For the editor:
Here in the Adirondacks region, we know how special Lake Champlain is. It provides year-round recreation opportunities for residents and visitors and boosts our local economies. It hosts some of the best fisheries in the country and is home to abundant wildlife. Lake Champlain brings so much to our communities, and now we are calling on the state to step in and protect it.
Lake Champlain is in danger due to the impending introduction of the invasive round goby. The round goby is a small species of fish native to southeastern Europe that arrived in the Great Lakes 31 years ago in a ship’s untreated ballast water. Round gobies aggressively compete with native fish for habitat and prey on their eggs and young, including bass, trout, and salmon. Once established, invasive species like the round goby are often impossible to eradicate, so the best strategy by far is to prevent the invasive species from spreading in the first place.
Last summer, round gobies were detected in the Hudson River. The only thing preventing round gobies from entering Lake Champlain from the river is a set of physical barriers in the Champlain Canal that are closed for the winter season. But if all the canal locks are reopened in May for the summer season as planned, nothing will prevent round gobies from infiltrating Lake Champlain and devastating its natural ecosystem.
It is therefore imperative that New York State keep a single lock closed in the Champlain Canal to prevent this devastation, until a permanent barrier against invasive species is built. If the state allows the round goby into Lake Champlain, local communities will pay the price, including the heavy financial burden of trying to limit the damage.
The round goby’s impact on native species threatens many types of recreation that attract thousands of visitors each year, especially the lake’s world-class bass fishing scene. This summer alone, the Adirondack Coast and the city of Plattsburgh are hosting seven professional bass fishing tournaments, which attract anglers from around the world. This contributes heavily to the recreational economy around Lake Champlain, and all is in jeopardy if the round gobies are allowed to make a canal trip to the lake.
This is a rare occasion where we already have the infrastructure and capabilities in place to prevent further damage.
The Nature Conservancy, along with several local governments, businesses and organizations are calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to prevent this devastation by temporarily keeping a lock closed in the Champlain Canal until a permanent invasive species barrier is developed. what the Army Corps of Engineers is doing now. We ask everyone who appreciates Lake Champlain and its beauty, recreation and economic benefits to join us.
Director, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Section