One of the greatest changes in the ecosystem of Lake Michigan, and of all the Great Lakes, has occurred in the makeup of the animal life of the lake. Many different species of animals including fish, mussels, and micro-organisms have disappeared over the last two hundred years. For example, I have read about the great blue pike, long jaw cisco, deepwater cisco, and blackfin cisco, all of which are now extinct in Lake Michigan. Another species on the edge of extinction is the sturgeon. There are old stories of the gatherings of the sturgeons, those large, ancient looking whiskered monsters of lakes and rivers. They lay like logs in the river mouths so that you could cross over on their backs. Now, the sturgeons have survived, but, they are so rare that they make the newspaper when they are found. They have almost disappeared because of overfishing and loss of habitat.
Many invasive species have had a tremendous negative impact on the lakes by destroying or displacing the native plants and animals. One such animal is the lamprey eel. It migrated up the St. Lawrence seaway from the Atlantic and decimated the indigenous Lake Trout population by attaching its suction cup-like mouth to their bodies and literally sucking the life out of them. There has been an extensive and effective effort by the fish biologists to control them with sterilization, barriers, and chemicals that kill only the young eels.
Other invaders that got out of hand are the zebra mussels, alewives, and gobi–to name a few of the most obvious ones.
The zebra mussles are small organisms that cling to plants, pipes, boats, driftwood– almost anything solid in the lake. They have taken over the lake and cost millions of dollars per year to deal with, especially in the water pipes of filtration plants. An interesting “benefit” is that they have filtered the water of Lake Michigan to a level of clarity that is harmful to the plant life–although it is beautiful.
As a teenager, I remember huge piles of dead and stinking alewives on the shore. These too were invaders form the sea. Sick as it may sound, we could pop their air sacks by stepping on them and could do so without hitting the ground for hundreds of feet on the beach. As a control, salmon were brought in to eat them. This was so successful that a whole new sport fishery was born. Interestingly, the population of salmon is maintained by yearly stocking of millions of young fish raised in special hatcheries, it is incapable of sustaining itself.
Also, there is a new invading fish, the gobi. It is small (under six inches) bony, spiney, inedible, and highly aggressive. Its impact is only just beginning to be felt. However, it appears to be displacing the perch population. On a recent fishing expedition to the Port Sheldon pier with my boys, the only things we caught were gobies.
I could go on about cormorants, rusty crayfish, spiny water fleas, carp, and micro-organisms. I think you get the picture. It is claimed that there are now almost 170 exotic species in the Great Lakes. The fear is that we are importing foreign species when boats that sail international water take on water for ballast in one place and dump it out in the waters of the Great Lakes. The lake has changed in amazing ways– and mostly not for the better. What is done now will effect the lake for generations to come,if the Lord tarries.
I am reminded of the fact that false doctrine destroys a church in much the same way as invasive species can destroy a lake. As a false doctrine multiplies by being accepted and applied in new ways it destroys the living organism of the church as it feeds on the truth of the Word of God. The church, like the water of the lake, can become corrupted and polluted, capable only of supporting invaders, destroying the truth handed down in the generations of believers. May God grant that our “water of life” may remain pure and unpolluted by the works of man.
The battle, Lord, we fight.
Against the lie and for the right.
We care not how the costs may grow.
Only Your glory we seek to show.
We fight for Your name’s sake.
Though all our resources it may take.
We fight in love for God’s only Son.
We fight for the honor of the blessed One.
The works of man’s hand we do disdain.
We on ourselves bring only shame.
Only grace and mercy freely given,
Saves from the death for which we’ve striven.
Forgive me when I rude may be,
Thinking Your glory depends on me.
As if my fight alone Your glory sustains.
As if only in me Your praise remains.
Indeed, the fight is only Thine,
You alone cause Your glory to shine.
A thankful heart to me,please give,
Humbly in Your presence let me live.
Deane Wassink, Septemer, 2004