Montana Dives in to Fight Aquatic Invasive Species
Over 30 boats have been found carrying aquatic invasive species this season in Montana. Good to know Montana FWP continues to be pro-active.
According to my buddy Brett French, Outdoor Editor for the Billings Gazette, in an attempt to more quickly and effectively attack aquatic invasive species, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has created its own dive team from existing staff. The crew of six was formed last year. Prior to that, the agency relied on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dive team.
And they're on board (or overboard) not just for mussels and the like. The Montana crew is already working to eliminate nuisance aquatic species like Eurasian watermilfoil at Beaver Lake near Whitefish.
As Brett puts it, aquatic invasive species are like the COVID-19 of streams and lakes. It takes only one watercraft to become a super spreader, introducing an invader like Eurasian watermilfoil or zebra mussels to a waterway. When an invader is detected, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks “A Team” can dive in, pulling volunteers from across its Aquatic Invasive Species staff.
Prior to that, the agency used the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s divers for mussel-type events, but it can take time for them to assemble and drive to Montana when time is of the essence. The goal was a quick response dive team, not only for mussel detection.
There’s a lot of interest in using the dive team for population delineation of other species, control work for mussels and whatever fishery needs might come up, such as fish counts. Seems like it might be of great value for all fisheries.
The cost to the United States of these water-borne intruders has been estimated at $137 billion a year, according to Montana FWP.