DNR Urges Anglers To Use Wader Sterlization Stations To Prevent Spread Of Invasive Didymo

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Six new cleaning stations installed along Gunpowder Falls

Baltimore County – Since discovering Didymo for the first time in Maryland last month, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has set up six wader sterilization stations throughout the tailwaters of Gunpowder Falls, to prevent further spread of this and other aquatic invasives.

Didymo is an algal diatom that forms long stalks which combine to form heavy, thick mats that can smother a stream bottom. Didymo mats, also called “rock snot,” look slimy, but feel like wet cotton or wool, and can be white, yellow or brown. The stalks can persist for two or more months after the diatoms die, causing habitat damage for an extended period of time.

“Didymo and other aquatic invasive species seriously jeopardize the health of our rivers, streams and Bay,” said Don Cosden, an assistant director with the DNR Fisheries Service. “Not only do these exotic species disrupt the local ecosystem, they are capable of permanently displacing or eradicating native species, including trout and other freshwater fisheries. We need anglers and other recreational users of this area to take 60 seconds to sterilize gear, and protect the waters they enjoy.”

Although there is no human health risk associated with the species, DNR is developing an aggressive plan of attack to deal with this invader, including asking anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to use extra precautions when moving from one stream or lake to another. Movement of a single cell can contaminate a new waterway, and once Didymo is established, it can cover and suffocate a stream bottom.

“Proper angler protocol is the main line of defense in preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasives,” said Jonathan McKnight, chair of DNR’s Invasive Species Team. “We are strongly urging anglers to properly sterilize their waders and all gear that comes in contact with the water prior to using the gear in a new location.”

DNR strongly urges citizens to sterilize boots, paddles, boats and anything else that comes into contact with stream water; anglers may want to consider having two sets of equipment in order to move safely from one spot to another. DNR also advises against using felt bottom boots and waders – the worst culprits in the spread of aquatic invaders – replacing them with non-porous materials. If felt waders are used, they should be completely immersed in salt solution before being used in another location.

Proper sterilization procedures include:

  • Before leaving a stream, scrub away all dirt and debris.
  • At home or at a wader sterilization station, disinfect equipment by scrubbing or soaking in at least a 5 percent salt solution (2 cups salt/2.5 gallons water) for 60 seconds and then letting dry completely or scrub with dish detergent and rinse well.
  • If disinfection is not possible, let equipment dry completely for at least 48 hours before next use.

Currently, wader sterilization stations are set up at six popular crossings along Gunpowder Falls: Masemore Road, Bunker Hill Road, York Road, Blue Mount Road and both north and south lots at the Falls Road crossing. In the coming weeks, stations will also be set up along the Casselman, Youghiogheny and Savage Rivers.

Originally found in Scotland and extreme northern Europe and Asia, Didymo has been transported worldwide. Recently, the species has been found in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. In many cases, anglers have unknowingly transported the diatom on their fishing gear.

DNR urges anyone who observes Didymo on rivers other than the Gunpowder Falls to contact Don Cosden at 410-260-8287 as soon as possible.

For more information on Didymo and other invasive species, visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/invasives/.