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Government agencies and boaters prepare to combat Great Lakes invaders

Release Date: 07/29/2008
Contact Information: Phillippa Cannon, 312-353-6218

No. 08- OPA125

Chicago (July 29, 2008) -- Over 30 representatives of local, state and federal government agencies and community groups will test their readiness to respond to aquatic invaders in the Great Lakes in a three day exercise in Presque Isle Bay, Pa., starting July 29. Participants will exercise on the water on July 30. This is the first time that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office has brought together a variety of groups in such an exercise. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is hosting the pilot exercise which may be repeated elsewhere in the Great Lakes and other watersheds.

"The Great Lakes ecosystem is a priceless natural resource and this exercise is helping ensure that we are ready to protect it," said Gary Gulezian, Director of the Great Lakes National Program Office. "Pennsylvania is demonstrating how all levels of government can work together to pool their resources and prevent new invaders from becoming established. "

Invasive species can cause great ecological and economic harm to the Great Lakes basin. Over 180 nonnative aquatic species, such as the zebra mussel and round goby, have been documented in the Great Lakes. They are introduced and spread through a variety of means, including by boaters and anglers visiting infested waterways. Recreational boaters and anglers play a critical role in preventing the spread of invasives by cleaning, draining and drying their boats each time they leave a body of water.

"These organisms prey upon or directly compete with our native species for the same limited resources, threatening the biological heritage that we share as Pennsylvanians," said Lori Boughton, DEP Chief of the Office of the Great Lakes. "While preventing new introductions is the single most important thing that can be done to combat aquatic invasive species, it also is important to quickly detect and respond to new infestations. This week we are improving our preparedness - testing the abilities of multiple jurisdictions to communicate and respond in a coordinated fashion."

During the exercise, participants will trawl for fish and practice using fish electroshocking equipment to prepare for a real-life situation where these techniques could be used to confirm the presence of an invasive species. By working together in an exercise, agencies will learn ways they can combine assets and overcome jurisdictional barriers to respond quickly to the introduction of harmful aquatic species.

More information about invasive aquatic species in the Great Lakes is available at