Fish and Aquatic Conservation
photo of a nutria
Nutria are resilient. The South American mammals have been thriving in their non-native North American habitats over the last 70 years, often at the expense of the local ecosystem. Photo credit: Jackie Orsulak/USFWS

Fighting Invasive Species

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Aquatic Invasive Species - Least Wanted List

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Asian carp impact aquatic ecosystems by competing with other native species for food. Asian carp may also transmit diseases to native fish populations, ruin recreational waterways, and threaten economically important commercial and sport fisheries!

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Sea lampreys are predatory fish that feed on the blood and body fluids of other fish. A single sea lamprey eats 40 or more pounds of fish in its life as a parasite! They were introduced to the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain through shipping canals where they then decimated economically important fish populations, including lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon.

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Quagga and zebra mussels are among the most devastating aquatic species to invade North American fresh waters. They clog water intake and delivery pipes, block dam intakes, and stick to boats, pilings, and most hard surfaces. Mussels impact public water delivery systems, fire protection, and irrigation systems and require costly removal maintenance.

Protecting America’s Waterways from Harm

The Aquatic Invasive Species Program helps safeguard our nation’s waterways from invasive species by working with our partners to develop and implement prevention and control projects, educating the public and drafting regulations to prohibit the importation of high-risk species

Prevent Introductions

Preventing introductions of potentially harmful species is the most efficient way to reduce the threat of invasive species. Once introduced, an invasive species can spread uncontrollably, harming vital ecosystems, and impacting recreation, human health, the economy, and infrastructure.

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Detect and Respond

Even the best prevention efforts aren’t going to catch everything. Early detection surveillance allows the Aquatic Invasive Species Program and its partners to detect new invasions before they become too large to eradicate and prevent further spread. The earlier an invasion is detected, the more effective our response will be at eliminating the introduction. 

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Stop the Spread

Once an invasive species becomes established, containment and control becomes difficult, complex, and expensive. America’s lakes, rivers, and wetlands form a connected web of habitat that cross state and regional boundaries. Invasive species can easily travel from one waterway to the next with the current, by hitchhiking on things like boats and gear, or by improper disposal of bait. Stopping their spread requires close collaboration with states, industries, and everyone who uses America’s waterways.

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Suppress Outbreaks

As a last resort, invasive species populations can be suppressed, or controlled, through removal projects, often as part of a larger effort to restore an ecosystem. The most successful control programs, such as sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes, utilize the benefits of multiple tools and partners working together.

The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force has national control and management plans finalized for several species including European green crab, mitten crabs, Caulerpa (a seaweed), New Zealand mudsnail, and Asian carp.

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