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Spiny Waterflea Invasion Spreads to New Waters

Sep 06, 2014 05:18 PM EDT

Officials have confirmed the presence of invasive spiny waterfleas in yet another popular body of water in Minnesota, showing that the spread of this harmful critters is far from controlled.

Fisheries officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the presence of the waterflea  on Thursday, adding Basswood Lake by the Minnesota-Ontario boarder near Ely the list of infested waters. An additional  three downstream lakes, and two connected river ways were also added, according to the Associated Press.

Despite its name, the spiny waterflea is not a bug. It's a small crustacean known to compete with fish for plankton. Without any natural predators in Minnesotan lakes, the creature has been handily out populating native fish, cutting remaining plankton supplies and significantly disrupting the balance of local ecosystems.

Amazingly, these invaders have been known to become so prevalent, that they can clog lines and other water equipment used for fishing,

These invaders, alongside zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil, are suspected to hitch rides in on the sides and in the ballast of boats are they move from region to region.

"The DNR is coordinating with Canadian officials at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to alert boaters and other recreationists about the risk of spreading the invasive species," Rich Rezanka, DNR aquatic biologist told the Star Tribune.

According to the local paper, Spiny waterfleas were first discovered in Lake Superior in 1987, likely introduced into the Great Lakes by ballast water discharged from ocean-going ships.

The DNR has been working to make sure commercial and recreational boater alike drain the water from all boat and fishing equipment before heading into a new harbor in the hopes of preventing spread of aggressive invasive species.

Back in 2009, a plan was launched in the hopes of "minimizing the negative impacts caused by invasive species to native plants and animals, natural ecosystems, recreation, tourism, agriculture, businesses, and human health in Minnesota," but it has been slow-going.

Nature World News has previously reported on how constraining can controlling invasive species is more difficult than you may think, as some native species more readily adapt to new invaders than others.

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