Spiny Water Flea, A New Invasive, Found in Lake George
The spiny water flea, a half-inch-long barbed flea that poses a long-term threat to established fish populations, is the latest aquatic invasive species to reach Lake George.
The Lake George Association discovered the invasive at the north end of the lake on July 27. New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake George Park Commission officially confirmed its presence on Wednesday, August 1.
“The discovery of spiny water flea in Lake George is not welcome news and DEC’s efforts to slow the spread of this and other invasive species will continue,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.
Since August 1, anglers have submitted samples of fleas to the LGA found in other parts of the lake, but those specimens have yet to be positively identified as spiny water flea, said Emily DeBolt, the LGA’s director of education.
The samples found at Mossy Point on July 27 and identified by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute’s Larry Eichler as spiny water flea were filled with eggs, which indicates that the population is reproducing in the lake, said Walt Lender, the LGA’s executive director.
According to Emily DeBolt, the extent of the infestation is as yet unknown.
“It is still too soon to know,” said DeBolt. “We are working with the Lake George Park Commission and the Darrin Fresh Water Institute to coordinate additional sampling so that we have more information.”
Dave Wick, the executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said the DEC will take water samples from four locations on the lake in an attempt to gauge the extent of the invasive’s distribution.
“If we don’t think the surveillance is comprehensive enough, we’ll propose a more rigorous approach,” said Wick.
Added Wick, “the only thing good to come from this is a heightened awareness of the need for boats coming to Lake George to be cleaned, drained and dry.”
The Lake George Park Commission is currently drafting a plan that in its final form may include new regulations to prevent the introduction of new invasive species. The first public meeting to solicit public comment was scheduled to take place on August 9 in Bolton Landing.
According to Tracey Clothier of the LA Group, the firm retained by the Commission to assist with the plan, a second meeting will be held in late August or early September to present a range of strategies for blocking invasives and the costs and benefits of each.
“My personal hope is that by the beginning of the next boating season, we will have a plan in place, and that whatever is eventually approved, it will have a buy-in from the community and from New York State,” said Dave Wick.
The discovery of the spiny water flea, said Walt Lender, “shows us that we must do more to stop the spread of invasive species. We have no way of telling how the spiny water flea came into Lake George and there is little we can do now that it is here, but we should not lessen our efforts to keep invasives out. There are too many on the horizon: species that can do much more to harm our water quality than spiny water flea.”
“The message,” he added, “is that we have to get serious about stopping invasives before they enter Lake George.”
While the spiny water flea can disrupt the food chain and contribute to the cumulative impacts of invasives upon the natural eco-system, “it has no known consequences for human health,” said Dave Wick.
Its impact upon established Lake George fish may be unknown for decades, he said.
According to Emily DeBolt, the spiny water flea competes with native forage fish for food, depleting the population upon which larger, game fish feed.
By attaching themselves to fishing lines, spiny water fleas are also a nuisance for anglers, DeBolt said.
According to the DEC, no strategy for controlling or eradicating the spiny water flea has been found.
“Boaters, anglers and other recreational enthusiasts should take precautions to avoid transporting this and other invasive species, particularly after leaving water known to have an aquatic invasive species. Boats, fishing gear and recreational equipment should be inspected and cleaned. Preventing the spread of the spiny water flea is the only means for reducing its impacts on native aquatic communities,” the DEC stated.