Boaters, anglers, scuba divers and even swimmers can unintentionally spread invasive species from one waterbody to another when invaders hitch a ride on their equipment.
If you engage in any of these activities, you are therefore the first line of defense against aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Once they are introduced, nonnative species lack predators, parasites, diseases and other means of control, so there is nothing to stop them from dominating their new environment. This is true for plants as well as animals. For example, tiny bits of aquatic invasive plants such as Hydrilla and water chestnut form dense mats on the water’s surface, cutting off oxygen and light to anything below. This causes fish kills and eliminates waterfowl feeding areas and fish-spawning sites. The thick mats also obstruct boating, fishing and swimming, and reduce the value of shoreline property.
Economic surveys by the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants have shown that with a 50 percent infestation in a lake, 75 percent of people stop using it for fishing, sailing, boating, swimming and other recreational uses. Add the cost to clear clogged intakes at water treatment, power generation and industrial facilities and the fact that invasive plants obstruct flood control channels, and it becomes clear the economic and environmental damage can become insurmountable.
So your help is needed to stop Hydrilla, water chestnut and a host of other AIS. What can you do?
▀ Learn to identify invasive plants and animals.
▀ Be aware of and avoid passing through dense beds of aquatic vegetation.
▀ Inspect boats, trailers and any equipment for plant fragments aftereach use.
▀ Remove and dispose of all plant matter, dirt, mud, etc. and unwanted bait in trash cans so it won’t get washed back into the water.
▀ Drain water from boat, live well, bilge and bait bucket.
▀ Wash all boat parts and equipment with hot water (140 degrees Fahrenheit) or with a high-pressure spray or use a commercial hot-water carwash.
▀ After cleaning, allow equipment to dry for at least five days before entering another waterway.
For nonmotorized craft such as rowing shells, canoes, kayaks and sailboards, open airlocks on shells or air bladders on kayaks and allow to dry thoroughly, as plant fragments can survive moist conditions for many days.
▀ Report any new invasive plants or animals at http://fishandboat.com/ ais-reporting.htm or contact Sara Stahlman of Pennsylvania Sea Grant at 217-9011.
▀ Spread the word.
For more information about AIS and for Pennsylvania’s Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species, visit www.paseagrant.org/topics/invasive-species/#prevention.