Over this past summer, you may have met a New York Sea Grant Launch Steward at your local boat launch. Who are these people in the red shirts, and why are they asking questions?
Launch Stewards in the eastern Lake Ontario region are typically college and/or graduate students hired and trained by New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a statewide network of integrated research, education, and extension services promoting coastal economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.
|A boater inspection his trailer for any unwanted aquatic hitchhikers that may have become attached during launch/retrieval of his watercraft. Photo by: NYSG Chief Launch Steward, Brittney Rogers|
The goal of the NYSG Launch Stewards is to increase public awareness about identifying aquatic invasive species (AIS) and helping to control the spread of AIS to different bodies of water.
Aquatic invasive species are non-native plants and animals that threaten native plants, wildlife, and their habitat. AIS degrade boating and fishing areas, and can reduce lake shore property values and tourism. Once AIS are established, containment is difficult. By voluntarily participating in watercraft inspections, you too can help slow the spread of AIS. Inspecting your boat before entering and after leaving a body of water and removing any type of debris (plant and/or animal matter) from your watercraft, properly disposing of that debris, and drying your vessel will slow the spread of AIS.
During the 2014 NYSG Launch Steward Program, NYSG Launch Stewards were able to educate more than 10,600 people at various boat launches to help stop the spread of AIS in the eastern Lake Ontario/Oneida Lake regions. Over the course of the summer, the Launch Stewards inspected various watercrafts identifying AIS as well as other aquatic hitchhikers that can hitchhike on various points on the boat and trailer.
On average, 8% of the boats inspected by NYSG Launch Stewards had one, if not more, aquatic hitchhikers present. The three most abundant AIS found this past summer in chronological order include; Eurasian watermilfoil at 68%, Zebra mussels at 15% and Curly-leaf pondweed at 15%. Many of these aquatic plants are able to propagate from small leaflets of the mother plant. This adaptation allows many of the AIS to spread easily and is why it is so important for boaters to follow inspection protocol. The Launch Stewards were well receptive with boaters; and due to their efforts, helped to increase public awareness on AIS to those who previously were unaware of the harmful affects they had on the lake ecology.
|Boater drying his boat, helping to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. |
Photo by: 2013 NYSG Launch Steward, Megan Pistolese
Three important steps of Clean, Drain, Dry are:
Inspect & Clean: Remove all visible plants, animals, fish, and mud from your boat, trailer, or other equipment and dispose of these debris in a suitable trash container or on dry land away from vehicle traffic and water. It is also important to check any other type of equipment that comes into contact with the water such as tubes, fishing, gear, and even scuba gear.
Drain: Drain water from bilge, live wells, ballast tanks, boat bodies, and any place capable of holding water, before leaving the boat launch.
Dry: Dry your boat, trailer, and all equipment completely. Drying times vary depending on the weather and type of material. Dry by hand, or let vessel sit to dry for at least five days, which is enough to kill most aquatic organisms that may be left on the boat during the summer months.
Practicing watercraft inspections protects our local waterways and habitats and keeps them a valuable resource for use now and for future generations.
|Patron inspecting scuba diving gear for any aquatic invasive species;|
Photo by: NYSG Chief Launch Steward, Brittney Rogers
Anglers: Proper Disposal of Bait Helps Slow Spread of AIS
- The NYSG Launch Steward Program shares the following tips to empower anglers in the battle to slow and stop the spread of aquatic invasive species that can damage your favorite fishing areas.
- If you are an avid fisherman in New York State, please follow New York State bait laws.
- It is best to purchase live bait from a licensed dealer in the region which you plan to use it.
- Learn to recognize juvenile Asian carp (a disastrous AIS in the Midwest). The juveniles look similar to some common bait minnow species.
- Never dump bait directly into a body of water. Many invasive species are spread when people inadvertently dump live bait such as non-native minnows, worms or frogs in or near the water.
- Unwanted bait should always be disposed of in the trash or at a waste disposal station which many boat launches have.
|Boater disposing aquatic plant material into a waste disposal station; |
Photo by: 2013 NYSG Launch Steward, Ryan Thompson
Aquatic Pet/Plant Owners: Proper Disposal of Unwanted Pets/Plants
- Another condition in which invasive species are spread is from the release of unwanted exotic aquatic plants or pets from their aquariums.
- Unwanted pets or plants can usually be returned to an aquarium supplier.
- Importantly, aquarium owners or gardeners should consult their state and federal lists of prohibited invasive species before purchasing a new plant or animal.
- Using native flora in ponds and aquariums is a simple way to avoid the spread of AIS.
Tips for Fishing at the Salmon River
As the leaves start to change and we prepare ourselves for a long Central New York winter, new outdoor activities start to take place. One such popular activity among outdoorsman includes fishing for Pacific Salmon on the Salmon River. As anglers get out their waders from basement storage, and prepare themselves to hook up with a monster Chinook Salmon, it is important to note that AIS can still be spread.
One such hitchhiker which can attach to felt waders includes Didymo or rock snot. This nuisance algae prefers freshwater rivers, and streams with cold water temperatures. Didymo can negatively affect stream habitats and sources of food for fish. To help stop the spread of AIS please reference the picture below which depicts the proper protocol and gear to inspect before and after visiting the Salmon River or other Great Lakes tributaries.