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Educating boat owners about AIS

Volunteers from the Turtle River Watershed Association completed two weekends of helping boat owners inspect their boats for aquatic invasive species (AIS) prior to launching them at Big Turtle and Beltrami access. Two days in May, the 25th and 26th, and two days in July, the 5th and 6th, were selected as date and times when the accesses would be the busiest. Indeed, that proved to be the case.

The primary purpose of the effort was to educate boat owners about AIS and teach them how to inspect their boats for invasives. "Clean, Drain, and Dry" were the basics, and each encounter took only 2-3 minutes except where social interaction took place. The latter led one TRWA "inspector" to proclaim, "This is a great way to meet your neighbors." (He added later, "and a great way to get fishing reports.")

TRWA volunteers were provided fluorescent green vests and caps with the TRWA logo and a canopy was set up with the TRWA sign as well as a "feather banner" announcing the TRWA "Inspection and Education" purpose of the site.

Although looking "official" and "authoritarian" the volunteers were careful to avoid the role of enforcement. The purpose clearly stated was to greet each boat at the launch site and to offer to help them inspect their boats both upon launching and on returning to the launch site. In several instances, volunteers were able to help people launch their boats or tend the boat while the owner backed the trailer. An important consideration for volunteers was not to delay the launch and contribute to the anxiety of the owners, especially as the site got crowded at the busy times. AIS species identification cards were handed out to all boat owner as well.

Upon return to the launch site "minnow water" was offered to the fishermen to exchange the water on their bait but most declined and in one instance one owner refused to drain his live well, saying he would "do it at home." The disposal of unused bait and water exchange appears to us as the weakest part of the DNR regulations and the law most difficult for fishermen to comply with and therefore most likely to be in violation.

In total, 104 boats were inspected and owners informed about AIS at the two sites over the four-day period. One hundred twenty volunteer hours were logged in the process. All volunteers who participated thought it a worthwhile effort. If you would like to be a part of the next education/inspection effort over Labor Day weekend, please contact Ralph Morris (218-766-9884), Jeff Shadwell (218-308-1085) or Bob Thompson (218-209-9539).

Bob Thompson

Editor, Turtle River Watershed Newsletter