Another invasive species has been found in the Great Lakes.
The EPA and Cornell University researchers have found a species of Zooplankton in Western Lake Erie. The plankton is Thermocyclops Crassus and is native to Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Now, of course, it is also in the Great Lakes.
The species was first found in the early 2000s in the ballasts of transoceanic ships. The EPA is not clear if ballast discharge spread the plankton to Lake Erie. It is also unknown how wide the spread of the plankton is. The good news is that this is the first significant detection since the bloody red shrimp 10 years ago.
The plankton prefers to stay in warm, fertile water. It was also discovered in 1991 in Lake Champlain. The plankton is not very prominent in Lake Champlain and does not appear to be effecting the lakes ecosystem. The effects on the Great Lakes ecosystem are yet to be seen as well. Only time will show the potential long-term impacts and consequences.
In response to this discovery, the National Wildlife Federation is pushing for legislation to protect the Great Lakes. The organization is pushing to give the EPA the authority to regulate ballast discharges. A power that they once had. Using the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act to remove the power from the EPA and prevent regulations at a state level as well.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes region is currently being damaged by more than 180 different invasive species. The most common damaging species are the zebra and quagga mussels, the round goby, and sea lamprey. Estimates indicate that these invasives cost over $100 million a year in the Great Lakes basin.