New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
dan.williams@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, OCT. 7, 2008:

INVASIVE 'ROCK SNOT' ALGAE FOUND IN UPPER PECOS RIVER

COWLES -- The Department of Game and Fish is urging anglers and others who visit the Pecos River Canyon to take measures to prevent the spread of an invasive species of algae that could present many problems for the Pecos River and other state waters.

The New Mexico Environment Department confirmed a bloom of Didymosphenia geminata in the Pecos River near Cowles in August.  Commonly called "didymo," the single-celled alga's large, ugly growths on stream gravels have earned it the descriptive name, "rock snot." It is an aquatic nuisance species known to be transferred around the world on boats, fishing equipment and footwear.

Didymo can undergo explosive growth, creating massive algal blooms in the form of dense mats that can impact native algae and invertebrates -- the food base for native and sport fish. The alga can change water chemistry and hydrology and reduce hydroelectric power production. Its presence also can hurt tourist economies in infected areas.

There are no known health threats associated with eating fish caught in didymo-infested waters.

Native to northern Europe and Vancouver Island, Canada, didymo has spread to all but three U.S. states, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. It appears to prefer habits low in nutrients and organic productivity, but can be found in freshwater streams, rivers and lakes. The apparent increase in invasiveness of didymo may be related to factors including inter-basin transfer by humans, climatic changes, altered grazing, and genetic changes.

This is the second aquatic invasive species known to exist in the Pecos River. Whirling disease, a protozoan parasite that attacks the spinal columns of trout, is found in the river's headwaters. Whirling disease also is known to "hitchhike" on unwashed fishing tackle and waders.

To help prevent the spread of didymo, anglers and others are urged to:

  • Check: Before leaving the river, remove all obvious clumps of algae and look for hidden clumps. Leave them at the site. If you find clumps later, don't wash them down the drain; treat them with approved methods below, dry them and put them in a rubbish bin.
  • Clean: Soak and scrub anything that may have contacted algae for at least one minute in either hot (140 º F) water, a 2 percent solution of household bleach, or a 5 percent solution of salt, antiseptic hand cleaner or dishwashing detergent.
  • Dry: If cleaning is not practical (pets, livestock), wait until it is completely dry, and then wait at least 48 hours before contact or use in any waterway.

This discovery comes just as the Department of Game and Fish is leading a statewide effort to adopt a New Mexico Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan. Strategies include creation of a New Mexico Invasive Species Council; laws against importing aquatic invasive species to the state; funding to combat the spread of invasive organisms; and monitoring known invasive species in the state.

Nationwide, aquatic invasive species cost $137 billion a year to offset their impacts and educate people about preventing their spread. The 100 or so aquatic invasive species posing threats to New Mexico water resources include quagga and zebra mussels and the New Zealand mudsnail. These species can grow unchecked in waters that contain no natural predators or diseases, while clogging pipes and damaging ecosystems.

For more information about invasive aquatic species, contact Brian Lang, (505) 476-8108 or brian.lang@state.nm.us. To review the New Mexico Invasive Species Plan, please visit the Department of Game and Fish Web site, www.wildlife.state.nm.us.
 

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