Gore Bay receives funds for invasive purple loosestrife control program

purple loosestrife plant

GORE BAY—The town of Gore Bay has received funding, and with help from several local groups will be carrying out work to control the purple loosestrife plant, which has invaded the town’s waterfront.

“I am excited for this project to happen, especially with Gore Bay being a tourist destination that is popular for its access to the North Channel for sailing and for its natural setting including hunting and fishing. This project will showcase the valued benefits of community stewardship initiatives by creating economic spinoffs in this rural area,” said Stasia Carr, assistant clerk of Gore Bay. “A lady had visited the town office last summer and commented that the purple loosestrife at the waterfront was quite bad.”

From there Ms. Carr said the town applied for a funding grant last fall and found out early this spring that funding was being provided by the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund for the project.

“A similar loosestrife project was done in Gore Bay 20 plus years ago,” said Ms. Carr. “The program didn’t fail but the loosestrife has now come back. It’s not out of control yet, but will be if this control is not carried out.”

Purple loosestrife has invaded a portion of the waterfront degrading the habitat for many native species of fish, birds and insects. Native plants are being crowded out therefore reducing biodiversity. In partnership with the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club and Manitoulin Streams, Gore Bay is introducing a biological control program using Neogalerucella larvae (beetles). The Ontario Invading Species Awareness Program (OISAP) notes the use of purple loosestrife is not regulated in Ontario, therefore educational outreach will be part of our project to introduce the concept of healthy habitats, and a communities role in protecting them. Signage will be posted along the waterfront boardwalk to educate the community and visitors on the role they play in protecting waterways.

Charles C. McLean Public School (Grade 2/3 class) has been invited to participate in the release of the beetles. Ontario Beetles will be doing an educational session and the fish and game club is going to partner up with the elementary students to help aid in the release of the beetles.

“The objective is to improve the coastal area along the banks of Gore Bay,” it was explained. “The desired outcome is to re-establish an ecological balance and to maintain the natural biodiversity of the ecosystem. Our project will protect the natural habitat and species. Our project will have a direct environmental benefit, some cases resulted in reductions in documented biomass of up to 90 percent in a single growing season, presumably limiting further spread and allowing native flora to re-establish.”

“The beetle release program has proven to be extremely successful,” says the OISAP. “Ontario Beetles is also the leading expert in Ontario that operates the beetle release program and is going to be leading our release project. Purple loosestrife beetles are approved by the federal government for widespread release across Canada since 1992, and have since been released at hundreds of locations in Ontario and Canada as well as throughout the US.”

The beetles feed primarily upon purple loosestrife and have a low preference for a few native Decodon and Lythrum species. If the purple loosestrife is left it will choke out all native species and greatly reduce biodiversity.

Removing an invasive species like purple loosestrife helps to protect habitats and species. Purple loosestrife forms a monospecific stand that no Canadian bird, mammal or fish depends on. Purple loosestrife, “forms dense stands with thick mats of roots that can extend over vast areas. The stands reduce nutrients and space for native plants and degrade habitat for wildlife. Each plant can grow as many as 30 flowering stems that can produce up to 2.7 million seeds each year. The tiny seeds are easily spread by water, wind, wildlife and humans,” said OISAP.

Ms. Carr noted the area where the purple loosestrife has infested the Gore Bay waterfront is the whole marshy area at the mouth of Bickell’s Creek and extends along the shoreline. The beetle release date has been set for June 23.