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Clean. Drain. Dry.It’s a mantra all boaters, personal watercraft fans and recreational water craft users including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) should take to heart.More importantly they should put it into practice before transporting their craft from, lake, pond or stream.Why?To limit the spread of invasive species whether vegetative, animal, mollusk, fungal or bacterial.Invasive species often hitchhike on or in the hull of a watercraft and on trailers used to transport them if mud, vegetative debris and water are not removed before being placed in another body of water.It’s more than a good practice; it’s the law.Enacted in 2019, the Michigan DNR explains the law requires boaters — including paddle craft users — to do all of the following prior to transporting any watercraft over land: Remove all drain plugs from bilges, ballast tanks and live wells.Drain all water from any live wells and bilges.Ensure that the watercraft, trailer and any conveyance used to transport the watercraft or trailer are free of aquatic organisms, including plants.This means that after trailering boats, and before getting on the road, boaters must pull plugs, drain water and remove plants and debris.Violation of the law is a state civil infraction and violators may be subject to fines up to $100.Anglers also are cautioned not release live bait into the water — dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.A decision was made not to heavily enforce the law in 2020 preferring to educate boaters first about the clean, drain and dry rule. This year might be different.Ideally, boaters — no matter whether using a motorized speed, fishing or pontoon boat or a paddle craft such as a kayak, canoe or standup paddleboard — would embrace the practices. The rivers, lakes and ponds enjoyed benefit when users adopt such practices. Clean, dry and drain should be part of boating just like stowing gear before going down the road.By the way, gear can transport invasive species, too. Clean waders, fishing equipment and anchors also after use and before hitting a different stream or lake.When new invasive species spread into lakes or rivers previously free of them, they can harm the lake’s ecology, reduce quality and lead to expensive and not always effective treatment programs.If you question if transport really happens, consider how zebra and quagga mussels, introduced into the Great Lakes by ocean-going freighters that discharged ballast water from afar into our lakes, have changed the fisheries of the lakes.Boaters then inadvertently transported invasive mussels into inland lakes in Michigan and far beyond where freighters are never seen.
Eurasian milfoil, European frog bit, Stoney starwort are just a few of invasive species either already infesting area lakes or threatening to do so. Once introduced, they can take over since most don’t have any predators that keep them in check. Once established uncontrolled invasive species can make boating and fishing difficult and can reduce fish habitat and spawning grounds thus harming angling experience and potentially fish populations.Invasive New Zealand mud snails, now in the Pere Marquette River, are a special concern to rivers. They’re tiny and easily moved in mud on boats, waders or gear.Trying to control invasive species once established is expensive.More than $100 million is spent in the Great Lakes region each year trying to control invasive species in waters of the United States.During the cold, dark days of winter I took a Michigan Paddle Stewardship course online through Michigan State University Extension in partnership with Michigan Sea Grant to learn and better understand what kayakers and canoeists should do to prevent spreading invasive species.I have always picked weeds of the hull before leaving a launch, but I learned that isn’t enough. Wiping them down and disinfecting them if I planned to use them in another lake before they could dry for five days, also is needed.The idea behind the free course and the Michigan Paddle Stewardship initiative and the Clean Boats, Clean Waters effort, is to educate more people about the reasons and ways to clean watercraft after trips before placing them in a different body of water.If more people understand the problem, properly clean their craft and gear, share that knowledge with others. the more widespread the acceptance and practice of cleaning, draining, drying and — when necessary — wiping surfaces with a sanitizing solution that can kill unseen hitchhikers — the slower invasive species may spread.WHAT IS AN INVASIVE SPECIE?“An invasive species is one that is not native and whose introduction causes harm, or is likely to cause harm to Michigan’s economy, environment or human health,” according to Michigan’s Invasive Species Program.Once in a new location, these animal, plant and fungi species reproduce rapidly and damage ecosystems, even to the extent of endangering human economies or health. Invasive species can outcompete native species for food and habitat, leading to excessive growth and reproduction, and loss of ecosystem diversity and function, a DNR website notes.Many non-native species already present don’t cause harm. Rainbow smelt and brown trout, for instance, are non-native species but aren’t considered invasive. They provide food and recreation.Round gobies, zebra and quagga mussels, spiny water fleas are well-known Great Lakes invasive species. Inland lakes face challenges from a host of invasive water plants that choke out native plants and can choke lakes to the point boating is difficult, and dissolved oxygen and nutrient levels get out of whack in ways that harm the lake.The variety of invasive species is a bit overwhelming. Muddying matters is the fact they often look similar to native species. One must count whorls, study stems, compare flower petals and look at other details to differentiate some from similar, harmless native species.The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN https://www.misin.msu.edu) has a smart phone app one can download to compare suspected invasive species and to report when and where one is found. Tracking helps make others aware of invasive species newly found where not previously seen.Whether one takes the time to learn about the invasive species now present in area lakes, it is important for water sport enthusiasts to understand if they ignore the clean, drain and dry advice they could spread a nasty invasive to a new body of water they love.Five days of drying are recommended before taking a craft or equipment to a new body of water. Often, waiting that long is not in the cards. If you plan to take your craft or gear to another lake or river sooner than that, wipe it down thoroughly with a diluted bleach-water or bleach-alternative solution first to ensure you are not transporting viable eggs, creatures or vegetative fragments. The accompanying graphic shows where to clean on a kayak – basically everywhere.Power washing is also a recommended cleaning option for boats and trailers. Some boat launches are being outfitted with boat cleaning stations but they are expensive and wash water should be captured so it doesn’t return to the lake.Yes, it’s a chore – but it can preserve the quality of a lake or river so you can better enjoy your time recreating on them.
Information for this story also came from the following programs: MI Paddle Stewards is a program of Michigan Sea Grant in partnership with MSU Extension, local trail groups and others. The program is funded, in part through a grant from the EGLE Invasive Species Program. Clean Boats Clean Waters is a joint effort between Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and is currently funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
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