Lake George bat­tling in­va­sive clams

The Record (Troy, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Rod­ney Mi­nor rmi­nor@digitalfirstmedia.com @ on Twit­ter

Asian Clams are one of six aquatic in­va­sive species in Lake George that are prov­ing hard to kill.

Like most non-indige­nous in­fes­ta­tions, pre­vent­ing them from en­ter­ing the ecosys­tem would have been much eas­ier than erad­i­cat­ing them from the 32-mile long “Queen of Amer­i­can Lakes.”

Asian clams are an aquatic bi­valve na­tive to South­east Asia, but also indige­nous to parts of Cen­tral Africa and Aus­tralia. Ac­cord­ing to the Wis­con­sin Sea Grant In­sti­tute, they have been in the United States since 1938 and made their way all the way into the Mis­sis­sippi River Basin by the 1970s. They hitch rides on an­chors, boat hulls and pipes, and they are also car­ried from place to place by wa­ter cur­rents.

They live in fresh wa­ters, prefer­ably in shal­low sandy, silty or

gravel bot­toms, and they are ca­pa­ble of self-fer­til­iza­tion, lay­ing up to 70,000 eggs per year. Be­cause of their fe­cun­dity, they com­pete with other species for food and space, and they can foul wa­ter sys­tems, caus­ing al­gae blooms and im­bal- an­ces in the wa­ter, not to men­tion the dis­com­fort to swim­mers walk­ing on shells in shal­low bot­toms, like Sandy Bay, where smooth sand has al­ways been one of the at­trac­tions to the Bay.

They were first dis­cov­ered and iden­ti­fied in Lake George at the Lake Av­enue Beach in Au­gust 2010 by Dr. Jeremy Far­rell, who is a res­i­dent of Lake George cur­rently work­ing for RPI’s Dar­rin Fresh­wa­ter In­sti­tute. Ac­cord­ing to the Lake George Park Com­mis­sion’s Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor David Wick, once Dr.Far­rell iden­ti­fied the species and the po­ten­tial prob­lems it can cause, they im­me­di­ately be­gan to re­search the species, which has also spread ag­gres­sively in Lake Ta­hoe.

Eight years – and a lot of money and re­search later – the species is now found in 23 dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in the Lake, from Sandy Bay to as far north as Rogers Rock. Wick said that the Lake George team of re­searchers fol­lowed the same pro­to­cols be­ing im­ple­mented by teams in Lake Ta­hoe, which in­cluded us­ing ben­thic mats – heavy, dark- col­ored rub­ber­ized or plas­tic ma­te­rial that is held down us­ing re­bar or other heavy weights.

The goal is to smother the clams and pre­vent them from re­pro­duc­ing. Wick said that the mats do not pose much of a threat to other eco- sys­tems in the lake, with the ex­cep­tion of indige­nous mus­sels. But he said he does not see a lot of over­lap of the species.

The Pi­lot treat­ment pro­gram com­menced in the fall of 2010 and, ini­tially at least, it ap­peared to be suc­cess­ful. In the Spring, the team could not find any liv­ing Asian Clams. How­ever, the fol­low­ing year, when teams re­turned to the test sites, they dis­cov­ered the clams had re­turned.

Wick said that, over­all, they had a high suc­cess rate; how­ever, he com­pared the in­fes­ta­tion to a can­cer. “You can get 99 per­cent of the can­cer, but that one per­cent will re­bound.”

Late this sum­mer, the Lake George Park Com­mis­sion an­nounced that it had no plans to use the ben­thic mat method of erad­i­ca­tion

and, in­stead, would rely on Mother Na­ture and, hope­fully, a cold win­ter, to kill the clams. Asian clams do not thrive in ex­ces­sively cold wa­ter tem­per­a­tures or in pol­luted wa­ters.

Wick said that they have spent more than $2 mil­lion in try­ing to elim­i­nate the clams, with fund­ing from War­ren County, the Park Com­mis­sion’s own bud­get, and other re­sources. But, he said that it would be like throw­ing good money af­ter bad, given the lack of real and de­fin­i­tive re­sults.

“If we can’t con­trol a two-acre site in the Hague, howare we ex­pected to con­trol a 50 or 80-acre site like Sandy Bay?’ asked Wick. He added that the amount of money nec­es­sary to do that would be up­wards of $5 mil­lion – money the re­gion does not have to com­mit to this project.

Small com­mu­nity groups, such as the Lake Stew­ard­ship of Cleverdale, would like to see more ag­gres­sive ac­tion taken. Steve Se­aboyer, who has a home with his wife, Deb­bie, on Rock­hurst over­look­ing Sandy Bay, said that they are part of a lo-

cal group of con­cerned cit­i­zens do­ing what­ever they can to help keep the lake as clean and pris­tine as pos­si­ble. They have been in­volved in sev­eral ini­tia­tives to man­u­ally clear the Sandy Bay area of the nui­sance shells. Some mem­bers of the group would like to see more ag­gres­sive ac­tion taken.

Se­aboyer said that small groups have taken as many as 40,000 clams from the Bay dur­ing one of their clam “digs.” He agreed with Wick’s assess­ment that it is hard to de­ter­mine the ex­act threat to the lake the clams pose.

One of the sum­mer res­i­dents, Kim Garry, whose fam­ily owns a home on

Rock­hurst in Sandy Bay, spent much of her time this past sum­mer with her two young boys, ages six and four years old, “clam­ming” in the bay with sieves and basins to col­lect the pests. Some of them mea­sure no more in di­am­e­ter than a dime. She said that her sons have be­come very in­vested in the project, and other peo­ple who have seen them in the Bay have stopped to ask about what she was do­ing.

“It’s a good way to ed­u­cate oth­ers and spread the word about the Asian clams,” said Garry.

Pat Dowd, Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Lake George As­so­ci­a­tion, said that the best way to

man­age in­va­sive species is to pre­vent them from en­ter­ing the lake in the first place. Pre-launch boat in­spec­tions, which be­gan as tri­als in 2008, have since be­come part of the pro­to­col be­fore al­low­ing boats to launch into the lake, and the project has been suc­cess­ful in pre­vent­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of new in­va­sive species into the lake for the last four years, ac­cord­ing to a re­port made pub­lic by the Times Union

in Jan­uary 2018.

The Lake George Park Com­mis­sion also re­cently re­ported that sci­en­tists at the Dar­rin Fresh­wa­ter In­sti­tute were do­ing promis­ing re­search on a clam-killing par­a­site, the Chaeto­gaster worm; how­ever, Dr. Far­rell was not avail­able to com­ment. In the mean­time, mem­bers of the Lake George Park Com­mis­sion, the Stew­ard­ship, and oth­ers are all hop­ing for a cold win­ter.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LAKE GEORGE AS­SO­CI­A­TION

Some Asian Clams are shown

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