Pay attention to Minnesota's AIS laws
I know most of the avid anglers and boaters are already aware of the increase in fines that went into effect after the 15th of July, so I am writing about this so the other part time anglers and boaters are aware of the change. The fines on all AIS violations will double. As an example, the fine for transporting aquatic plants will go from a $50 fine to $100. The fine for leaving the drain plug in your boat will go from $100 to $200. The fine for transporting any invasive species (such as zebra mussles, goby, flowering rush, etc.) will jump to $500.
Just a few weeks ago the DNR enforcement division reported 1 in every 5 Minnesotans trailering boats checked by conservation officers were in violation of at least one of the state's rules aimed at preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. State officials have called that violation rate unacceptable if the state is going to be successful at slowing the spread of AIS. The move to increase the fines was set by the legislature last year as part of the process to step up the importance of creating change to prevent AIS. If we don't all get our act together regarding this issue it will only get worse from an enforcement standpoint.
I believe the last two years the focus on education has been a significant help in changing behavior. I believe that most anglers and boaters have started to take action. My guess is that the occasional angler or boater that only gets out a couple times a year makes up a significant part of the 1 in 5 found to be in violation. One aspect of hefty fines, it will get public attention and create more awareness. Even if the change is motivated out of fear it least it will create change. The states attempt to be nice about this issue and focus on education and voluntary compliance didn't work well enough to create enough compliance. The sad reality is that it takes consequences or punishment to get some people to move in the right direction.
One question that came to my mind when I found out about the 20 percent of Minnesotans that were violation was "what about all the out-of-state boaters and anglers coming to Minnesota?" My guess could only be that we even have a higher rate of violations by out-of-state visitors due to lack of their awareness of our states current requirements. Do we need a national campaign to create more awareness? Do we need to do public service announcements in neighboring states to increase awareness and compliance for visitors to our state? Do visitors get off with a warning and educational intervention after a first violation? OK, so more than one question came to my mind. These are some of the challenges that the spread of AIS has created. This problem isn't just a concern for our area or Minnesota. The spread of invasive species is taking place all over the country. Every place boating and fishing is available all over the country will be faced with the challenges of managing and intervening in the spreading of AIS.
This issue has us all thinking and talking. It has helped modify behavior that helps us all be preventative. Be conscientious, do your part and you don't have to worry about some of the enforcement people that are just trying to do their part.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)