Minnesota Waters At Risk (short version) – Aquatic Invasive Species


THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
IS BLESSED WITH AN IMMENSE WEALTH
OF NATURAL WONDERS, THOUSANDS OF PRISTINE LAKES,
RIVERS AND STREAMS. MINNESOTA ALSO HAS
A RICH OUTDOOR HERITAGE, WITH VIRTUALLY UNLIMITED ACCESS TO BOATING, SWIMMING
AND FISHING. BUT THAT HERITAGE
IS NOW THREATENED BY AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES
THAT JEOPARDIZE RECREATION AND THE DELICATE
ECOLOGICAL ORDER. IT’S TIME FOR US TO TAKE
THAT THREAT SERIOUSLY. MORE THAN TWO DOZEN AQUATIC
INVASIVE SPECIES HAVE INVADED MINNESOTA’S WATERS. OUR CHALLENGE IS TO KEEP
THESE INVADING SPECIES FROM SPREADING FURTHER
AND TO PREVENT NEW ONES FROM GETTING A FOOTHOLD
IN OUR STATE. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY
AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES? THEY ARE PLANTS AND ANIMALS
THAT LIVE IN THE WATER AND ARE NOT NATIVE
TO MINNESOTA. WHEN THESE SPECIES
ARE ACCIDENTALLY OR INTENTIONALLY TRANSPLANTED
INTO OUR WATERS, THEY CAN UPSET
THE ECOLOGICAL BALANCE. NO MATTER HOW THEY GET HERE, THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES
CAN BE SEVERE. FOR EXAMPLE, CREATURES LIKE
ZEBRA AND QUAGGA MUSSELS WERE TRANSPORTED IN THE LATE 1980S FROM THE BLACK AND CASPIAN
SEAS OF EUROPE AND ASIA. THEY CAME IN THE BALLAST TANKS
OF OCEAN-GOING SHIPS AND WERE UNWITTINGLY DISCHARGED
FROM BALLAST WATER INTO THE GREAT LAKES. NEW SPECIES OF CARP,
BROUGHT HERE FROM ASIA, ARE CREATING HEADACHES BOTH ABOVE AND BELOW
THE WATER’S SURFACE. AND EURASIAN WATERMILFOIL
GROWS INTO MATS ON THE WATER’S SURFACE
THAT INTERFERE WITH SWIMMING AND BOATING AND DIMINISH THE VISUAL APPEAL
OF OUR LAKES. THESE SEEMINGLY
UNRELATED SPECIES SHARE A COMMON AND DISTURBING TRAIT: IN OUR ECOSYSTEM, THEY LACK
DISEASE AND PREDATOR CONTROLS, SO THESE NON-NATIVE
SPECIES REPRODUCE AND SPREAD AT AN AMAZING PACE. THE CONSEQUENCE IS
THAT THEY COMPETE WITH NATIVE SPECIES
FOR FOOD AND HABITAT. THIS CAN DRAMATICALLY AFFECT
COMMERCIAL, TOURISM, AND RECREATIONAL USES OF MINNESOTA’S WELL-KNOWN
LAKES AND RIVERS. FOREMOST AMONG
THE INVERTEBRATE INVADERS ARE ZEBRA MUSSELS,
SMALL STRIPED MOLLUSKS ABOUT THE SIZE OF
YOUR THUMBNAIL THAT MULTIPLY AT
INCREDIBLE RATES. ZEBRA MUSSELS ENCRUST
ROCKS, DOCKS, BOATS, AND WATER SUPPLY INTAKES
WITH A SHARP COATING OF SHELLS. MEANWHILE, THEIR LARGER
BUT LESSER KNOWN RELATIVES, QUAGGA MUSSELS,
COLONIZE DEEPER WATER. LIKE RELENTLESS UNDERWATER
VACUUM CLEANERS, ZEBRA AND QUAGGA MUSSELS
VORACIOUSLY FILTER ALGAE AND PLANKTON
FROM THE WATER, TAKING FOOD AWAY
FROM NATIVE CLAMS AND UPSETTING THE NATURAL
BALANCE IN LAKES AND RIVERS. WHILE THIS FILTERING MAY
MAKE THE WATER CLEARER, IT ALSO REDUCES THE FOOD SUPPLY
THAT SUSTAINS PLANTS AND FISH. SO, HOW ARE ZEBRA
AND QUAGGA MUSSELS SPREAD TO NEW LOCATIONS? THESE AND OTHER AQUATIC
INVASIVE SPECIES HITCHHIKE IN SEVERAL WAYS: BY ATTACHING TO THINGS THAT
HAVE BEEN IN THE WATER, BY CLINGING TO AQUATIC PLANTS, AND BY BEING CARRIED
WITH THE WATER ITSELF. ONCE INTRODUCED
TO A LAKE OR RIVER, ZEBRA MUSSELS APPEAR
ON DOCKS, BOAT LIFTS, SHALLOW ROCKS
AND AQUATIC PLANTS. WITHIN A FEW YEARS, AN ENTIRE
WATERSHED CAN BE INFESTED. SHARP SHELLS ARE ATTACHED TO
ROCKS AND WASH UP ON BEACHES, DISCOURAGING SWIMMING. A LOSS OF TOURISM DOLLARS
CAN FOLLOW. LESS WIDESPREAD, BUT GRABBING LOTS OF HEADLINES
ARE CARP FROM ASIA, SPECIFICALLY THE BIGHEAD
AND SILVER CARP SPECIES, WHICH POSE A SIGNIFICANT
THREAT TO MINNESOTA WATERS. BIGHEAD AND SILVER CARP ARE
VORACIOUS PLANKTON EATERS THAT STRAIN THE WATER
OF NUTRIENTS AND OUT-COMPETE NATIVE
FISH SPECIES FOR FOOD. ORIGINALLY STOCKED IN
AQUACULTURE PONDS IN THE SOUTH TO CONTROL ALGAE,
FLOODS ALLOWED THEM TO ESCAPE INTO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
DRAINAGE AND MOVE UPSTREAM. THEY ARE PROLIFIC BREEDERS, CAPABLE OF VIRTUALLY TAKING OVER
ENTIRE STRETCHES OF RIVER, ALTERING THE LOCAL FISH
COMMUNITY DRAMATICALLY. WHILE BIGHEAD CARP EAT
MORE AND GROW LARGER, IT’S THE HIGH-FLYING
SILVER CARP THAT OFFER VIVID EVIDENCE OF THE INVASION. APPROACHING BOATS CAN SCARE
ENTIRE SCHOOLS OF SILVER CARP INTO LEAPING OUT OF THE WATER,
CAUSING SERIOUS INJURIES WHEN THEY HIT BOATERS
AND PERSONAL WATERCRAFT USERS. EURASIAN WATERMILFOIL IS
ONE OF THE PLANT INVADERS WHICH HAS BECOME A NUISANCE
IN MANY MINNESOTA WATERS. THE INTRODUCTION OF EURASIAN
MILFOIL TO AMERICA CAN BE TRACED TO THE AQUARIUM TRADE, WHERE PLANTS WERE IMPORTED
FOR USE IN FISH TANKS, BUT ENDED UP IN LOCAL WATERS. EURASIAN MILFOIL IS
AN AGGRESSIVE ROOTED PLANT THAT QUICKLY GROWS
TO THE SURFACE. IT SPREADS ACROSS
THE WATER SURFACE, FORMING AN UMBRELLA-LIKE
CANOPY THAT BLOCKS SUNLIGHT AND CHOKES OUT
THE NATIVE PLANTS BELOW. MILFOIL FORMS DENSE,
UNSIGHTLY COVER THROUGH WHICH IT’S DIFFICULT
TO SWIM OR NAVIGATE. SMALL PIECES OF MILFOIL
CARRIED ON BOATS AND RECREATIONAL GEAR
CAN SEED A NEW INVASION IF THEY ARE CARRIED
TO OTHER LAKES MINNESOTA LAW REQUIRES EVERYONE
TO CLEAN OFF ALL PLANT MATERIAL AND ANY PROHIBITED INVASIVE
SPECIES FROM THEIR WATERCRAFT. TO COMBAT THE SPREAD
OF INVASIVE SPECIES, THERE IS A THREE STEP,
EASY TO REMEMBER PROCESS CALLED CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY. IT ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES FOR
BOATERS AND OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS TO APPLY THESE SIMPLE
YET EFFECTIVE STEPS EVERY TIME THEY LEAVE A BOAT
ACCESS OR BODY OF WATER. MANY BOATERS HAVE BECOME
ACCUSTOMED TO CHECKING THEIR TRAILERS AND WATERCRAFT
FOR AQUATIC PLANT FRAGMENTS IN AN EFFORT TO STOP THE SPREAD
OF EURASIAN MILFOIL. THIS PROCEDURE
ONLY TAKES MINUTES, AND IT CAN PREVENT A PERMANENT
INFESTATION ON ANOTHER LAKE. THIS IS NOT AN OPTIONAL
ACTIVITY IN MINNESOTA. IT’S THE LAW, AND VIOLATORS
RISK GETTING CITATIONS FOR NOT FOLLOWING
THE REGULATIONS. NOW, IN ADDITION TO LOOKING
FOR AQUATIC PLANTS, IT IS ALSO NECESSARY
TO VISUALLY INSPECT AND TO FEEL THE SURFACE
OF BOATS AND EQUIPMENT FOR OTHER AQUATIC
INVASIVE SPECIES, SUCH AS TINY ZEBRA MUSSELS. AS YOU MOVE AROUND THE BOAT, CHECK THE ANCHOR
AND ANCHOR LINES FOR PLANTS, SNAILS,
AND MUSSELS. ON THE TRAILER,
CHECK THE ROLLERS AND TRAILER BUNKS
AND REMOVE ANY PLANTS. CHECK THE TRAILER FENDERS AND THE ENTIRE LENGTH
OF THE AXLE FOR ANY PLANTS THAT MAY BE
CLINGING TO THEM. REMOVE ANY PLANTS
THAT ARE SNAGGED ON THE BOAT’S LOWER UNIT
AND PROPELLER, AND LOWER THE MOTOR
SO IT DRAINS COMPLETELY. LOOK CLOSELY AT THE LOWER UNIT
AND MOTOR PARTS THAT ARE BELOW THE WATERLINE FOR
ZEBRA MUSSELS, SNAILS, AND OTHER AQUATIC ANIMALS. ALSO INSPECT THE HULL
AND OTHER BOAT EQUIPMENT WHERE THESE PLANTS
AND ANIMALS COULD ATTACH. RUN YOUR HAND
OVER THE BOAT HULL BELOW THE WATERLINE AND OVER
THE TRANSOM TO DETECT IF THERE ARE ANY TINY
ZEBRA MUSSELS ATTACHED. WATERFOWL HUNTERS NEED TO
CLEAN ALL PLANTS, ANIMALS, AND MUD OFF THEIR BOATS,
TRAILERS, WADERS, PUSH POLES, DECOY LINES,
AND DECOYS. ANGLERS SHOULD MAKE SURE THEIR
FISHING LINES AND FISHING LURES ARE FREE OF AQUATIC PLANTS
AND ANIMALS. IF YOU USE A PERSONAL
WATERCRAFT, CLEAR ALL PLANTS FROM THE WATER INTAKE,
IMPELLER, AND TRAILER. THEN RUN YOUR ENGINE FOR FIVE
TO TEN SECONDS TO BLOW OUT ANY REMAINING WATER
AND TO EJECT ANY PLANTS HIDDEN IN THE WATER LINES. TO COMPLY WITH STATE LAW, YOU MUST DRAIN ALL WATER
FROM YOUR WATERCRAFT AND ANY CONTAINER OR EQUIPMENT
THAT COULD HOLD WATER CARRYING INVASIVE
PLANTS OR ANIMALS. THIS MEANS YOU MUST REMOVE
THE DRAIN PLUG TO DRAIN WATER FROM YOUR BILGE, AND THEN LEAVE THE PLUG
OUT WHILE TRANSPORTING. YOU ALSO HAVE TO DRAIN
YOUR LIVE WELL, BAIT BUCKET, ANY CONTAINER,
AND RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT. THIS INCLUDES THE LOWER UNITS
OF OUTBOARD MOTORS AND THE WATER LINES
OF PERSONAL WATERCRAFT. IF YOU’RE A WAKEBOARD
BOAT USER, YOU NEED TO BE SURE YOU AREN’T
CARRYING AQUATIC INVADERS IN YOUR BALLAST TANKS. IF YOU CAN’T COMPLETELY
DRAIN THE BALLAST TANKS, YOU SHOULD FLUSH
AND DECONTAMINATE THEM BY FILLING THEM WITH HOT WATER. ANGLERS USING LIVE BAIT
MUST TAKE ADDITIONAL PRECAUTIONS AS WELL. THEY MUST DRAIN OUT THE WATER
IN THEIR BAIT BUCKETS ON SHORE AND REPLACE IT WITH CLEAN WATER IF THEY WANT TO SAVE
BAIT FOR FUTURE USE. IF YOU’RE A WATERFOWL HUNTER, YOU NEED REMEMBER
TO DRAIN YOUR DECOYS AS WELL AS YOUR BOAT. BECAUSE THE LAW MAKES IT
ILLEGAL FOR YOU TO TRANSPORT AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES, THE DNR RECOMMENDS
SOME ADDITIONAL STEPS TO HELP REMOVE OR KILL
AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES THAT MAY BE ATTACHED TO
YOUR BOATS AND EQUIPMENT AFTER CLEANING AND DRAINING. OPTION ONE IS TO USE
HOT WATER TO RINSE ALL AREAS OF YOUR BOAT,
TRAILER, LIVE WELL, AND GEAR THAT HAVE
BEEN IN THE WATER. THIS WILL KILL INVASIVE SPECIES
SUCH AS ZEBRA MUSSELS OPTION TWO IS TO USE
A HIGH-PRESSURE WATER SPRAY ON YOUR BOAT AND GEAR TO REMOVE
INVASIVE SPECIES. IF EFFECTIVE CLEANING EQUIPMENT
IS NOT AVAILABLE, OPTION THREE IS TO LET
YOUR BOAT, GEAR, AND EQUIPMENT DRY
FOR AT LEAST FIVE DAYS. ALLOW ANY EQUIPMENT
THAT MAY HAVE ABSORBED OR COLLECTED WATER TO AIR DRY
FOR AT LEAST FIVE DAYS AS WELL. FOLLOWING THESE CLEAN, DRAIN,
AND DRY PROCEDURES WILL PREVENT YOU FROM GIVING ANY
INVADING AQUATIC SPECIES A RIDE TO ANOTHER
MINNESOTA RIVER OR LAKE. AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES
POSE A VERY REAL THREAT TO THE ECOSYSTEMS OF MINNESOTA’S
LAKES AND STREAMS. ONCE INVASIVE SPECIES
ARRIVE IN NEW AREAS, THERE ARE NO EASY WAYS
TO REMOVE THEM. THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT
THE SPREAD OF AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES IS TO TAKE SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE
STEPS OF CLEAN, DRAIN, AND DRY EVERY TIME YOU ENJOY
THE OUR STATE’S WATERS. AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES
ARE THE BIGGEST THREAT TODAY FACING OUR LAKES AND RIVERS AND OUR ABILITY TO USE
AND ENJOY THEM. WE REALLY NEED EVERYBODY,
YOU INCLUDED, TO STEP UP, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
FOR OUR ACTIONS SO THAT WE CAN ENJOY
THESE RESOURCES TODAY AND FUTURE GENERATIONS
CAN AS WELL. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS
ABOUT INVASIVE SPECIES OR HOW TO FIGHT
THE SPREAD OF THEM, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL
MINNESOTA DNR OFFICE OR GO TO WWW.MNDNR.GOV FOR INFORMATION
AND OFFICE LOCATIONS.

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