Behind habit destruction, the #1 reason for threatened and endangered species is loss caused by Introduced Invasive Species!
Introduced species are a greater threat to native biodiversity than pollution, harvest, and disease combined. More than 400 of the over 1,300 species currently protected under the Endangered Species Act, and more than 180 candidate species for listing are considered to be at risk at least partly due to displacement by, competition with, and predation by invasive species.
Invasive species are a leading factor in freshwater fish extinctions and endangerments. Non-native invasive species cost the economy of the United States more than $120 billion annually in lost production and control costs. In the absence of native predators and diseases, nonindigenous organisms may develop very large populations that create severe ecological and economic problems. When such invasions occur in our lakes and rivers, they can disrupt whole aquatic ecosystems and impair important municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational uses of our waterways. Exotic plant and animal species that threaten the diversity and use of our waters are typically termed Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS).
Nonindigenous species, as defined by the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, is any species or other viable biological material that enters an ecosystem beyond its historic range. This term is often used interchangeably with “alien,” which was defined by Executive Order 13112 as any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to the ecosystem in which it is found. These terms are also synonymous with “non-native” and “exotic”.
In South Carolina, the principal focus of managing AIS has been directed at nuisance aquatic plants, exotic mussels, and exotic fishes. Historically, non-native species have been introduced to South Carolina through direct stocking, aqua scaping, shipping, aquarium releases and bait releases. Some species also “hitchhike” on boats, motors, and trailers. South Carolina spends several hundred thousand dollars per year managing invasive aquatic vegetation threats alone.
What can you do to help curb this problem?
CLEAN off plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access. Scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.
DRAIN water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, live well and portable bait containers before leaving water access.
REPLACE with spring or dechlorinated tap water when keeping live bait before leaving water access.
DRY everything five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
DISPOSE of unwanted bait, fish parts, and packing materials, in the trash; do not dump them in the water or on land.
Use non-felt soled boots to further reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.
Fish caught for eating or taxidermy should be cleaned at designated fish cleaning stations or placed on ice.
Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.
Credits: SCDNR & stopaquatichitchhikers.org