FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2009
SCHUMER DEMANDS THAT FEDS STEP UP FUNDING TO STAMP OUT INVASIVE SPECIES SPREADING THROUGH STREAMS AND RIVERS IN PUTNAM COUNTY, THREATENING WORLD CLASS TROUT FISHING
With Hudson Valley fisherman facing the prospect of devastating consequences from aquatic invasive species, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for $20 million to protect the region's vital recreational fishing industry. Over the past few years, the problem of didymo, a particularly damaging form of invasive algae, has worsened. This species grows in thick mats along riverbeds, which smother plants along the bottom of freshwater streams, depriving trout of their food and habitat, and eventually their lives. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Aquatic Nuisance Species Program leads the national fight to protect inland waters from invasives species, but unfortunately, even as the specter of invasives has grown in recent years, this program and its task force have been drastically underfunded. Schumer has warned that unless funding to combat this scourge is increased, didymo could continue to spread and destroy fishing as we know it throughout the Hudson Valley and the entire state.
“Trout fishing in the Hudson Valley is one of the true pleasures of life in New York, as well as an important source for economic growth,” said Schumer. “Protecting our fish and waterways from invasive species is critical to the continued vitality of this pastime, so I will fight to make sure that we have all the tools necessary to finish off this threat, hook, line and sinker.”
Today Schumer announced that unless immediate action is taken to prevent the spread of didymo and other invasive species, they may spread unimpeded across the Hudson Valley. Once a stream is infected with didymo, it is impossible to remove, underscoring the importance of tackling this problem immediately and not waiting until the problem gets worse. Schumer noted that these foreign species are particularly damaging to the Hudson Valley, the home of trout fishing in New York State.
Didymo has the potential to cause significant damage to the Upstate New York economy. The algae prefers cold, fast-running water—exactly the same waters preferred by New York’s important recreational game fish, such as trout. The American Sportfishing Association estimates that every year, New York State generates more than $754 million in total revenue from recreational freshwater fishing, as well as $243 million in salaries and wages and 6,920 jobs. If didymo invades streams and impairs the viability of the major recreational fisheries, New York’s tourism industry stands to lose millions of dollars.
Today, in an effort to help local fisherman and stop the spread of didymo in the waterways, Schumer demanded that the Senate appropriations committee direct an additional $15 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service to combat the didymo algae and other invasive plant and animal species, and work to preserve trout fishing in the Hudson Valley. In past years, this program has received a paltry $5.4 million to protect waterways throughout the country.
Aquatic invasive species wreak havoc on ecosystems and local waterways. For years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been battling several significant aquatic invasives such as Eurasian milfoil, quagga and zebra mussels, and the Japanese shore crab.
In the past few years, the DEC has discovered a new invasive plant in New York's streams called didymo (Didymosphenia geminate), a Eurasian diatom algae, that is causing huge problems in freshwater streams across the Northeast. The didyo forms mats of algae that smother native plants and starve the animals which feed on them. It also changes the important habitat used for trout spawning and for their food sources, such as aquatic bugs. Since didymo first invaded the Northeast in 2006, it has caused nuisance blooms in New York streams in both of the subsequent summers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared that didymo is increasingly threatening local waterways.
To prevent the spread of didymo, New York is mounting an aggressive and ambitious campaign to educate boaters and anglers. Funding the federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Program will deliver more money to the Task Force, which distributes money to states to implement their own projects to combat invasive species. DEC's aggressive response to the didymo threat is directed at prevention, because there is no way to cure a stream of the algae. Didymo is spread when contaminated water from an infected water body gets into a clean, uncontaminated water body. Even the tiniest amount of water can spread the tiny didymo algae.
The interagency Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, governed by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) coordinates federal responses to invasive aquatic pests. It is chaired by the FWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the majority of its funding comes from FWS. Over the last few years, funding for the interagency Aquatic Nuisance Species Program has been low, leaving the Task Force perilously underequipped to fulfill its important mission.
To help ensure proper funding for Program and its Task Force, Senator Schumer urged Interior-Environment Appropriations SubcommitteeChairman Dianne Feinstein and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander to increase funding for the program to $20 million and include report language directing FWS to use this funding to fight aquatic invasive species.
The additional funding will help the Task Force fight aquatic invasive species to protect the trout and save state revenue and jobs.