Invasive pest found in Lake George

The small aquatic species that spurred some scientists and Vermont officials to call for the closure of the Champlain Canal has been confirmed in Lake George.

The spiny water flea, an aquatic invasive zooplankton native to Eurasia, was discovered by an angler in waters off of Mossy Point Boat Launch in Ticonderoga.

“The most frustating aspect of this discovery is that we have no recourse that we are aware of now that it is here,” said Walter Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association, in a release. “You can’t eradicate or even try to manage spiny water flea in a body of water as vast as Lake George.”

The angler who made the discovery showed an LGA steward a mass of material that had collected on his fishing equipment. The material was collected and confirmed as spiny water flea by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing.

On July 31, staff from the LGA sampled the area where the spiny water flea was discovered and additional samples were found in the northern basin just west of Mallory Island.

Emily Debolt, director of education for the LGA, said it is too early know the extent of the infestation but additional sampling will occur.

The spiny water flea is the fifth aquatic invasive species discovered in Lake George. Zebra mussels, Asian clams, Eurasian watermill foil, and curly-leaf pondweed have all been previously discovered in the lake.

The presence of the spiny water flea was identified in the Champlain Canal and the Feeder Canal in June.

The discovery spurred a group of scientists and advocates to call for the closure of the Champlain Canal. Last week, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, joined them in calling for the canal’s closure.

But the New York State Canal Corp. released a statement saying it would not close the canal, citing the economic importance of the waterway to local communities.

Assemblyman Tony Jordan and Whitehall Supervisor George Armstrong also spoke out against the closure of the canal.

The spiny water flea was first identified in the Great Lakes about 20 years ago and was found in Lake Sacandaga in 2008.

It feeds on other plankton and is believed to disrupt the bottom of the food web. It is also a nuisance for anglers because it collects in masses on fishing equipment.

Meg Modley, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program, said the potential impact the spiny water flea could have on Lake George or Lake Champlain is not fully understood. “That’s something we are trying to determine.”

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