Contact(s): Kevin Harter, DNR Communications. 715-416-2230.
By John Gozdzialski, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Northern Region Director
Please don't pick up hitchhikers this summer, and I'm not talking about the ones you mom warned you to never stop for along highways. Theese hitchhikers are found on boats and trailers and in live wells and the bucket where you may keep the day's catch.
These hitchhikers -- aquatic invasive species (AIS) -- are non-native plants and animals that can harm our treasured Wisconsin waters and recreation and which are primarily spread when we are boating or fishing.
But by being alert and taking a few easy steps, you can curb the spread, and we can help in a host of ways.
Have you encountered AIS like Eurasian water-milfoil, zebra mussels or rusty crayfish in your favorite lake? Do you have questions on AIS "no transport" laws aimed at boaters and anglers? Are you aware of the numerous prevention, monitoring and control efforts taking place in Wisconsin?
Ever wonder who those folks with the blue shirts are out at the boat landing? Do you know local group/governments can apply for AIS grants through our DNR AIS Grants Program?
Or are you interested in joining the hundreds of volunteers working to monitor and prevent the spread of AIS?
Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species takes effort from everyone who enjoys our state's waterways. Our surveys show that more than 90 percent of boaters know what they need to do to prevent the spread of AIS. We continue to educate boaters about AIS and we have also started to enforce the AIS laws in Wisconsin.
Please go to the DNR searchable website and type in "invasive species" for more on how we can all help keep Wisconsin lakes and fish healthy. The best place to start is by removing organic material from boats, trailers, and live wells.
Drain water from live wells, bilges and pumps. Put your catch on ice instead of in a bucket full of water.
To minimize the spread of these invasive species the law requires water to be drained from our live wells and bilges even if they contain your day's catch. To help preserve your Friday fish fry the DNR has been handing out thousands of ice packs to place onto the fish to preserve until filleting.
The outside and inside of the boat, trailer, live wells, bilges, and pumps should be disinfected
Wisconsin made significant progress in 2012 in efforts to prevent, contain, and control the damage done by AIS, capitalizing on increased federal funding and growing involvement by counties and volunteers.
With your help, we can continue to keep AIS in check. About 200 lakes were monitored this year as part of a five-year process to paint a more accurate picture of where aquatic invasive species are found across the state, and how fast they're spreading, and to evaluate the effectiveness of outreach and education efforts.
The number of counties actively partnering with the state to prevent and control the spread of aquatic invasive species is growing. Over the July 4 holiday, for instance, a record 53 counties will have volunteers and paid staff at boat launches to provide free boat inspections, hand out limited supplies of towels and ice pack, and help raise awareness of steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
Efforts to engage new partners in geographic areas where there were gaps in the past are paying off. We continue to partner with nearly 200 bait shops to help spread the word and this year, high school students from Siren will help raise awareness at boat launches in Burnett County over the July 4 holiday.
These partnerships helped spread the AIS prevention message to even more water users in 2012 with nearly 110,000 boats inspected and 233,000 people contacted.
The results are encouraging.. 70 percent of lakes with public access were free of Eurasian water-milfoil, despite that invader being here in Wisconsin for more than 50 years. And 82 percent of suitable lakes with public access are still clear of zebra mussels, present inland for more than 20 years.
Rapid response efforts have been successful at eliminating new infestations of species like hydrilla, red swamp crayfish, yellow floating heart, Vietnamese water celery, water chestnut, grass carp and several other invasive species in Wisconsin.
Research has led to new techniques that are providing alternative for the control of aquatic invasive species, early season treatment of Eurasian water-milfoil, innovative techniques to control rainbow smelt, development of products that have the potential to control zebra mussels, or deter Asian carp from moving upstream are all showing signs of success.
Other highlights include:
Eurasian Water Milfoil found in 642 water bodies in the state (2012 data)
Zebra mussels found in 149 water bodies in the state (2012 data)
Over 180 AIS in Great Lakes, but no new invasive aquatic species are known to have been introduced through ballast water since changes in ballast water management regulations were implemented in 2006.
Over 110,000 boats inspected for AIS in 2012
Over 232,000 boaters surveyed at launches in 2012
$ 3.6 million in grants were awarded to local communities for aquatic invasive species prevention and control in 2012, bringing to $20 million the grant money awarded to local communities since 2003 for aquatic invasive species prevention and control.
$200,000 was awarded to local communities for Clean Boats Clean Waters grant program following expedited process developed in 2013.