One point that Cecil could have gone into more detail on, in his zebra mussel column: In the last paragraph, he mentions that it’s inadvisable to eat zebra mussels, because, as filter feeders, they tend to have high levels of mercury and other heavy metals. That’s true, but the real problem is actually even worse. Now that zebra mussels are here, pretty much everything else in the lakes eats them, or eats things that eat them, or eats things that eat things that eat them. And since a larger fish has to eat a lot of smaller fish or zebra mussels, every level of the food web ends up with progressively higher levels of heavy metal contamination. Which means that you’re ill-advised to eat pretty much anything that comes out of the Great Lakes.
I was sort of hoping for an update – it’s been 12 years since Cecil’s original column. Has there been any progress in eradicating the zebra mussel from Lake Michigan?
At least the zebra mussels are pretty much gone from Lake Michigan now.
Unfortunately they’ve been driven out and replaced by their larger, more voracious relative, the Quagga mussel.
Just can’t catch a break . . .
Good lord, is there any native life in Michigan at all? It seems like every species mentioned in that article Jasmine linked is invasive or introduced.
Whitefish, Lake Trout, and yellow perch are still around, but nowhere near the numbers they used to be. My ancestors made their living fishing Lake Michigan in the mid 1800s until they closed their fishery just south of my home back about 1962.
In Georgian Bay, we’ve seen the population of zebra mussels decline but we’re seeing a major Goby invasion.
I’ve also been active with trying to stop phragmites (reeds) from gaining any more of a toehold in our area.
The current Michigan guide for eating fish safely in and around the Upper Peninsula:
We’ve pretty much wiped out phragmites from our stretch of beach and it now pretty closely resembles what the beach looked like before that foreign invader arrived. But we’ve one neighbor who doesn’t want to get with the program, wanting a ‘wild and natural’ appearance to his property. Now you can’t even see his property thru the tangle of phragmites. :mad:
Salmon, a non-native fish, has been introduced and seems to be thriving, albeit with a little help from human-run hatcheries like this one near Kewaunee.
Sport fishermen catch bass and walleye as well as salmon, enough that Sturgeon Bay has a popular fishing tournament (catch and release) every spring. Commercial fishing, not so much.
Still got plenty of deer.
The Great Lakes were never that biodiverse to begin with, having only been in existence for 10K years or so.
But we still have the walleyes and Bass, as Musicat noted. I just wish sturgeon would make a resurgence.
The DEC is working on it. Recently visited the Buffalo Aquarium, where they had an exhibition about the DEC’s attempt to nurse young sturgeon. Supposedly keeping them in captivity for the first year greatly increases their rates of survival in the wild (less fry loss to predation). The only issue is that the size of the program is limited by budget.
Buffalo doesn’t have an aquarium. At least not one open to the public in the sense of a museum of sea life.
In one of the lakes I used to go to every summer they’ve been (I assume, still) a huge problem with Zebra Mussels. When I was up there the first time, the owner of the house I was at was taking us out on some jet skis. Before he’d let us take them out, he showed us how, in deep water, to jump off the jet ski, reach under and pull all the seaweed out of the motor inlet. The problem, as he explained it, was that the zebra mussels ate all the algae which makes the water very clear. The clear water allows the sun to get down the bottom of the lake and that lets the seaweed grow much better than it ever could before. The lake looks nice, but if you have a jet ski (or most other motorized water craft, I assume) it causes a lot of problems.
The other problem is the very sharp shells that make the beach almost unusable. As you walk up to it, it looks like gravel, when you get closer you see that it’s just shells, and you can’t walk on them without footwear.
Interestingly, as I was looking for the picture, I saw that in some cases it’s driving home prices UP in the area. If you’re less concerned about using the water than looking at it (or maybe just don’t know), the clean, clear looking lake is appealing.
Excuse me, the Aquarium of Niagra. I was visiting my daughter in Buffalo and wasn’t watching the city/county lines as we went around.
The newfound clarity of Lake Michigan put me off filter feeders forever.
A friend of ours just landed a 10 lb. Coho Salmon trolling around our island!
Rumour around town is that the pen at the hatchery broke. I’ve never seen so many fishing boats around us!
Sharp shells? We is to laff! Not a concern if you walk barefoot on sand, gravel, and shells all summer. I have no problem, but I have leather feet and an aversion to shoes.