Footwear blamed for 'rock snot' invasion of Md. streams
Felt-soled fishing boots, of all things, are apparently the latest threat to local fish populations, prompting Maryland to ban the shoes in hopes of stopping an invasive form of algae -- appropriately dubbed "rock snot" for its resemblance to yellow-brown mucous -- from hurting pristine trout streams, the Associated Press reports.
Maryland's Department of Natural Resources plans to prohibit wading with felt soles starting March 21 after discovering that "rock snot," or didymo -- a type of algae that coats riverbeds in thick mats -- thrives in the shoes' damp fibers and hitches a ride from one body of water to another.
Rock snot has found its way across the U.S. and as of March 21, Maryland will become the first state to enforce a felt boot ban. It was found in 2008 in the Gunpowder Falls north of Baltimore. A western Maryland stream, the Savage River, also has tested positive for the organism but hasn't had a rock snot bloom. Similar bans will take effect in Vermont on April 1 and in Alaska in 2012.
Maryland fishery regulators say the algae can smother aquatic insect larvae such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies -- favorites among trout populations.
It's unknown how the rock snot will impact Maryland's waterways, but ecologists agree on a cautionary approach.
"We've got to keep it from spreading," Jonathan McKnight, associate director of the state Wildlife and Heritage Service in Maryland, told AP.
Anglers have one month to stock up on new wading boots, and until Feb. 28 to submit comments on the proposed ban. Maryland officials say 2011 will be an "education year," with violators getting warnings and information cards instead of tickets. Fines and penalties haven't yet been determined and won't be effective until 2012.
| February 21, 2011; 5:10 PM ET
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