Help Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species
Nearly 300 mussel-fouled boats discovered across Idaho in the last decade
This story was written by the Our Gem Collaborative team for the CDA Press on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Read the original article.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are plants, animals and other organisms introduced by humans to new waterways. They cause harm to our environment and economy.
AIS invade aquatic ecosystems beyond their natural and historic range, often outcompeting native species because they have no natural predators to limit their reproduction. These organisms overwhelm marine and freshwater environments including wetlands, lakes, rivers, irrigation systems, hydroelectric systems and aquaculture facilities.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture coordinates a statewide AIS management and control program, acting to protect the integrity of the state’s waterbodies from the biological degradation caused by aquatic plants and pests. This program includes statewide watercraft inspection stations, checking boats for invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels, along with other AIS.
As of July, over 88,000 watercraft inspections have been performed in 2020 and 23 mussel-fouled boats were discovered. Since 2009, more than 700,000 inspections have been conducted and 290 mussel-fouled boats have been intercepted.
The public plays a huge role in the prevention of the spread of AIS. Anyone boating in Idaho waters must buy an Idaho Invasive Species Fund sticker from Idaho Parks and Recreation. The fees generated from the sale of these stickers fund vessel inspections, washing stations, and informational materials that help Idaho prevent the introduction and spread of AIS. Water recreators should also clean, drain and dry all equipment after each use, especially if moving between waterbodies.
AIS are often highly competitive, persistent and can create monocultures that have the potential to crowd out, displace, or otherwise harm native species and habitats and disrupt healthy ecosystem functions. It is extremely difficult to control the spread of AIS once established. AIS spread through aquatic recreation, aquaculture, water gardens, international travel and release of aquatic pets into the wild.
AIS can include plants, insects, fish, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans and amphibians. Other aquatic invasive organisms include pathogens (disease-causing organisms) such as mold, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Idaho has 16 species of aquatic noxious weed species. Some AIS found in regional waterbodies are Asian Clams, Eurasian Watermilfoil, a hybrid species of Milfoil, Purple Loosestrife, Common Reed, Flowering Rush, Yellow Flag Iris and Curly-Leaf Pondweed. All are aggressively invasive.
The destruction caused by AIS threatens local economies by damaging critical industries such as fisheries, agriculture, recreation and tourism. Idaho is not alone in facing these threats. There is growing national awareness of the need to prevent and control invasive species. Nationally, the cost to control invasive species and the damages they inflict upon property and natural resources is estimated at $137 billion annually.
Working together, we can all help protect the economic, recreational and aesthetic uses of Idaho’s bodies of water and preserve the water quality, biodiversity and natural aquatic ecosystems of our beloved wetlands, lakes and rivers for generations to come.