Monday, April 27, 2009

"Rock Snot" Making Inroads in Ulster County

An invasive algae known as "rock snot" or "didymo" is being found in more streams in Ulster County, most recently in the Esopus Creek (note: The Esopus Creek does not run through the Town of Esopus). The algae, Didymosphenia geminata, damages fish habitat and is of particular concern in trout streams like the Esopus. This is the third documented occurence of the algae in New York, and the first in Ulster County.

According to the DEC:

Unlike many other aquatic invasive plants, didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) grows on the bottom of both flowing and still waters. It is characterized by the development of thick, gooey mat-like growths - which can last for months - even in fast flowing streams. In addition to making footing difficult, didymo can impede fishing by limiting the abundance of bottom dwelling organisms that trout and other species of fish feed on. There are currently no known methods for controlling or eradicating didymo once it infests a water body.

The Times Union story on the subject makes a critically important point: It's up to all of us -- anglers, kayakers, hikers, etc. -- to avoid spreading this algae from water body to water body. According to the DEC:

The microscopic algae can cling - unseen - to waders, boots, boats, clothing, lures, hooks, fishing line and other equipment and remain viable for several weeks under even in seemingly dry conditions. Absorbent items, such as felt-soled waders and wet suits, require thorough treatment.
The DEC recommends these steps:

Remove visible "snot" from self and gear when exiting water (throw remnants in the trash, don't flush down the drain), then cleanse items in one of these ways:
  • Soak for one minute or more with 140+ degree water (for highly absorbent items, soak for 40 minutes in water above 115-degrees, or for 30 minutes in a 115-degree solution of 5% dishwashing detergent
  • Soak for one minute or more in a 2% bleach solution
  • Soak for one minute or more in a 5% salt or dishwashing detergent solution
  • Place gear in freezer until frozen solid
  • Dry gear for at least 48 hours

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