We often talk about protecting our waterways through best management practices on land. However, actions that we take in water can have a profound effect on water quality and aquatic habitat. This time of year, people like to boat in different water bodies. Without proper cleaning and drying of your boat and aquatic equipment between visits to different lakes and streams, you could unknowingly be transporting unwanted and invasive plants and aquatic animals from one waterbody to another!
Aquatic invasive species are organisms that are not native and cause significant harm to an ecosystem when introduced. Aquatic invasive species can threaten the diversity or abundance of native species, the ecological stability of infested waters, and/or any commercial, agricultural, aquacultural, or recreational activities dependent on such waters. Aquatic invasive species includes both aquatic plant and aquatic animal species. Invasive aquatic plants are introduced plants that have adapted to living in, on, or next to water, and that can grow either submerged or partially submerged in water. Invasive aquatic animals require a watery habitat, but do not necessarily have to live entirely in water.
Examples of Aquatic Invasive Species
Zebra mussels are a small, destructive invasive species that can spread from one water body to another by hitching a ride on boats and trailers. They grow to only about 1 ½ inches and develop a distinctive zebra-striped shell. One zebra mussel can produce up to one million microscopic larvae. Zebra mussels can cause tremendous environmental and economic damage – hurting aquatic life, damaging your boat, hindering water recreation and even threatening your water supply.
This video explains the impact of Zebra mussels found in a quarry in the city of Naperville, IL in 2015.
Zebra mussels have been found in the larger Upper White River Watershed, however they have not been reported, yet, in Beaver Lake or the Beaver Lake Watershed. So, we all need to do our part to protect Beaver Lake from Zebra Mussels this summer.
Hydrilla is a submersed freshwater herb. Being an invasive non-native weed, it often forms dense stands from the bottom to the top of the water, sprawling across the surface, although it may also be found as detached drifting mats. Once cultured and sold as an aquarium plant, it is hydrilla’s invasive qualities that make it a nuisance. Hydrilla has amazing reproductive capabilities that allow it to grow in almost any freshwater, in variable conditions with either low or high nutrient amounts, or a wide temperature tolerance: (68-86 F). Hydrilla is an invisible menace until it fills the lake or river that it infests, “topping out” at the surface. When hydrilla invades an area, ecologically important native, submersed plants are shaded out by hydrilla’s thick mats, or are simply out competed and eliminated.
Due to its nuisance impacts, Hydrilla affects all recreational users of our aquatic resources. Its amazing reproduction capabilities can turn quality waters into areas that are choked with vegetation, which will essentially make them unusable.
Although Hydrilla has not been reported in either Beaver Lake or the Upper White River Watershed, it has been reported within both Arkansas and Missouri as well as other nearby states and nearby waterbodies.
Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! Protect Your Waters!
Follow a general set of procedures every time you come in contact with any body of water. By doing so, you can protect your waters from harmful aquatic hitchhikers. Because you never know where a nuisance species has been introduced, but has yet to be discovered.
There are hundreds of different harmful species ranging from plants, fish, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks, diseases or pathogens. Some organisms are so small, you may not even realize they are hitching a ride with you. So, it is important to follow this general procedure every time you leave any body of water.
Remove all visible mud, plants, fish/animals.
Before leaving any body of water, it is important to examine all your equipment, boats, trailers, clothing, boots, buckets etc and:
- Remove any visible plants, fish or animals.
- Remove mud and dirt since it too may contain a hitchhiker.*
- Remove even plant fragments as they may contain a hitchhiker.*
- Do not transport any potential hitchhiker, even back to your home. Remove and leave them at the site you visited.
The larvae (immature form) of an animal can be so tiny that you cannot see it. However, it can live in mud, dirt, sand, and on plant fragments.
2. Eliminate water from all equipment before transporting anywhere.
Much of the recreational equipment used in water contains many spots where water can collect and potentially harbor these aquatic hitchhikers. Thus, make sure that you:
- Eliminate all water from every conceivable item before you leave the area you are visiting.
- Remove water from motors, jet drives, live wells, boat hulls, scuba tanks and regulators, boots, waders, bait buckets, seaplane floats, swimming floats.
- Once water is eliminated, follow the cleaning instructions listed below.
3. Clean and dry anything that came in contact with the water.
(boats, trailers, equipment, dogs, boots, clothing, etc.). Basic procedures include:
- Use hot (< 40° C or 104° F) or salt water to clean your equipment.
- Wash your dog with water as warm as possible and brush its coat.
- The following recipes are recommended for cleaning hard-to-treat equipment that cannot be exposed to hot water:
- Dipping equipment into 100% vinegar for 20 minutes will kill harmful aquatic hitchhiker species. A 1 % table salt solution for 24 hours can replace the vinegar dip. This table provides correct mixtures for the 1 % salt solution in water:
- If hot water is not available, spray equipment such as boats, motors, trailers, anchors, decoys, floats, nets, with high-pressure water.
- DRY Equipment. If possible, allow for 5 days of drying time before entering new waters.
4. Do not release or put plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.
Also, do not release them into storm drains, because most storm drains lead to water bodies or wetlands. This is an important prevention step because many plants and animals can survive even when they appear to be dead. The two categories below describe some common situations where people may feel compelled to release aquatic plants or animals.
Aquarium and Aquatic Pets: If your family gets tired of its aquarium or aquatic pets, do not release anything from the aquarium (water, plants, fish or animals) into or near a body of water or storm drain. Explain to your children how you could be hurting all of the streams and lakes around the country and killing other fish and animals that already live in the water.
If you cannot find a home for the critters in you aquarium, bury them. Dump the water into the yard, far away from storm drains.
Bait: Whether you have obtained bait at a store or from another body of water, do not release unused bait into the waters you are fishing. If you do not plan to use the bait in the future, dump the bait in a trashcan or on the land, far enough away from the water that it cannot impact this resource. Also, be aware of any bait regulations, because in some waters, it is illegal to use live bait.
Resources on Aquatic Invasive Species:
Protect Your Waters and Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! – http://www.protectyourwaters.net/ – Use this site to learn about different kinds of aquatic invasive species, how they are transported, and ways to reduce or eliminate moving aquatic invasive species from one waterbody to another.
Aquatic Invasive Species by the USDA – https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/main.shtml – Use this site to find a list of known aquatic nuisance or invasive species. The site provides information on scientific names, common names, distribution maps, images of the species, and informational videos about each listed aquatic invasive species.
Best Management Practices for Cleaning Watercraft by NOAA – http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/pdf/best_management_practices/Cleaning%20of%20Watercraft%20and%20Equipment.pdf – This is a pdf informational sheet on specific steps you should take on cleaning and preparing your watercraft after each use to prevent transferring aquatic invasive species.
Please remember that invasive species can be transferred by non-motorized paddle boats, kayaks and canoes, as well as aquatic equipment including life jackets, paddles, or other objects or pets that may enter the water. Please help us keep Beaver Lake free of newly introduced aquatic invasive species this summer by cleaning, draining, and drying all aquatic boats and equipment after each use this summer!