As the weather warms up and the number of people taking boats out on the waterways increases, we should all remind ourselves to take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Most states now have invasive species prevention programs in place, which include educating the public about properly cleaning their boats and taking steps to prevent the spread of invasives. Aquatic invasive species include animals such as quagga and zebra mussels, Asian clams (pictured in our boat above, see Under-appreciated mollusks), rusty crayfish, New Zealand mud snails, Chinese mitten crabs, numerous fish species, and plants like water hyacinth, hydrillia, and purple loosestrife. Aquatic invasive species cost the United States tens of millions of dollars annually to deal with the problems they create. Boats are an easy way for invasive species to find their way to new areas, but a little prevention can pay off in a big way.
According to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers Campaign, after removing a boat from the water, and before leaving the area, steps should be taken to inspect your equipment to prevent transporting nuisance species. Many boat ramps are now providing wash stations with heated pressure washers to clean your vessel and trailer. Guidelines advise cleaning any mud, fish, plants, or animals from watercraft and trailers. Always drain all water from the boat hull, live-wells, ballasts, lower outboard, and buckets. One of the most effective means of preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is allowing your equipment to completely dry before using it in another location. There is even a handy online tool to calculate proper drying time based on your location and the time of year. We may not like all the extra effort we have to go through to clean our boats and equipment, but it is essential to preserving the ecology of our waterways.