- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - A Milwaukee-based researcher is trying to re-establish mayflies in the bay of Green Bay, where the insect’s population is historically plentiful but has dwindled due to poor water quality.

The flies have played a crucial role in the health of the bay and have served as a major protein source for walleye and other fish, according to Jerry Kaster of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Restoring the insects could cause the bay to once again become a world-class fishery and boost the local economy, he told Press-Gazette Media (https://gbpg.net/1fkDe15 ).

Although the lower portion of the bay hasn’t seen an overwhelming number of mayflies in decades, Kaster believes conditions have improved enough to support a repopulation.

For the past few years, Kaster and student volunteers have been collecting eggs from mayflies caught on Lake Erie in Ohio and the Mississippi River in La Crosse, and then placing them in the bay. The team has planted about 400 million eggs in the lower bay, he estimated.

Residents in the Green Bay area could soon see swarms of the insect return if Kaster is right about the improved water quality.

“It won’t be huge in the next two or three years,” Kaster said. “But I think it’ll be big enough where people start calling me up and saying, ‘Hey, look, we found a few hundred on our building.’”

About 100 years ago, mayflies were so common in the region that a civic organization launched a contest, awarding cash prizes of up to $5 to the children who collected the largest number of fly corpses, according to the June 14, 1915 edition of the Green Bay Gazette.

But industrial pollution ended the contest, with the last fly being “formally collected” in 1955, Kaster said.

Since then, efforts to clean the bay and river have been launched, causing water quality to improve greatly despite the presence of a large dead zone presumably caused by phosphorus runoff, Kaster said.


Information from: Press-Gazette Media, https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com

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