Scientists say spiny water flea has reached Lake Champlain

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) – A new invasive species that threatens to disrupt the food chain and be a nuisance for anglers has been found in Lake Champlain, scientists said Thursday.

The presence of the spiny water flea was confirmed in New York’s Lake George two years ago. At the time scientists discussed methods for keeping it from reaching Lake Champlain, but they acknowledged there was little that could be done.

Scientists from the Lake Champlain Basin Committee said the presence of the spiny water flea was found in multiple samples taken in the broad lake this month. Additional testing is planned.

The flea is the 50th invasive species found in the lake, scientists said.

“This is truly a sad day for Lake Champlain,” said Tim Mihuc, the director of the Lake Champlain Research Institute at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

The spiny water flea is native to Eurasia. It arrived in the Great Lakes in ballast water in the 1980s. It competes with native species for food and can foul fishing lines but poses no direct threat to humans.

Mihuc said the flea has the potential to disrupt the web of microscopic organisms in the lake and be a huge nuisance for anglers.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, has worked for years to provide funding to prevent and control invasive species. He lamented the host of invasive species that have reached Lake Champlain.

“In recent years this has been an ecological body blow that has unfolded in slow motion,” he said.