Invasive species are an ongoing problem in New York State. While boating regulations and programs have helped to prevent some from spreading, it’s difficult to detect every species. Unfortunately, the aquatic invasive species known as the spiny water flea has recently been discovered in Indian Lake.
Photo Credit: Lake George Association, courtesy of Jeff Gunderson of Minnesota Sea Grant
The spiny water flea is an invasive species that is native to Eurasia. At some point, it spread to the U.S. and was first detected in the Great Lakes around the 1980s. From there, it reached the Lake Champlain Canal in Whitehall, Lake George, and – just this summer – Lake Champlain.
According to the Sun Community News, Indian Lake was believed to have been the largest invasive species free lake in the Adirondacks. However, in early August, a fisherman reported his discovery of an invasive to a Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute boat launch steward. On August 8, 2016, the steward identified and reported the creature to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP).
As an aquatic invasive species, it’s very likely the spiny water flea reached Indian Lake via a watercraft it had attached to at a different body of water. Since the species reproduces at a high rate, spiny water fleas can quickly invade a lake and upset the natural habitat.
Erin Vennie-Vollrath, an aquatic invasive species coordinator with APIPP, told the Sun Community News, “Once they’re at a high enough level to detect with the nets we use, it’s pretty well established in the lake.”
The problem with spiny water fleas is that they mainly feed on tiny crustaceans and zooplankton. If the invasive species is introduced to a new ecosystem, then the habitat’s native creatures, such as fish, have to compete with the spiny water fleas for food.
Furthermore, as their name suggests, spiny water fleas have long spines that can wrap around and attach to fishing line. Once attached, the creatures make it extremely difficult for fishermen to reel in the lines.
So what can you do to help stop the spread of spiny water fleas? Although there is no known way to control the species once it enters a body of water, there are several preventive measures in place.
In New York State, there are new boating regulations that require boaters to clean, drain, and treat their watercrafts. Additionally, there are boat decontamination stations in the Adirondacks where you can go if you believe your watercraft requires greater cleaning.
While this discovery in Indian Lake is disappointing, the situation raises the importance of invasive species awareness. If more aquatic invasive species can be detected before entering a body of water, then hopefully we’ll see less of them spreading across the state.
- Sun Community News – Invasive spiny water flea confirmed in Indian Lake