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Aquatic Nuisance Species Outreach Project

Nonnative species in the aquatic environment threaten all of Alabama's waterways, both freshwater and marine. These plants and animals are introduced to the area in many ways, including through ballast water and through the aquarium and water gardening trades. The goal of AUMERC's Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Outreach Project is to reduce introductions of ANS in local ecosystems by educating cargo ship operators, recreational boaters, aquarium and water guardening hobbyists, schoolchildren, and the general public. AUMERC has undertaken several educational programs, and developed several publications on the subject of ANS.

Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

Nutria are one of the few exotic mammal species in the U.S. They are found in native populations in South America, and are now well established in marshes along the Mobile Bay area. This species was introduced in New Orleans in the early 1930s to be used in the fur trade. Nutria have also been introduced to control marsh vegetation. However, they will readily consume all types of vegetation, and frequently prefer native plants and crop plants to the species they were intended to control. They have destroyed natural marshes all over the Gulf Coast.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)

Hydrilla is a water plant that is widespread in the Mobile Delta. It is native to Sri Lanka and is used as an aquarium plant. It was introduced in Florida through an aquarium dumping in the early 1950s. Hydrilla forms thick mats in surface waters that block sunlight penetration to native plants below and displaces beneficial native vegetation such as coontail. Hydrilla is easily transported on boat hulls, since the plant reproduces from cuttings. When a boat propeller runs through a patch, it cuts it into thousands of small pieces which each form a new plant.

Australian Jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata)

Jelly1The Phyllorhiza jellyfish were first spotted in the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay in June 2000. They are native to Australia and were transported to the Caribbean through ballast water. They were naturally introduced to the Gulf Coast by an ocean eddy which broke away from the Loop Current. These large jellyfish, which grow up to two feet in diameter and swim in large schools, clogged shrimp nets all over the Gulf Coast, and may have devastated the catch for 2001 as they fed on juvenile shrimp, fish and crab. These possible effects will only be uncovered in the next few years.

Eurasian Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum)
Eurasian Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum)
A native of Eurasia and Africa, this plant was first sighted in a lake in Washington, D.C. in 1942 and was most likely intentionally introduced. This plant has become introduced all across the United States, including the Mobile Delta, by boat traffic. It, like Hydrilla, reproduces through fragmentation. It also grows quickly and forms thick, light-reducing mats which force out native species. These large mats restrict boating and swimming, and reduce oxygen in the water when they decompose.

Zebra Mussel (Dreissenia polymorpha)
Zebra Mussel (Dreissenia polymorpha)

Department of Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
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