Anyone who studies aquatic invasive species (AIS) will say that one of the most common ways these invaders have been able to spread so rapidly and effectively has been improper boat maintenance. While natural travel patterns certainly show invasive species like Asian carp moving throughout the Great Lakes region after being intentionally introduced, there are also nuisances like the round goby, who were introduced to U.S. waterways by hitching a ride on a European ship. These invasives have the potential to upheave entire ecosystems and wreak havoc on delicately balanced fisheries. As a result, independent boat checks and mandatory watercraft inspection stations have become commonplace as the need to protect native resources grows.
Boat Checks and Decontamination
Tracking AIS that are spotted or have yet to make an appearance is standard for resource managers. However, even with close monitoring, invasives can be unintentionally smuggled into fisheries, wherein they are able to populate the waters and become much more difficult to handle. In order to prevent this, resource departments across the U.S. have set up boat check stations or established regulations for boaters to follow.
Regardless of the state, many of the regulations laid out for decontamination are similar. The U.S. Forest Service outlines the following as some primary guidelines to follow when performing a boat check and decontamination.
Depending on the state, watercraft checks may be more formal stations that those entering a waterway must go through or something recommended to anglers in order to protect native resources. In both cases, it is essential that sailors take care to follow all decontamination procedures to expedite the process and protect fisheries. The introduction of an invasive species can change the food web, ecosystem functions and even water chemistry. In the interest of protecting natural resources, sailors should take the initiative, whether required by law or not, to take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of AIS.