The Finger Lakes Institute was recently cited as the source for information about an invasive Asian clam that was recently found in Owasco Lake. In a Post Standard article about the discovery, it is noted “Owasco would be the second of the Finger Lakes to have Asian clams, according to Sarah Meyer of the Finger Lakes Institute in Geneva. In 1999, Seneca Lake reported the clams were spotted south of Sampson State Park.” Meyer is community outreach coordinator for the Finger Lakes Institute.
Established at Hobart and William Smith in 2000, the Finger Lakes Institute is dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and surrounding environments. In collaboration with regional environmental partners and state and local government offices, the Institute fosters environmentally-sound development practices throughout the region, and disseminates the accumulated knowledge to the general public. It is the only organization of its kind performing research on all of the Finger Lakes.
Full text of the article follows.
Fears of an Asian Invasion
Scott Rapp • Staff Writer • April 17, 2011
At first glance, Owasco Lake’s water at Emerson Park looks clear as a moonlit night. However, it’s what might be lurking in the lake’s sandy bottom off the park that has the potential to darken the lake’s future.
Officials in Cayuga County confirmed last week that Asian clams — an invasive, destructive and prolific species — were discovered in great numbers at the north end of the lake last fall.
The clams — if they are still in the lake and officials fear that is likely — could wreak environmental and economic harm to the area this summer. The clams could trigger a blue-green algae outbreak in the lake, clog water intake pipes, poison untreated water drawn from the lake, foul swimming areas and choke the area’s boating- and fishing-driven economy, officials said.
“Our concern is that we could have several hundred acres of infestation already, and how do we deal with that?” said Jessica Reinhart, the lake’s watershed inspector.
Owasco would be the second of the Finger Lakes to have Asian clams, according to Sarah Meyer of the Finger Lakes Institute in Geneva. In 1999, Seneca Lake reported the clams were spotted south of Sampson State Park.
Both Meyer and Amy Benson, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, Fla., said they are uncertain as to whether Asian clams are still in Seneca Lake, but Benson said “… this species rarely goes away on its own.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is unaware that Asian clams are in any of the Finger Lakes, said Diane Carlton, a DEC spokeswoman. At Owasco Lake, most of the likely infestation of Asian clams appears to be around Emerson Park and nearby Deauville Island, Reinhart said.
A task force of Cayuga County officials and lakeside property owners has formed and is looking for information about the clams and ways to get rid of them, said Joe Wasileski, past president of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association. The group is considering using divers to scout the lake bottom for further proof that the clams are in the lake.
If so, they’ve got big problems, folks in Lake George in eastern New York say. Residents there discovered Asian clams had invaded their lake last August and now are looking at spending some $400,000 or more to try to smother the small-shelled invaders.
“It’s a very serious problem. It’s the most serious problem we’ve ever faced from an aquatic invader. We are very concerned,” said Lynne Rosenthal, a member of the Lake George Association.
Asian clams now cover close to five acres of lake bottom near the village of Lake George. The infested area is one of the busiest recreational and tourist sections of the lake, Rosenthal said. In some spots there are 6,000 clams per square meter.
The clams are indigenous to Southeast Asia but are spreading fast around the world, typically transported on ships and boats from waterway to waterway. They reproduce without a mate and can make between 2,000 and 4,000 offspring in a day during their summer breeding season, officials said.
The clams feed on phosphorous-laden waste in lake bottoms and then excrete their waste into the water, which in turn fertilizes plant growth. Also, Asian clams eat green algae, which allows potentially toxic blue-green algae to bloom. Coming into contact with blue-green algae can cause skin irritations, neurological damage and fatally poison pets that drink water that’s been in contact with blue-green algae, Reinhart said.
Cayuga County Environmental Engineer Bruce Natale said the potential for serious problems at the lake is looming, especially if Central New York has a warm spring and summer like last year. Asian clams thrive in the sandy bottoms of shallow, warm lake water, much like the typical conditions at Emerson Park.
“Parts of the lake could be closed for swimming, water skiing and jet skiing,” Natale said.
Lake George’s Rosenthal urged people on Owasco Lake to take swift action. Her village is planning to smother its clams by laying down mats over the entire four-plus acres that are infested.
“It’s very expensive but, of course, it gets more expensive if you delay,” Rosenthal said.
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