Don’t move a mussel.
Or Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny waterfleas or any other Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend, advises the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
For this weekend and entire summer, the agency has considerably ramped up its boat inspections, enforcement efforts and educational campaign to prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels and other AIS.
“This weekend is the start of the summer water-recreation season in Minnesota, and we need everyone’s cooperation to protect our waters,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “While the DNR is devoting more resources than ever to this problem, it takes only one careless act to infest your favorite lake or river forever.”
This weekend, 100 watercraft inspectors will be stationed around the state, checking boats for AIS and advising water users of laws and practices that will keep invasive species from spreading. The DNR will also deploy 14 decontamination units at various water bodies around the state. The agency will concentrate inspectors and decontamination efforts at high-use water bodies that are currently infested with AIS.
“This goal is to ensure that all watercraft users in Minnesota are complying with state laws and are cleaning all aquatic plants, animals and mud from their watercraft, draining all water and leaving their drain plugs out,” said Heidi Wolf, DNR watercraft inspection program coordinator.
DNR conservation officers will also be actively checking watercraft users this weekend to make sure they are following state AIS laws. Results from enforcement efforts this spring indicate about 16 percent of watercraft users are violating state AIS laws.
One common violation is failure to keep a boat or livewell drain plug out and other water-draining devices open while transporting a watercraft. The law is designed to ensure that no water, which can carry microscopic invasive species like young zebra mussels, is being transported to other water bodies. The fine for not keeping a drain plug out is $50. It will increase to $100 on July 1, along with other AIS fines.
The DNR’s education campaign has increased significantly this year. The number of AIS billboards along major highways throughout the state has increased to 47, while the agency has increased its TV, radio and print media advertising on AIS and continued providing AIS prevention grants to many local organizations. The DNR recently began a new partnership with the Explore Minnesota Tourism to promote AIS prevention within the tourism industry.
Aquatic Invasive Species laws
Under state law, boaters must also:
- Clean visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited species from watercraft, trailers and equipment before transporting from any water access.
- Drain water from bilge, livewell, motor, ballast tanks and portable bait containers before leaving water accesses or shoreline property.
- Keep drain plug out and water draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
Also under state law, it is illegal to:
- Transport aquatic plants, water or prohibited invasive species such as zebra mussels or Eurasian watermilfoil.
- Dump live bait into state waters, on shore or on the ground.
- Launch, or attempt to place, watercraft, trailers or equipment with aquatic plants, zebra mussels, or prohibited invasive species into any state waters.
More information, including a new 25 minute video called “Aquatic Invasive Species, Minnesota Waters at Risk,” is available online.