Aid Sought for State to Combat 'Rock Snot'
19 June 2012
By Don Hopey
Sen. Bob Casey has asked the Department of the Interior to aid
state officials in combating an invasive alga that threatens the
state's $1.6 billion sport fishing industry.
Pennsylvania's Democratic senator on Monday sent a letter to
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar calling on him to quickly assist
state agencies' efforts to stop the spread of didymo, a cold water
alga also commonly known as "rock snot," which was recently found
in the Youghiogheny River in southwestern Pennsylvania and has
spread through 100 miles of the Delaware River since its discovery
there in 2007.
Didymo is a brownish-yellow to cream-colored alga that thrives in
cold, fast-moving, rocky rivers. It can carpet a river bottom in
mats up to 8 inches thick and crowd out native plant and animal
species in an aquatic food chain needed to support a thriving
"An invasive species like this could have a devastating impact on
the state's economy," Mr. Casey said. "Pennsylvania's fishing
industry is a driver of economic growth and a proven job creator
for our state, which makes this new invasive species threat all
the more urgent."
Fishing and boating together have economic impacts valued at more
than $2 billion per year in Pennsylvania, according to statistics
cited by John Rizzo, the senator's press secretary.
Didymo is not considered a human health hazard but causes
significant environmental damage and is a nuisance to recreation
where it has been accidentally introduced.
The invasive alga is transported from one river or creek to
another by people when it attaches itself to kayaks, canoes,
fishing boats, fishing equipment and wading shoes.
Officials say public education is key to controlling the spread of
didymo. In the last week, the state Fish and Boat Commission
posted advisories at boat launches and takeout areas along the
Youghiogheny River advising boaters and fishermen of the problem
and urging them to clean and disinfect their equipment to remove
and kill the alga.
"Swift and effective action is critical to preventing didymo from
overtaking Pennsylvania's waterways," Mr. Casey said. "The
Interior Department must strengthen its efforts to address the
threat of invasive species."
Mr. Rizzo said the senator reached out to the Interior Department
because it has more resources and has more experience dealing with
invasive species. He said he expects a response from Interior
officials in the next two weeks.
Don Hopey: email@example.com or 412-263-1983.