A BioStudies Exotic Species Guide

Dive gear, like wet suits, may be a possible source of transfer of zebra mussels. Mature females may be only 0.08” (2 mm) long. Algae and leaf material left in the meshes of this dip net could easily harbor many undesirable exotics organisms. Recent popularity of water gardens has increased the chances of distribution and release of many aquatic plants and animals.

Although water sports like fishing and boating have been obvious potential sources of exotic species transfers and introductions, other areas need to be considered as well. Decoys, ropes, and anchors associated with duck hunting or wading shoes may also be vectors of harmful exotic flora and fauna.

A single careless individual can initiate extraordinary ecological and economic disasters by introducing a harmful exotic organism. Any species released in the wrong place at the wrong time can become an environmental problem. Even species that seem quite harmless can negatively impact important native plants and animals in some situations.

Invasive exotic plants and animals account for billions of dollars annually in losses and control costs. All possible efforts should be employed to prevent introductions of new and further distribution of existing exotics. Individual actions can be critically important in preventing further economic and ecological risk from harmful plants and animals. Awareness of potential problems and sources of these organisms stems both from good education and basic common sense. Actions of a single careless, uninformed, or indifferent individual can potentially allow an introduction that ultimately causes an entire ecosystem to collapse. Boots and nets (above) can easily hide tiny exotic snails that host harmful parasites or eggs of foreign waterfleas only a few microns in length that can hatch and alter natural foot webs. Following are suggestions to help reduce transfers of harmful species. Old World yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) has been widely introduced by water-side landowners. Now this highlyinvasive exotic clogs waters at several sites in Texas. It may also be a competitor to rare native wetland plants and is difficult to eliminate once established.

Robert G. Howells – BioStudies
160 Bearskin Trail, Kerrville, Texas 78028 biostudies@hctc.net May 2009
Images and materials herein are not available for reuse or other applications without written permission of the author.

A single pleasure boat has many places where exotic species can hide to gain transport to other waters: from the boat hull itself to the bilge and internal engine cooling system as well as associated equipment like ropes and chains. Visually inspect boats, trailers, nets, gear, and other equipment used in or around aquatic and wetland environments. - Remove any plants or animals found. - Remove mud, algae, and vegetation. Drain water-holding bilges, live-wells, pumps, and cooling systems. Drain these items on dry land, well removed from natural waters (especially from different waters where the equipment was used). Use high-pressure, hot-water (140oF) to clean boats, trailers, and equipment. Dry equipment, in the sun if possible, for several days before using in new and particularly in uncontaminated waters. Pay special attention to dive gear, fishing equipment, etc. - Examine hunting boots, decoys, etc. - Don’t forget recreational equipment like air mattresses. Some items may benefit from washing or soaking in a concentrated solution of table salt (sodium chloride). Also, copper sulfate and copper acetate (0.1-2.0 ppt) can be used as a bath; copper is toxic to most fresh-water invertebrates, algae, and some pathogens; however, it can tint some materials blue or green. Chloride bleach can be used to clean boats and equipment, but disposing of runoff waters containing bleach can be an environmental problem in itself. Grapefruit seed extract used by some organic gardeners to sterilize garden tools offers some potential value, but has not been well studied for aquatic use.

In Texas, the Texas Fish Farming Act (SB 1507 of 1989) makes it illegal to release ANY fish, shellfish, or aquatic plant into state waters without a permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, except native bait fishes. Other states may advise never to release any animal or plant into a water body unless it is known to be native there. Never empty an aquarium into local water (including water, gravel, fish, snails, plants, etc.) Dispose of bait and bait bucket water on dry land far from natural waters. Never deliberately introduce ANY fish, shellfish, or plant into local waters without permission from state and federal regulatory agencies and biologists familiar with species in question. Never plant or hold wetland or aquatic plants in or near local waters.

Even when bait fish in a bait bucket are native to a particularly water body, those fishes could carry harmful diseases or parasites not present in the system or obvious to the observer. The water itself may contain microscopic life stages of undesirable organisms.

Releasing an unwanted exotic species in a foreign environment may be harmful both to that species and to all the other plants and animals there as well….not a kindness to the exotic specimen and often illegal. Donate such organisms to other people or euthanize them.

Ropes and lines used on boats, anchors, and countless other places are ideal places for aquatic species to hide.

Items like live-wells, bait buckets, and bait traps were specifically designed to hold aquatic organisms and are major sources of potential problems.

Ecologically destructive island applesnails (Pomacea insularum) reach the size of a tennis ball, but hatch at 1/25th inch (1 mm). This hatchling is hiding under a duckweed (Lemna) leaf and could be easily overlooked.

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