Minnesotans are all-too-familiar when it comes to invasive species in our waters. Majority of my time growing up was spent on lakes and still, as an adult I spend time on the lakes in the summer. One of the most frightening things as a child when swimming in a lake is wondering what is lurking beneath those weeds. Could it be the massive 20 lb carp?
I watched the lake that I grew up on slowly become engulfed by eurasian milfoil. It was really sad to see it happen- there seems to be nothing that could stop these weeds from growing and taking over any space.
But how did they get there and why is this a threat?
This article is an important read when it comes to issues regarding the walleye population in Mille Lacs and what is happening with our lakes. How can we stop aquatic invasive species? The article address the "damage is already done" attitude and offers a solution in the form of creating no fish watersheds on lakes that can boost the fish population and make up for what is being destroyed.
So what is happening?
When an aquatic invasive species comes in to a lake, it ruins the existing cycle by messing up the food chain and makes unlivable habitats for certain species. A lake is then taken over by these invasive species and it disrupts human activity on the lake and has major hits on lake recreation related economies and can impact value of properties. Right now, the DNR is fighting lawsuits (that's right, lawsuits) from local business owners in the Mille Lacs area since they placed new limitations on walleye fishing. They claim that they are experiencing profit loss from the restrictions because it is effecting the tourist industry. The DNR is doing this as a way to protect what is remaining for the walleye population in Mille Lacs.
Some staggering numbers from the article:
2005: Four zebra mussels were spotted in 60 dives.
2011: 1,000 zebra mussels per sqaure foot
2015: An estimate 2 billion zebra mussels are in Mille Lacs
Zebra mussels impact? Bi-valve. They filter water and remove the algae that the author claims is the "base of the food chain".
How did they get there?
Research has recently shown the Minnesotans years and years ago are actually responsible for introducing carp to our lakes.
How else do invasive species get there?
Not checking watercrafts before they are launched in the lake.
"This summer officials at the Blackfoot Indian Reservation stopped a boat from Minnetonka at the east entrance to Glacier National Park that was infested with living zebra mussels. The boaters were planning on launching in the park. Does Minnesota really want to be known for fouling one of our country’s premier natural wonders? Do we want to have the reputation for ecological recklessness, particularly when it comes to water?"
Doesn't that make you cringe? To think that one of our own could be responsible for that kind of mistake?
Best Case Scenario:
People start to understand that this is a serious threat. Maybe some of our budget surplus could be used towards the DNR and help create decontamination stations and stricter regulation at boat launches. We could maybe extend this to other invasive species and set a better tone for the state.
Lakes as we know it are a thing of the past. Enjoy your murky, milfoil lake or hop into a pool.
People come together that live on the lakes to create watersheds and take initiative! People can feel more empowered about their waters and take better care of it.
Any experiences watching a lake you are familiar with be taken over by milfoil or other AIS?
Have you heard of lion fish? They are the next scary thing. And lampreys. Don't google them. I had nightmares about them.
Here's a couple more interesting links for you about carp!
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe pledge to help too: