AUSTIN, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wanted to remind hunters during waterfowl season the importance of protecting against the spread of invasive aquatic species.
TPWD stressed that as hunters prep boats and gear, the importance of helping join the fight in mitigating the spread of aquatic invasive species like the giant salvinia and zebra mussels.
As hunters prepare for waterfowl season, TPWD said hunters should take a few minutes to clean, drain, and dry their boats and equipment, including decoys and other hunting gear, before traveling from different lakes.
TPWD said aquatic invasive plants can quickly become entangled or trapped on boats and boat trailers and moved to other lakes.
According to the TPWD, the giant salvinia is one of the more problematic aquatic invasive plants in Texas.
The invasive plant can double in size and acreage in less than a week leading to impeded boat access. A small fragment of giant salvinia or other aquatic invasive plant can cause an infestation in a new lake according to TPWD.
“Giant salvinia is often thought of as a plant that blocks recreational access for anglers and boaters, but it can cause serious problems for waterfowl hunters too,” said John Findeisen, TPWD Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Team Lead. “Not only does it form thick mats that block hunters’ access to prime waterfowl hunting areas, but it can also outgrow and replace the native plants that waterfowl rely on for food and habitat.”
Zebra and quagga mussels
According to the department, zebra mussels can harm aquatic life, litter shorelines with sharp shells, damage boats, clog water intakes, and cause damage to water supply and control infrastructure.
Found in 36 Texas lakes, the mussels, attached to plants or boats, can travel to new lakes. Larvae of the mussel can be transported via residual water on equipment and boats.
“Waterfowl hunters can help keep invasive mussels and aquatic plants from being moved and harming more lakes by taking a few minutes to remove plants and debris from boats, along with draining water before leaving the lake and allowing everything to dry completely afterward before traveling to a new location,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said transporting prohibited aquatic invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation.
The department also said it is the law that boaters must drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles, including bait buckets, before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water. They must also remove all invasive plants from the boat, trailer, and tow vehicle before leaving a lake.
TPWD said it and its partners monitor for invasive species in Texas lakes. Still, anyone who finds them in lakes where they have not been reported before — or who spots them on boats, trailers, or equipment being moved — can help identify and prevent new introductions by reporting the sighting to TPWD at 512-389-4848 or by emailing photos and location information for new invasions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on invasive species can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.
Tips for boat cleaning can be found here.