Seeking beneficial solutions

Published 10:03 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

That unsightly, floating green mess on Jack’s Creek isn’t algae or scum. It’s aquatic vegetation known as duckweed.
What might look terrible to us is an all-you-can-eat buffet for, of course, ducks. There’s a reason it’s called duckweed. The duckweed is a reason so many ducks and other waterfowl gather in the Jack’s Creek basin.
Washington’s City Council discussed Jack’s Creek, including the duckweed issue, at last week’s council meeting. Councilman Doug Mercer suggested the city revisit the idea of putting tilapia into Jack’s Creek. Apparently, tilapia just love munching away at duckweed.
“The duckweed and weeds in the system are a major problem. I have suggested, and Mr. Lewis pursued it little, I think, the introduction of vegetative-eating fish. There is a very popular fish (tilapia) that will do that. I know that we used those at Texasgulf (now PotashCorp-Aurora) when I was there, and they kept our miles of ditches free of vegetation,” he said.
Mr. Lewis refers to Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director. Lewis, noting that Mercer’s recommendation may have some merit, said the idea has been run past state environmental officials. They have concerns that introducing tilapia into Jack’s Creek could result in the fish making their way into the Pamlico River — the creek empties into the river — and endangering others fisheries that call the river home.
It seems like large tilapia eat more than duckweed; they eat smaller fish of other species.
Mercer noted that cold temperatures — below 55 degrees Fahrenheit — kill tilapia, meaning nature provides a way of controlling tilapia populations.
It would behoove the city to take a closer look at possibly using tilapia to control the duckweed problem in Jack’s Creek. And while the tilapia are eating duckweed in the creek, perhaps anglers can catch enough of the fish to feed themselves and their families.
Of course, protecting the Pamlico River and its important fisheries must come first.
Turning tilapia loose in Jack’s Creek is food for thought.