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Minnesota Governor Proclaims Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! Week

June 25, 2007

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

Governor Tim Pawlenty has proclaimed June 23 - 30 as Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! Week in Minnesota. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) can spread to our lakes, rivers, and wetlands by "hitching" rides with boaters and anglers, where they can cause economic and environmental damage or harm human health.

Most Minnesota waters are free of invaders, such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, spiny waterfleas or New Zealand mudsnails, primarily because Minnesota boaters and anglers understand the threats posed by AIS and are willing to do their part.

"Ninety-nine percent of Minnesota boaters and anglers indicate that they're influenced to take the necessary actions to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders," said Doug Jensen, Minnesota Sea Grant's aquatic invasive species program coordinator.

Last year, Minnesota, along with Iowa and Wisconsin, stepped up efforts to extend the national “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!” campaign along highways and in communities. Boaters and anglers were surveyed at nearby water accesses to determine if the campaign information had reached them and whether it had changed their behavior. Preliminary results show that people are increasingly aware of the problem and doing something about it. Previous surveys suggest that 70 percent of boaters and anglers took preventative measures against transporting AIS in 1994 and over 90 percent did in 2000.

Public education, combined with watercraft inspections, regulations and enforcement have been effective. According to the current survey, the most important sources for information are signs at water accesses, watercraft inspections, regulation booklets, television ads and billboards.

"Minnesota responded to AIS issues early in the 1990s. Now we’re building on these successes using the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! campaign," said Jensen. "We hope Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! becomes ingrained in the minds and actions of Minnesota boaters and anglers."

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been a major force behind the progress. During Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! Week, DNR Conservation Officers and watercraft inspectors will be working extra hours enforcing invasive species laws. Boaters and anglers that have aquatic hitchhikers on their boats and gear can be cited with penalties from $50 to $1,000.

It is illegal to transport aquatic plants, prohibited invasive species, and water from infested waters on public roads in Minnesota. A list of infested waters is available through the DNR Web site (www.dnr.state.mn.us/ecological_services).

Boaters are required to drain water when leaving infested waters and to remove the drain plugs when leaving water infested with zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas. Anglers who have live bait and want to keep it should drain lake water from the bait container and replace it with tap or spring water. Unwanted live bait, such as worms and minnows, should be placed in the trash.

Boaters and anglers are reminded to:

  • Inspect and remove any visible plants, animals, and mud before launching your boat.
  • Drain water from motor, bilge, live well, and bait containers before leaving the access.
  • Dispose of unwanted live bait and worms in the trash, not in the lake or on land.
  • Spray, rinse or dry boat and equipment before going to another waterbody to remove or kill species that may not be visible.

A two-year grant from the National Sea Grant College Program is allowing Minnesota Sea Grant to partner with the Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Wildlife Forever, and other organizations, communities, businesses and industries to help protect local area lakes and rivers. Over 450 organizations have joined Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!, with nearly two dozen partners in Minnesota. To join or learn more about the campaign, visit: http://www.protectyourwaters.net or contact Doug Jensen, Minnesota Sea Grant, at (218) 726-8712.

This page last modified on July 12, 2007     © 1996 – 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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