We're wrapping up the last days of National Invasive Species Awareness Week for 2015. More than 180 invasive species have adopted the Great Lakes ecosystem as their home. Asian carp might be some of the most prominent invaders we hear about in the Great Lakes region and are currently stalled in the Chicago Area Waterway System just 55 miles away from Lake Michigan near Shedd Aquarium's home in Chicago.
These now notorious fish made their way into the Mississippi and Illinois rivers by escaping aquaculture facilities in the 1970s, but there are a number of invasive species who have successfully infiltrated the entire Great Lakes basin and St. Lawrence Seaway through other pathways.
- Pet Release: When people think of the scary invaders threatening native species in the Great Lakes, they probably don't think of the friendly, familiar goldfish. But when pet owners empty their aquariums into the lakes, they unleash a non-native species that has managed to take up residence in the shallower, warmer and more populated areas of the Great Lakes basin, competing with native forage fish like darters and minnows for food and habitat. By not releasing aquarium fish into the Great Lakes, rivers or streams, you can help prevent future invasions of goldfish and other popular pet species.
Across the basin, organizations, concerned residents and governments are working together to mitigate and reverse, when possible, the damage caused by invasive species. Here at Shedd, we focus our efforts on native habitat restoration, monitoring research utilizing the power of citizen scientists and educating the more than 2 million guests who visit us each year about ways they can help prevent the spread of invasive species.
We dream of the day that the Great Lakes regions' 3,500 native plant and animal species, from mudpuppies to sturgeon, flourish. Let us know how you're helping make that dream a reality. Share your stories with us by tweeting @Shedd_GL or leave a comment below.