Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Rock Snot" Alarms Fishermen

On the upside, nobody is blaming global warming.

But give it time.

Icky algae alarms New England fishermen
STOCKBRIDGE, Vt. - It looks like a clump of soiled sheep's wool, a cottony green or white mass that's turning up on rocks and river bottoms, snarling waterways. Already a scourge in New Zealand and parts of the American South and West, the aquatic algae called "rock snot" is creeping into New England, where it is turning up in pristine rivers and alarming fishermen and wildlife biologists.

"It scares me," said Lawton Weber, a fly fishing guide, who first spotted it on the Connecticut River in northern Vermont in June. "It's an aesthetic eyesore when it's in full bloom mode and its impact on the trout population is going to be significant."

Over the past 10 years, the algae with a scientific name of Didymosphenia geminata, or didymo, has turned up in California, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, the Dakotas, Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee.

"We're starting to realize it's all over the place," said Karl Hermann, a regional waste monitoring and assessment coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver.

What started out in Vancouver Island in British Columbia "has suddenly just skyrocketed," he said.

The algae has the potential to bloom into thick masses with long stalks, blanketing the bottoms of some streams, threatening aquatic insect and fish populations by smothering food sources.

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