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Invasive Species Threatens Missouri Streams

An invasive species has been found close to Missouri, and that has the state’s Department of Conservation concerned. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on the alga with the unusual name…

Didymosphenia geminata or more simply “Didymo” or “Rock Snot” is an alga, not an algae, according to Missouri Conservation Department Fisheries Biologist Mark VanPatten. He says that’s because alga is singular for algae, andin a colony, Rock Snot is one continuous plant…

"It's an invasive species that will pretty well cover a stream bottom with a thick mat of algae-like material and pretty well make a mess of the stream."

Rock Snot decreases aquatic insect populations in streams, which fish depend on for food, thus also decreasing the fish population. And, VanPatten says, it’s nasty looking…

"It's slimy in appearance. It makes rocks slippery, which makes wading kind of hazardous. Whenever it begins to try to expand the colonies, it has a white filament that comes off, breaks loose from the stem, floats down the stream, and it looks an awful lot like white toilet paper pieces floating down the water, so it's very unattractive."

Fortunately, Rock Snot has not been found in Missouri yet. But it has been spotted in the White River, just south of the Missouri-Arkansas border.So, the Department of Conservation is planning a series of public meetings this spring in hopes that educating the public will keep the alga out of the state. That’s because Rock Snot is easily transported from place to place on fishing gear, particularly waders…

"So, if an angler goes fishing down in a stream on the White River in Arkansas where it is present and then decides to load up into the car and run over into Missouri and fish in, let's say, Taneycomo or maybe up to Bennett Spring or wherever in that same day, they have the potential to bring it or transport it our streams here in Missouri."

Wader washing stations will be provided at the state’s trout parks. Fishermen will step in a saltwater bath for 3 minutes to kill any algae. Fishermen should also remove and dispose of any visible algae on their gear, then clean their equipment and let it dry for 48 hours.The Department of Conservation is considering potential regulation changes to prevent the spread of Rock Snot. VanPatten says that might include banning felt-sole waders, which can more easily transport the alga from one stream to another.He says if Rock Snot makes its way to Missouri, it could have a major economic impact because fishing is one of the state’s biggest tourism industries.For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.