Courtesy of Joe Starinchak, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ campaign.
"Problems that look muddily abstract on a big scale take on color and texture when you talk about waters close to home." This quote has never been truer than it is today, particularly when it comes to the issue of aquatic invasive species and the impacts they are creating on our natural aquatic systems and the fisheries they support.
As one of the most challenging and complex environmental issues impacting our fisheries worldwide, aquatic invasive species are reducing game fish populations, fouling pristine waters and ruining recreational equipment, while making lakes and rivers unusable for all aquatic recreation users. Additionally, these harmful species are dramatically increasing the operating costs of everyday things we all take for granted – like drinking water plants – and are reducing property values and negatively affecting local economies of water-dependent communities. However, most importantly, they are reducing native species populations and are ultimately degrading ecosystems.
There are multiple layers of complexity surrounding this issue. The primary way these harmful species move around the planet is in the ballast water of transoceanic ships. Regulating this transport then runs into the quagmire of the global economy and global regulations. Locally, invasive species are introduced to new waters on recreational equipment, this then involves local economies and the bureaucracies of federal, state and local agencies that have regulatory responsibilities to address this issue. Additionally, this is compounded by the aquatic nature of these species, which means that the species' impacts are often underwater and are not realized until their damage is already done. Unfortunately, this relegates the invasive aquatic species issue to below the surface of people's minds.