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Environment & Energy

New Invasive Points Out Need to Protect Lake Erie

It's called Thermocyclops crassus, a zooplankton native to Asia that has now been found in Lake Erie.

A new invasive species has been detected in Lake Erie.  It’s a tiny crustacean native to Asia that scientists believe entered the waterway by hitching a ride in the ballast water of ocean going ships.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports that environmentalists say the discovery shows efforts to keep out invasives aren’t tough enough.

It’s a copepod, a type of zooplankton that could sit on the tip of a pin. But scientists don’t know what impact the tiny critter might have on native ecosystems.

Marc Smith is project director with the National Wildlife Federation.

He says the discovery of the new invasive in Western Lake Erie by a team from Cornell points out the need for more monitoring.

“No one is really looking for invasive species, there’s no systematic program to do that, but when they do in fact look for new invasive species they’re finding them.”

Smith says the discovery is also evidence that current procedures for flushing ballast water at sea are not working well enough.

Credit US EPA
Two sampling sites in Western Lake Erie tested positive for the new invasive copepod. Scientists don't know what impact it may have on native ecosystems.

“Protections are still needed, and now is the time to be conservative in our approach and be stronger, and not weaken regulations that are aimed at protecting our fresh water in the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes are home to around 185 invasive species, some like the zebra mussel, have had a huge impact while others are more benign.