By New York Sea Grant Launch Steward: Brittney Rogers
If you are among the anglers who enjoy fishing on the Great Lakes, have you ever caught something you had never seen before? If you answer yes, you are not alone. More than 180 aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the Great Lakes are disrupting food webs, degrading aquatic habitats, and displacing native species. Do you know what to do if you find an AIS at the end of your fishing line?
To limit and, in some cases, prevent the spread of AIS and protect the health of popular fishing spots and recreational waterways, it is important for the public to be able to accurately identify and report AIS. Once AIS have become established, it is more difficult to remove or manage them, which is why tracking their distribution range is vital for early detection and controlling the spread of the unwanted species.
The first step after encountering what you think may be an AIS is to try to properly identify the species. The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse (www.nyis.info) is a useful tool to help you distinguish between AIS and native lookalikes. To help you identify your ‘catch,’ the Clearinghouse website consists of photos, species-specific characteristics (size, color, etc.), range, and tips for limiting AIS spread.
If you cannot confidently identify your ‘catch,’ a sample of the species can be delivered to your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) representative for identification. Contacts for local PRISMs can be found at www.nyis.info/?action=prism_partners.
When collecting samples, be sure to seal the specimen in an airtight package, e.g., a sealable plastic bag, and include the date; the location, including GPS coordinates; and your name and contact information.
Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species observations can be reported to New York’s online database iMapInvasives at www.imapinvasives.org/, managed by the NYS Natural Heritage Program. This tool is user-friendly and field-ready with a smartphone application.
To upload data to iMapInvasives, you must receive a username that is generated when you attend a free training session, typically offered by PRISMs in the spring.
After completing training you are ready to begin adding your observational data to the iMapInvasives database. The site provides step-by-step instructions and currently has six different data forms for use: observation, assessment, survey, treatment, infestations, and projects. The site also has species distribution maps, tables, and reports by species/areas.
If possible, take a well-focused, up-close photograph of the species and of the habitat where the species was found. The photograph can be sent electronically to local experts and may be needed for archiving purposes. Photographs are also suggested as collected specimens can lose their color.
Once iMapInvasive/PRISM experts receive a reported finding, they will confirm or correct the sighting using the specimen, photographs, and/or site visits.
The confirmed observational data provided by citizens help PRISM partners develop and implement management strategies for AIS.
Through species identification and iMapInvasives training, you and natural resource managers gain knowledge about which areas/habitats are at greatest risk of invasion, which species pose the greatest threats, and which areas are the most pristine so you can implement preventative practices to help keep these areas clean of AIS.
It’s not too late to make a difference in the fight against AIS.
For more information on protecting native habitats against invasive threats, contact New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042, [email protected]
To learn more about the NYSG Launch Steward Program, visit http://nysglaunchsteward.blogspot.com/
This is the fifth in a series of articles by the 2013 New York Sea Grant Launch Stewards. The stewards are college students educating water users about how they can help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species as part of a statewide effort. Learn more online at www.nyseagrant.org