Sunday, April 3, 2011

Felt-Soled Waders To Be Banned?

Waders root of problem in spreading algae

Sunday, April 3, 2011

But didymo? It’s really ugly.

Didymo Algae
Commonly called “rock snot,” didymo is a yellow-brown, cotton-feeling algae — it’s often mistaken for fiberglass or toilet paper — that’s an aquatic invasive species. It thrives in cold flowing waters and, when it gets established, can bloom in huge mats, carpeting river and stream bottoms, to the detriment of stoneflies, mayflies and even crayfish.
It's nasty, and it’s on the move.

“It’s an algae that’s spreading from one blue ribbon fly-fishing stream to the next across the globe,” said Jonathan McKnight, a biologist and associate wildlife director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “It bounces from one great stream to another.”
Fishermen have largely been to blame.

Anglers fishing a stream with didymo have carried the algae with them when moving to the next water, McKnight said. Their felt-soled waders are most often the vehicle.
Didymo can live on rubber-soled waders for less than a day. It can survive in moist felt-soled waders for as long as three weeks, McKnight said.

That’s why — when didymo showed up in Maryland’s Gunpowder and Savage rivers last year — state officials started talking about what to do. Their answer is to ban the use of waders with felt soles in all freshwaters.

That rule went into effect March 22.

Maryland is the first state to enact such a ban, but it won’t be the last. Alaska and Vermont have passed regulations that will make felt soles illegal within a year. Oregon is debating a similar ban.

“A felt ban, it’s not a panacea by any means,” McKnight said. “But it removes the most organism-friendly mechanism for transporting this. Felt is almost like a petri dish for this.
‘We didn’t think we could do nothing because the stakes were too high. We’re talking about pristine waters, great fisheries, at risk.”

Pennsylvania has didymo within its boundaries. According to the Fish and Boat Commission, it’s been discovered in the east and west branches of the Delaware River. The commission has not yet considered a ban on felt-soled waders, though, said spokesman Rick Levis.
“We do not have any action pending right now related to felt soles. Staff is evaluating the issue, but are not prepared at this time to make a specific recommendation to our commissioners,” Levis said.

The commission does recommend anglers moving from one water to another clean their gear in between trips.

In the meantime, Trout Unlimited has asked wader manufacturers to phase out felt-soled waders by the end of this year. That hasn’t happened completely yet, but manufacturers have been developing alternatives that will still satisfy anglers, said Trout Unlimited spokeswoman Erin Mooney.

“The industry really has been out in the forefront of this,” she said.
Anglers will need to get involved and protect the streams and rivers they fish, too, though, said McKnight. If not, “rock snot” will find its way to new waters.

“Didymo is forever. Once you’ve got it, you can’t get rid of it. The only thing we can do is prevent it from spreading,” McKnight said. “It’s a question now of trying to quarantine it where it is.”

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