What Anglers Can Do To Prevent Invasion Of Non-Native Species

Photo by Clay LeConey

What Anglers Can Do To Prevent Invasion Of Non-Native Species

An estimated 42% of the endangered and threatened species are at a higher risk because of invasives, according to The National Wildlife Federation. Non-native aquatic species find their way into local waterways from other countries after being imported for agricultural and ornamental use. Though some exotic species are harmless, many cause a lot of damage in aquatic environments. In most cases, non-native plants and animals lead to the extinction of native species, especially if there is sufficient food and favorable surroundings. As a result, eliminating invasives becomes challenging. For this reason, key players in the angling industry are raising biosecurity awareness and calling fisheries and anglers to take action in protecting our waterways and our economy. Below are a few things anglers can do to prevent the invasion of non-native species in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Understand Invasive Species 

Invasive species, be it plants or animals, are introduced to a region from a foreign country. Nonetheless, species native to your country can be invasive if reintroduced to areas within your country’s borders. To prevent invasive species from causing destructions, you must learn how to identify them correctly. Note that the damages caused by non-native animals and plants differ from one location to another. Likewise, invasives resemble natives you’re already familiar with. Therefore, spend some time learning about non-indigenous species online. You can find valuable information on government databases. Alternatively, consult a trained professional who handles exotic infestations to get clear details about different invasives.

Keep Boat And Angling Gear Clean

Boats, kayaks, and fishing equipment transport aquatic invasive species and spread them from waterway to waterway. Given some non-native plants like hydrilla, giant Salvinia, and milfoil reproduce through fragmentation. This means they can start an infestation in new habitats within a short period. With this in mind, make it a habit to clean your boating and fishing gear before you enter and when you exit recreational water sources. When cleaning your boating equipment, inspect attachment points like rollers, axels, trailer bunks, and propellers for mud and plant fragments. You have to be thorough with the inspection because tiny pieces of plants and mud could be home to the larvae of invasive fish and other aquatic animals. Next, clean your equipment and dispose of debris in an upland area or invasive disposal bins installed at boat launch sites. Avoid releasing dirt from your boat and fishing gear into waterways. Additionally, drain all water-holding compartments in your boat, dry, and disinfect all equipment before use. Keeping your boating items clean is a sure way of controlling if not reducing the spread of invasives in water bodies.

Avoid Releasing Fish Pets Into The Wild

Setting your fish pets free in the ocean or lake might seem like the right thing to do, but it isn’t. As harmless as they may seem, aquarium fish pose a threat to the natural aquatic ecosystem. For example, the goldfish disrupts local food chains as it preys on small invertebrates and fish eggs, and uproots plants, causing excessive growth of algae. Fish pets also carry exotic diseases and parasites that spread quickly and harm native species when released in the wild. Understanding the dangers of disposing aquarium fish in waterways and keeping them healthy and happy in controlled habitats is a sure way of preventing invaders in lakes and oceans.

Don’t Carry Invasives When Fishing 

Cleaning wading boots before and after fishing is a sure way of reducing the chances of spreading invasives. Most parasites and weed seeds tend to attach themselves to fabrics and shoes. So, make it a habit to pick off seeds, insects, and plant fragments from clothes and shoes. Also, inspect your items to be sure that invasives are not hiding on straps and pockets. It is wise to drive or walk on designated tracks to avoid introducing exotic species to wetlands. That’s because boots, cars, and bikes increase the spread of invasives leading to the destruction of aquatic wildlife. For instance, the introduction of fungal diseases like chytrid in mud and water bodies has led to frog extinction in various parts of the world. Root rot-causing invasives are also destroying native plants.

Don’t Purchase Exotic Aquatic Plants Online 

Exotic aquatic plants tend to be beautiful and fit well in aquariums and water gardens. However, exotic flowers and plants carry pests that destroy natural ecosystems. Most imported plants are home to ticks, roaches, fungi, and different types of spider species. Though spiders don’t pose a danger to aquatic animals, they can threaten anglers as they walk through wooded areas near water bodies. Non-native plants can become invasive themselves, posing a great danger to aquatic habitats. Most plant invaders create a dense mat on water bodies blocking sunlight and preventing the growth of native plants. When invaders die, they also take up oxygen, creating an unfavorable environment for native fish and other wildlife. The dead plants also threaten the well-being of anglers because they get stuck on boat propellers making navigation difficult. Before purchasing exotic plants online, research to identify their origin and the adverse effects they may cause.

Be Part Of Removal Efforts 

Local communities and environmental organizations often work together to remove invasive species from waterways. You can be part of the exercise by becoming a volunteer whenever there is a removal event at nearby lakes, oceans, dams, or rivers. During these events, the standard techniques used to remove non-native plant species include cutting, hand-pulling, and burning. Sometimes organizers combine invasive removal events with some recreational activities that allow you to bow hunt for snakeheads or engage in spearfishing for lionfish.

Importing exotic aquatic plants and animals for ornamental or agricultural purposes is one reason invader species are finding their way into local waterways. Another reason is moving boating equipment from one water source to another without cleaning them. While it’s challenging to get rid of invasives once established, anglers can limit the spread by not releasing ornamental fish and plants in the wild waters. They should also commit time and energy to clean fishing gear, boats, clothing, and shoes before going on a fishing expedition. Most importantly, anglers should be proactive in the removal of invasive aquatic species.

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