People who go fishing might be attracted to a new environmentally friendly lure. Chuck Quirmbach reports:
People who go fishing might be attracted to a new environmentally friendly lure. Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Soft plastic lures such as wiggly worms are often made more flexible by adding chemical compounds called phthalates. These chemicals have been linked to adverse health effects… and when the lures are torn off a hook, the compounds pollute waters.
Tim Osswald is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin. He’s helped a manufacturer come up with a process that uses tiny plastic fibers inside the lures. Osswald says the microfibers make the lures stronger.
“Using this technology they would no longer end up at the bottom of the lake. Or at least at a much, much smaller rate.”
Oswald says the lures no longer stretch like a piece of rubber but still turn and wiggle and have that ‘worm-like feel.’ He says the reinforced lure might cost a little more in the stores. But he says they’re likely to last longer.
Commercial fishers and biologists are concerned
about the impact a viral disease will have on the Great Lakes fishery.
There have been some large fish kills. Live fish commerce has been
restricted to help prevent the spread of the disease.
A disease is spreading, causing large fish kills in the Great Lakes.
Biologists and fishery officials are working to prevent further spread of
the disease, but there’s a conflict between government agencies. Lester
Graham reports there’s also a cost to businesses that deal in live fish:
A disease is spreading, causing large fish kills in the Great Lakes. Biologists and
officials are working to prevent further spread of the disease, but there’s a conflict
between government agencies. Lester Graham reports there’s also a cost to businesses
that deal in live fish:
The disease that’s killing fish is called Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia — or VHS. Jim
Diana is a fish biologist at the University of Michigan who’s been looking into what
does to fish…
“So, it’s a virus that the fish pick up and the virus causes really kind of a
deterioration. Most notable, sometimes they’ll develop sores or lesions on the
the body, but they often will die without really external evidence at all.”
Basically, the fish die from internal bleeding. For several years there have been
in the St. Lawrence River, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. But
researchers weren’t able to confirm the cause was VHS. Then this past summer in Lake
Saint Clair — the lake near Detroit that lies between Lake Huron and Lake Erie —
Diana says fish die-offs were confirmed to be caused by VHS.
“And since then, they’ve found it in quite a few other species, something like 20
species, so it’s quite widespread.”
It’s not clear how the virus got here. But… it originated in Europe. Researchers
that infected fish hitchhiked in the ballast tanks of a ship… or a live fish shipment
escaped into the St. Lawrence River and it’s spread from there by ship.
Biologists say the spread of VHS is not good. It’s not expected to wipe out fish in
Great Lakes. But it is causing some real concern.
“We’re not talking about a couple of fish here, we’re talking about large fish
VHS is present in those and implicated in the deaths of those fish.”
Marc Gaden is with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Gaden says because stocking
fish is a big industry… there’s a lot of fish shipped between the U.S. and Canada and
between one state and another.
“So, in the Great Lakes basin there is a movement of fish, fish eggs and other fishery
related things like water that’s used in the fish stocking trucks, things like that.
aquaculture that occurs, fish farms in the Great Lakes basin. The Departments of
Natural Resources harvest fish eggs to use in their stocking programs and the fish
themselves are stocked. So, there’s movement of fish and fish eggs throughout the
Lakes basin just as a normal part of fisheries management and commerce that occurs.”
So the chance that the virus can be spread by all those fish moving around is
The federal government thought it was such a risk that it banned all fish shipments.
states quickly appealed that. They said it was overkill. They persuaded the feds
were doing enough testing that the chances that VHS would be spread were slim.
So, the feds backed off a bit. But restrictions are still causing some problems. For
example… live fish that are not going to be put back into the lakes… live fish that
headed for dinner plates at restaurants still have to be tested. And VHS poses no
Ted Batterson is the director of the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center at
Michigan State University. He says he knows one fish farmer whose business is
supplying rainbow trout to restaurants.
“Well, now to be able to do that, he has to have the certification that these are
It takes him currently, with the laboratory he’s been sending these to, up to 90
get the certification that these are disease free. Well, that is not timely because
people who want fish at the other end need them in essence like yesterday, not 90 days
down the road.”
Another business hit by the restrictions on moving live fish is the bait industry.
bait industry has to test –for example—one out of every 50 fish… and the test costs
50-dollars… no one will be able to afford to sell bait fish.
The states and the feds are still trying to figure out how to prevent the spread of
without hurting the businesses that rely on live fish shipments any more than
But… some businesses are already feeling the squeeze.
For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.
Life in the suburbs is idyllic to some people... (Photo by Bon Searle)
...and many rats, now that the sewers have been flooded. (Photo by Tamara Bauer)
Unusually heavy rains this summer are partly to blame
for rats pouring out of the sewers in droves all over the country, and the nasty vermin are relocating to some of the most pristine
neighborhoods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce
Kryszak explains what caused the rat invasion and
what’s being done to evict them:
Unusually heavy rains this summer are partly to blame for rats pouring out of the sewers
in droves all over the country. And the nasty vermin are relocating to some of the most
pristine neighborhoods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak explains what
caused the rat invasion and what’s being done to evict them:
Piercing blue autumn skies and billowing white clouds drift across the chimneys of this modest,
but perfectly manicured suburb. There aren’t even many leaves crunching under foot. Town workers
have already come and vacuumed them all away. But there’s a nasty little secret scurrying under
the porches and behind the garden sheds in this Western New York town. County Sanitation Chief
Peter Tripi takes us for a peek.
“Can you see the teeth marks here? That’s actually rat gnaw marks. And there’s the garbage bag.
And that’s what we found when we went to this property.”
Now, you might be thinking that we trudged through derelict grass and scattered debris to find
these rat clues. Nope. This is a gorgeous, manicured yard – with not a blade of grass out of
place. But Tripi says rats aren’t choosy.
“You would never think by looking side to side that there would be a rat problem in this yard.
Doesn’t matter what neighborhood you live in, or how much money you’ve got. There’s no difference.
They just like your food.”
And you’d be surprised where rats can find food. A garbage can left even briefly uncovered, a
neglected bird feeder, uhhh… dog feces… and even a compost pile.
“Absolutely. This is a rat condo. It’s a grass-clipping compost pile that basically housed rats
to go a hundred yard radius all the way around to the different houses.”
Tripi says rats had to get creative with their housing. A summer of extremely heavy rains drove
the out of the sewers and into some previously rat-free neighborhoods. And with the West Nile
virus killing off millions of birds, the rats have less competition for the food they’re finding
above ground. The consequence is a virtual rat infestation all the way from New York and Illinois
to Virginia, Michigan and L.A. In Kenmore, there have been four thousand rat complaints – nearly
double last year.
(Sound of garbage truck)
Of course, none of this is news to the garbage collectors. They see the problem up close and
personal. Twenty-year veteran Louie Tadaro says this past summer is the worst he’s ever seen.
“Across the street there’s an alleyway and there had to be like ten of them in there, And we
started chasing them with garbage cans trying to kill them, but we couldn’t. By the time we
got there they just split.”
The problem is, they don’t split for long. Vector Control Chief Tripi says now that the rats
have relocated from the sewers to upscale accommodations, they kind of like it.
“And what that means is that they want to live with us. They want to be near our garbage and
our bird feeders. The problem with that is that rats carry diseases.”
We all know about stuff like typhus and the bubonic plague. But there are emerging diseases,
such as a pet-killer called Leptospiroris. It’s killing dogs all across the country. Tripi
says they need to get rid of the rats before the disease starts spreading to humans. So, his
team is taking the rats on, one yard at a time.
Tripi and his Vector control team set rat traps, they fill bait boxes with poison, and – when
they have to – they issue citations to residents who don’t heed the town’s new “rat control rules.” Covered garbage cans only. Clear away all brush. Clean up scattered bird seed and dog feces. Slowly, the rules seem to be working.
(sound of Tripi looking into rat trap)
Still Tripi says it’s mostly educational warfare. And he says now – heading into winter – is the
best time to nip the problem. If the rats get cozy, not only will they stay, they will multiply.
Fully nourished, one adult rat can breed up to sixty baby rats a year.
“The adult rat can live on a little bit of food, but he can’t procreate unless he has a lot of
food source. And they can’t live through the winter unless they’re warm and fattened up.”
So now is the time to – quite literally – put a lid on it. Keep those garbage cans covered, unless
you want some uninvited furry guests this winter, and many, many more come spring.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Joyce Kryszak.
Most of us think of earthworms as beneficial creatures. Gardeners are always happy to spot a worm in the flowerbed because they add fertilizer to the soil. Many anglers say they’re the best thing for catching fish. But scientists are beginning to learn worms aren’t so friendly to Great Lakes forests. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Most of us think of earthworms as beneficial creatures. Gardeners are always happy to spot a
worm in the flowerbed because they add fertilizer to the soil. And many anglers say they’re the
best thing for catching fish. But scientists are beginning to learn worms aren’t so friendly to
Great Lakes forests. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports.
(fade up Girl Scouts)
This Girl Scout troop is learning about worms. Judy Gibbs is a naturalist at the Hartley Nature
Center in Duluth. She shows the girls how to coax worms out of the soil. They pour water laced
with powdered mustard into the worms’ burrows.
It irritates the worms and they come squiggling up by the hundreds.
“Pour it in. Wait a minute. Here it comes. It doesn’t like the mustard and it comes right up.
Look at this one (laughter). oh, there’s another one. Look at it go!” (shrieks)
On their walk through the woods, the girls look for dead leaves. There aren’t many. Judy Gibbs
“Here’s a leaf stem that’s being pulled into this hole. Who’s doing this? Ants! No. Worms.
There’s big night crawlers. You know what a night crawler is? They grow straight down into the
ground, and they come up at night and pull leaves down into their burrows. And they eat the leaf
right off. That’s why we’re not finding any leaves.”
Worms eating leaves might seem natural, but it turns out these worms aren’t native to these
woods. The last glacier buried most of what is now the Great Lakes region. When it melted,
plants and animals returned to create a community of maples, pines, songbirds, and tender plants
growing on the forest floor, like trillium…but not earthworms.
Cindy Hale is a biologist who studies the native wildflowers that grow in northern hardwood
forests. She loves the spring bloomers that take root in the spongy layer of decaying leaves on
the forest floor. Trillium, bloodroot, solomon’s seal.
Hale says many of these plants are disappearing.
“Sites that forty years ago were carpets of trillium have been slowly over the last two decades
declining to almost nothing, and people were scratching their heads, trying to figure out just
what’s going on.”
Earthworm populations are thickest close to cities. But Hale says people bring worms with them
when they come to the woods.
At first, settlers carried them in, along with the animals and plants they brought from Europe or
the east coast. These days, worms are spread by people who drive in the woods – loggers, ATV
“But in particular, fishing bait is a huge way that worms get moved around in our region.
Because there’s so many lakes and so much fishing.”
Hale and her colleagues set up test plots along an advancing line of worms in the Chippewa
National Forest in central Minnesota. The worms crawl about three yards further into the forest
each year. Hale is studying how the soil and the plants have changed as the worms advance.
Worms eat the decaying leaves on the forest floor. They mix that organic matter into the mineral
soil beneath it. And in time, they can use up all the organic matter and leave only mineral soil
That means the plants that have evolved to take root in the leaves on top of the soil have lost their
Hale says these changes could affect every plant and animal that lives in the woods. She says,
for instance, even birds have declined by nearly 50% in the last fourteen years.
“Because ovenbirds nest in that forest floor, so if you lose the forest floor, then you may well
affect ground-nesting birds such as that. So when you start thinking about it, the potential
ramifications across the ecosystem get really wild.”
Hale says one of the big challenges in studying this problem is that there’s been very little basic
research – like how many worms are there are and where.
To gather more information and to get more people involved, Hale created a web-based learning
program. She’s asking teachers from around the country to have their classes do worm counts
and other research. Hale plans to add their data to the web page.
In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources is working with interest groups to try to slow
the spread of worms. Next year’s fishing regulations will include instructions not to dump your
worms at the end of a day of fishing.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill in Duluth.
Lawmakers have introduced a bill that they hope will reinvigorate the fight against aquatic invasive species. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports:
Lawmakers have introduced a bill that they hope will reinvigorate the
fight against aquatic invasive species. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mark Brush reports:
The bill is an attempt by lawmakers to beef up the National Invasive
Species Act of 1996. Critics say that the old law didn’t go far enough
in protecting the U.S. from importing harmful species.
Allegra Cangelosi is a senior policy analyst with the Northeast-Midwest
Institute. She says that federal and state agencies and research
organizations, must work together to be successful.
“One of the characteristics of these invasive species is that they can
come in your live seafood package or they could come in your bait
bucket, or in your ship – there’s so many different vectors by which
invasive species come, and there’s no one agency that has jurisdiction
over all of them.”
Cangelosi says if the bill is passed into law, it will improve the way
agencies cooperate in tackling the invasive species problem. The bill
also calls for current funding levels to be quadrupled.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.
Fishing season opens in the Wisconsin northwoods and the sign outside
the baitshop says, "Crappie (Crop-pee) Minnows a dollar seventy-five a
scoop." The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Nick Van Der Puy visits a
local bait shop to talk about fishing:
Another skirmish is erupting in the ongoing battle between Ontario and
Minnesota over sport fishing. Ontario recently banned the importation
of leeches without a permit. The reason – the Province says it doesn’t
want to risk exotic species piggy-backing on the popular bait. But as
the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports, experts
on controlling exotic species say the reasoning is faulty:
When vending machines were first introduced, they mostly dispensed
coffee, soft drinks, and cellophane-wrapped sandwiches. But today, some
vending machines are offering up a very different kind of grub; they
dispense fishing bait. It’s a growing trend in vending. There are now
about two-thousand bait machines across the country, with the largest
concentration in Michigan, Ohio, and New York. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports: