A true fish story…… Several years ago I was retained by a few lake associations to cure what was “fishy” at their lakes. Have you ever heard of invasive species? An invasive species is a species that is introduced into a new environment, becomes overpopulated, and harms the ecosystem. Examples found in the news lately are Burmese Pythons in the Florida Everglades, Asian Jumping Carp heading to the Great Lakes, and Zebra Mussels in the Midwest, including Nebraska.

My case in particular pertained to the scourge of White Perch, a silvery-white, quickly multiplying fish. In the late 1960s, the Nebraska Fish and Game Department purchased White Perch to stock lakes in western Nebraska. Apparently, the lakes in the Sandhills have a high level of alkaline, and the department believed that the White Perch would enhance fishing there. Despite good intentions, human intervention in nature can have negative and even catastrophic results. I do not recall if the fish ever made it to western Nebraska, but what I do know is that the fish are now plentiful in eastern Nebraska and killing off natural fish in lakes and rivers. White perch breed faster than rabbits, and they grow faster than the native fish. They also feed on the native fish population. Soon all that is left in the lake are white perch that are no bigger than three inches long. The fish then start to cannibalize each other. The end result is that a lake is no longer suitable for fishing.

How did the White Perch get into Eastern Nebraska’s lakes and rivers? Personnel at Game and Parks went to stock a few lakes in Lincoln and Omaha with bass, a highly desirable fish. Apparently, “baby” bass and “baby” white perch look the same. Game and Parks mistakenly stocked the lakes with white perch fry (babies) and not bass. Once the fish are in a lake, they can migrate to other lakes through various methods, such as flooding and birds. Another way the fish migrate is through “bucket biologists” who take fish caught in one lake to stock in another lake, thinking it is a good thing to do.  Once the fish get into the river systems, it is practically impossible to rid the ecosystem of the invasive fish. And that is where Nebraska is now.    My clients’ lake association hired me because their lake and fishing environment was being destroyed by this invasive species. My solution for my clients was not running off to court and spending thousands of dollars like most attorneys would do. I decided to take the issue to Game and Parks and their bosses, the Nebraska State Legislature. Not only did I save the clients’ time and money, but we also obtained an excellent result.

Game and Parks agreed to pay for the lake kill, the restocking of the lakes with desirable fish, and several years of monitoring for white perch. A lake kill is achieved when a professional uses  a toxin that indigenous people in Brazil use in the Amazon Rainforest to catch fish.The toxin removes the oxygen from the water. Monitoring is achieved through the use of electric shocks that render the fish motionless, causing them to float on the surface and allowing a statistical count before the electrical stun wears off and the fish swim away. The monitoring is essential to keep the number of white perch down before they overtake the lake once again.

Expensive litigation is not always the answer. Creative solutions can work out best for all the parties involved. In my fish case, my clients got along just swimmingly without litigation.