The beautiful waterfront real estate community of Pine Lake has a new story to tell. Today, Pine Lake itself is considered ground zero for a new infestation of the invasive species identified as Red Swamp Crayfish. Pine Lake is a small body of water just 40 feet deep and located roughly 20 miles to the east of Seattle. Picture the shores of this area, populated with gorgeous waterfront property, a series of docks, and vibrant waterfront activity. Now imagine the devastation that could be wrought on the delicate ecosystem of this Northwest community. The Red Swamp Crayfish is causing problems that current and prospective owners of waterfront houses in the greater Seattle metropolitan area need to keep in mind.
How It Happened
The problem began as these crawfish migrated north from their native habitat on the Gulf Coast and in Southeastern United States, leapfrogging from Northwestern lake to Northwestern lake and encroaching on the native species of fish like bass or trout. Bass and trout fishermen in Pine Lake rely on a healthy supply of fish, and the ecosystem balance has now shifted to the point where Red Swamp Crayfish have outnumbered the hometown species of crayfish known as signal crayfish. Over the course of 13 years, it’s changed from a 1 to 1 ratio to a ratio of 5 or 10 to 1 today, a catastrophic shift for the native species.
Why It’s Harmful
The invasion is having an impact on both the ecology of the area and the local economy, making it personal for the many waterfront home owners in Pine Lake and other Seattle lakefront communities. Specifically, the Red Swamp Crawfish has an adverse effect on other lake species, eating tadpoles and fish eggs while reproducing more quickly and prolifically than other species like the signal crayfish. They also consume the plants that provide cover for young fish, leaving them more vulnerable to predation. Over time, the accumulation of Red Swamp Crayfish is leading to a huge disruption of the ecosystem, while damaging the diversity and unique charm of the waterfront.
What Can Be Done
On the positive side, the infestation has been met with swift opposition by a wide range of responders. Many who have a home on the waterfront have joined in on the campaign to either eradicate the Red Swamp Crayfish entirely, or to at least drive their numbers back down to sustainable levels. In order to accomplish this, waterfront homeowners in Pine Lake are setting a huge number of traps in the water. Pine Lake residents are encouraged to tally how many they catch and so far, the residents have seen their efforts pay off with more than 500 Red Swamp Crayfish caught just this year. There’s additional good fortune in the fact that residents can enjoy the crawfish they catch in a range of enjoyable dishes, including everything from crayfish pie to crayfish bakes.
While the epicenter of the problem might be Pine Lake, there are actually nine other Washington State lakes with their own Red Swamp Crayfish infestation. It’s up to all of these waterfront communities to be vigilant in containing this threat to their properties and the attractive natural wonder of Seattle and Washington’s lakes.
The Environmental Science Center is hosting its second Moonlight Beach Walk for this winter season. Here’s the scoop:
“Join us on New Year’s Day! Moonlight Beach Walk this Saturday, January 1st, from 7:30-9:30pm at Seahurst Beach in Burien.
Imagine you are on the shoreline at a lovely low tide. Rocks that are covered all year lie exposed to view while the sea denizens remain happily cold and wet in the dark. All around you, people waving flashlights are intently studying the amazing and abundant sea life as local naturalists help you discover the wonders of your Puget Sound shoreline.
Bundle up against the weather and be sure to bring flashlight with good batteries, warm hat and dry gloves, and wading boots (you’ll be in ankle deep water).
For more information, contact Programs@EnvScienceCenter.org or call 206-248-4266.”
Enjoy it if you go. They are always fascinating and will definitely educate you about your own “front yard” if you live on the Sound.
People for Puget Sound is working hard to protect our beautiful “front yards”. Consider supporting them either by attending this fun event or checking out their website and joining. I was previously a volunteer waterfront community Pod Leader for them, and have always enjoyed working with the organization.
Harbor Lights 2010 Auction & Gala
Many Voices, One Sound!
October 23, 2010 | 6:00 pm | The Westin Seattle
Mark your calendars for Harbor Lights 2010: Many Voices, One Sound, and support a great organization working to ensure the long-term health and vitality of our spectacular Puget Sound. To learn more about this event and our funding goals, visit our website.
RSVP! Tickets are $150 and include a complimentary signature cocktail during the silent-auction portion of the evening, and a dinner of sumptuous, seasonal, and sustainable NW cuisine — full menu on our event info page.
VIP tickets are $250 (limited availability) and also include a champagne reception with Congressman Jim McDermott, Congressman Jay Inslee, artist Tony Angell, philanthropist Martha Kongsgaard, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, and People For Puget Sound’s Kathy Fletcher.
The King County / Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists Program is a great local asset for people that love the shoreline, its critters, and learning about our local Puget Sound ecosystem. The Beach Naturalists are all volunteers, and have gone through an informative multi-week training program held at the Seattle Aquarium before they are let loose on our local public beaches to help casually teach beachcombers young and old about what they are seeing. I was personally a Beach Naturalist for several years and enjoyed both what I learned and what I could teach others. It meshed well with my other volunteer work as a People for Puget Sound community “Pod Leader”, too.
One of the most interesting things about going out to a beach on a Beach Naturalists day is experiencing all of the hidden aspects of beach life that you would likely otherwise just walk on by without ever noticing. Even on a seemingly “barren” gravel beach there is a surprising amount of life under every little rock. And on beaches where large boulders are strewn about, the variety and intensity of sea life exposed at low tides is exceptional.
Definitely check it out; you’ll learn a lot and every visit afterwards to your own front yard or to a local beach will have more depth.
Beach Naturalists Program
Beach Naturalists’ schedule on local public beaches
Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists Program