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DEC: Keeping boats clean is crucial to preventing invasive species in local waterways

As this year’s boating season officially kicks off, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos is reminding water recreationists to do their part in protecting New York’s waters from aquatic invasive species by remembering to clean, drain, and dry watercraft and equipment.

Last year, boater traffic increased by nearly 20 percent at some launches and boat stewards counted more than 390,000 boats at launches across the state, a significant increase from the 276,515 watercraft counted in 2019. DEC anticipates more boaters will hit the water this season and with them an increased risk of introducing AIS to New York’s waters. Taking proactive steps such as cleaning off fishing tackle, removing aquatic vegetation from rudders, disinfecting boat hulls and water compartments, and properly disposing of bait, significantly reduces that risk.

“Aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels, spiny waterflea, hydrilla, and others can be easily transported from one waterbody to another on boats, trailers, and fishing equipment,” said Commissioner Seggos. “Protecting New York’s waters is a high priority for DEC. Our lakes and ponds are invaluable in providing wildlife habitat, sustaining our state’s fisheries and fishing industry, and offering opportunities for recreation.”

Over the last few years, DEC has expanded its boat steward coverage through the Watercraft Inspection Stewardship Program, reaching additional recreationists with the Clean, Drain, Dry message. Boat stewards demonstrate how to conduct boat and trailer inspections prior to launching into a new waterbody and provide basic facts about AIS. In 2020, DEC’s boat stewards talked with more than 30,000 boaters who were unfamiliar with the boat steward program. These stewards also intercepted more than 19,000 AIS on boats and equipment, including hydrilla, which was removed from boats headed into Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario. Existing hydrilla infestations in Cayuga, Erie, Tioga, Tompkins, and Westchester counties are currently costing New Yorkers more than one million dollars a year in control and mitigation.

“Last fall we opened the new boat launch at Otisco Lake. We are thrilled that this will be one of more than 200 locations participating in the New York State Watercraft Inspection Steward Program,” said Matthew Marko, DEC Region 7 Director. “We ask that all recreationists clean, drain, and dry their watercraft and equipment to help protect New York’s waters.”

“The Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) is looking forward to providing education and outreach at the new Otisco Lake launch and hopes to reach more new boaters,” said Hilary Mosher, Coordinator, Finger Lakes PRISM.

To help protect New York’s lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, visit DEC’s website for more information on AIS and a step by step guide for ridding boats and equipment of AIS. Today, DEC also released a newly developed public service announcement (PSA) to air across the state reminding boaters to clean, drain, and dry their watercrafts in order to protect state waters.