What new aquatic invasive species
have populated the Lake?

Spiny waterflea (SWF), the most recent aquatic invasive species to arrive in the Lake, was detected in late summer 2014. It is thought to be the only new invader since variable-leaved milfoil was found in southern Lake Champlain in 2009.

spiny water flea

Spiny waterfleas are not harmful to humans, but have altered the food web of lakes in the region. Photo: Emily DeBolt.

aquatic invasive species arrivals in LAke Champlain graphic

Figure 17 | Aquatic non-native and invasive species arrivals in Lake Champlain

As of 2014, Lake Champlain is home to 50 known non-native and invasive species (Figure 17). Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are non-native species that cause harm to the aquatic environment, economy, or human health. AIS include aquatic plants, animals, and pathogens, and they may be transported intentionally or unintentionally to the Basin mostly by people. Once AIS are introduced to Lake Champlain they are very difficult to manage and have the potential to spread to other water bodies.

Spiny waterflea (SWF), a small invasive crustacean (not an actual flea) was detected in Lake Champlain by the LCBP Long Term Biological Water Quality Monitoring Program in August 2014 and spread throughout much of the Lake by September. Native to northern Europe and Asia, spiny waterflea hitchhiked in ballast water to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and has recently spread to inland lakes in the Adirondacks (Figure 18). Spiny waterflea have long barbed tails that make up 70% of their body length and can get caught in the stomachs of fish that eat them. This species is a visual predator and feeds on zooplankton and smaller crustaceans such as Daphnia; changes in the food web of other northeastern lakes have been documented after SWF introduction. They prefer cold, deep water and are a nuisance to anglers because they can accumulate on downriggers and foul fishing lines and other fishing gear. Researchers are carefully gathering data to evaluate their effect on Lake Champlain.

spiny waterflea movement to Lake Champlain

Figure 18 | Spiny waterflea movement to Lake Champlain

The discovery of the spiny waterflea in Lake Champlain prompted the Lake Champlain Basin Aquatic Invasive Species Rapid Response Task Force to evaluate the new infestation. The task force is an appointed group of Lake Champlain Basin experts from New York, Vermont, and Québec that is dedicated to responding quickly to any new invasive species in the Basin.

The task force reviewed the technical feasibility of steps to prevent the spiny waterflea from spreading from Lake Champlain to other inland water bodies in the Basin. Although there are no known methods to control or eradicate spiny waterfleas once they have been detected in a water body, vigorous efforts to contain and prevent the species spread within the watershed are underway. Lake Champlain researchers were surprised at the apparent rate of population growth and spread when, by September 2014, they were detected at multiple lake stations in large numbers. Research shows that the most effective way to prevent the spread of all life stages of the spiny waterflea is to dry your boat, trailer, and equipment (including fishing line and anchors) completely, after boating in a body of water infested with spiny waterfleas and before launching in a different body of water.

What YOU can do

Clean: Inspect and remove plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment, including waders, ropes, anchors, and fishing gear before leaving water access area.

Drain: Remove all water from your boat, motor, bilge, live well, and bait containers before leaving water access area.

Dry: Keep your boat and trailer in the sun for at least five days or wash with hot water or a car wash if you use it sooner.

Don’t Dump Bait: Never release unwanted aquatic bait, dead or alive, into any water body.

Be Species Smart: Use only non-invasive plants and animals in gardens, ornamental ponds, and aquaria. Never release unwanted plants or animals into the wild.

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