasive Species Story

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot:

An Invasive Species Story.

Most of our aquatic invasive species did not originate in Canada or the U.S.  They came from Europe, Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

So, how did they get here?

Some were brought purposely.  (Think common carp.)  Other invasives got here by accident.  Many came in ballast water from ocean going ships that ply our coasts.  Others by commercial transactions.

And therein lies a frustrating story.  Hydrilla will illustrate.

Aquatic invasive species experts that attended our AIS Summit in St. Paul last year urged us, for gosh sakes, don’t let Hydrilla get into your state.  That plant is much worse than Eurasian water milfoil!  It had already been discovered in Wisconsin in a private pond.  It got to Wisconsin as a volunteer in an order for non-native water lilies from a water-garden supply store.

According to Reesa Evans, a lake specialist and AIS coordinator in Wisconsin, although aquatic invasive species laws have been strengthened in many states, pet shops, water garden nurseries and aquarium shops may be selling invasives without knowing it.  She reports that New Zealand Pygmy Weed, already present in Florida, North Carolina and Washington State can be found in many aquarium and water garden shops.

All of the following invasives are available for sale in commercial establishments:

  • Pond water starwort (Africa, Asia, and Europe)
  • African Elodea
  • Water primrose and floating primrose willow (from South America)
  • European water clover

Sea Grant studies in Illinois and Minnesota revealed that in nurseries with water garden plants, one-third of the plants were misidentified.  The Minnesota Sea Grant discovered that there are at least $1 billion in sales of water garden plants in the U.S.

Many vendors cannot accurately identify many of the plants they are buying from wholesalers and selling.  Many plants they were shipping were prohibited under state laws.  Of the illegal plants ordered in an experiment, 93 percent were filled, thus violating federal and Minnesota law. 

Why do we allow such enemies to gain such simple access to our states’ waters?

Darby Nelson

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