One in 5 still breaking AIS law
The May 10 walleye fishing opener is fast approaching, and with another boating season just around the corner, Minnesota boaters and anglers need to continue to take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
OK, so the ice still clings to the lakes and it still hasn’t felt much like spring, no matter what the calendar says.
That doesn’t change the fact that, while the rate of AIS violations dropped in 2013, one in five boaters is still breaking the law.
That bad news comes courtesy of a newly published annual report from the Department of Natural Resources.
“The decrease is good news, but we have a long way to go,” Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division assistant director, said in a news release. “We need to think zero.”
The invasive species violation rate dropped to 20 percent last year from 31 percent in 2012. The rate is the proportion of people who were issued citations at roadside check stations set up by DNR conservation officers.
“Far too many people are still not following the law,” Smith said. “Boaters and anglers are legally required to clean boats and equipment and drain all water to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.”
This year, the DNR will increase efforts to ensure boaters follow the AIS laws.
Activities highlighted in the 2013 invasive species of Minnesota report:
- DNR watercraft inspectors, who inspect boats and equipment at water accesses, conducted 123,000 inspections – an increase of nearly 62 percent since 2011.
- More than 1,000 lake service providers have received AIS training and permits.
- During the first full year of its operation, the AIS Advisory Committee began conversations with boat manufacturers on design modifications to ensure boats drain water more effectively.
- Initiated risk assessments on the potential for transporting veligers in residual water of recreational watercraft.
- Collaborated with the Iowa DNR to install an electric barrier on Lower Gar Lake in Iowa to help prevent the migration of Asian carp into southwestern Minnesota.
Also last year, nearly 8,000 boats arrived at Minnesota water accesses with drain plugs in; more than 1,200 had vegetation attached and 134 had zebra mussels attached.
These were all violations of AIS laws. Fortunately, DNR-trained watercraft inspectors were onsite to stop the owners and remove the invasive species before launching.
“The public is our first line of defense against AIS,” said Ann Pierce, DNR section manager. “It only takes a few minutes to make sure your boat and equipment are cleaned, all water is drained and drain plugs are removed before leaving the water access. This truly is an example of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.”
Enforcement and watercraft inspection together represent the largest segment (43 percent) of the program’s annual 2013 budget of about $8.5 million.
The budget also covers management and control of invasive aquatic plant species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed and education.
But in the end, it’s going to be up to individual boat-owners, dock and lift movers and cabin owners to make sure they don’t accidently infect a lake with zebra mussels or other invasive species.