State biologists have discovered a new invasive aquatic species in New Hampshire – deep at the bottom of Lake Winnipesaukee.
The spiny water flea is a microscopic water animal that does not harm humans but can affect fish, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. It can “negatively impact aquatic food webs by changing the plankton community which can, in turn, influence fish populations,” the agency said in a press release.
“Some of our native fish species could be impacted by this,” said John Magee, the programs supervisor with the Inland Fisheries Division at the NH Fish and Game Department, in a statement. “At high densities, the spiny water flea can outcompete native zooplankton on which some of our native fish species rely.”
Researchers found the animal, which is native to Europe and Asia, in “the Broads” in Gilford, the deepest section of Lake Winnipesaukee, according to the department. They also found a presence in the Alton and Wolfeboro portions of the lake.
Spiny water fleas are difficult to eliminate once established and there are no treatments, according to the department.
Instead, state biologists are urging residents to clean, drain, and dry all water vessels after leaving a body of water to prevent their spread, a practice already required in state law. The department recommends drying out anything that has come in contact with water for five days.
For researchers, the arrival of the spiny water flea was an inevitability. State biologists had expected the animal to arrive and had been watching for it for nearly a decade.
“Invasive species are very good at spreading to new locations,” said Kirsten Hugger, an aquatic ecologist with the department. “We anticipated there was potential for introduction to Lake Winnipesaukee due to boater traffic, which is why we initiated a monitoring program in 2016. However, it is still surprising and disappointing to have confirmed that the spiny water flea is in New Hampshire.”