PROVIDENCE – Trying to reduce the spread of invasive species in Rhode Island waters, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has amended the state’s Freshwater Fisheries Regulations to prohibit the transport of any plant or plant part into or out of any Rhode Island waterbody on any type of boat, motor, trailer, fishing supplies, or gear. The new regulation carries a $100 fine for each violation.
“Many of the aquatic invasive plants in Rhode Island can reproduce from just one small plant fragment and do not need entire root systems to successfully establish in a new spot,” said Katie DeGoosh-DiMarzio, Environmental Analyst with DEM’s Office of Water Resources. “Cleaning off every bit of plant from recreational gear used at one pond is essential before visiting another — this includes boats, kayaks, canoes, motors, trailers, paddles, jet skis, fishing gear, waders, water tubes, and anchors. These efforts help combat the spread of aquatic invasive species in Rhode Island waterbodies.”
Aquatic invasive plants are a major cause of impairment in Rhode Island’s freshwater lakes. More than 100 lakes and ponds are plagued with at least one species of invasive plant, and at least one invasive plant type has been recorded in 27 river segments. DEM has documented 14 different aquatic invasive plant species, the most common being variable milfoil and fanwort. By prohibiting the transport of plants on boats and trailers, DEM hopes to curb the spread of these plants from one lake to the next. While only variable milfoil and fanwort are widespread in the state, most of the other 12 harmful invasives are found only in a handful of lakes. A 2013 study in Rhode Island found that nearly forty percent of boats observed at a freshwater ramp had some type of vegetation attached. It’s crucial that boaters prevent moving these plants on boats and trailers to avoid spreading them to new locations where they may become problematic.
In celebration of National Invasive Species Awareness Week February 24-28, DEM is joining environmental professionals across North America to urge boaters to check and clean their boats and gear before and after launching their watercraft in a lake or river. Sponsored by the North American Invasive Species Management Association, the effort is raising awareness of the threat of invasive species and what people can do to prevent their spread. With the newly amended Freshwater Fisheries Regulations, DEM joins all the other New England states in banning the transport of any plant or plant part into any waterbody on any type of boat, motor, trailer, fishing supplies, or gear.
Boaters simply should check their boat, trailer, motor, lines, and other gear for plant parts, and remove any plant material before traveling. Do not put any plant material removed from vessels into any waterbody. Instead, dispose of all plants in the trash or compost away from water. Also, before heading to a waterbody, check DEM’s website to see if invasive plants have been documented at that location, using either the static map and list of waterbodies by town or the interactive map under the “Freshwater Aquatic Invasive Plants” layer. As an added step, boaters can take a pledge online to remove any visible mud or plants and drain water before transporting equipment, cleaning, and drying anything that comes into contact with the water including boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, etc.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS FOR ALL BOATERS
CLEAN: Remove all visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from all equipment before leaving water access.
DRAIN motor, bilge, livewell, and other water-containing devices before leaving water access.
DRY everything for at least 24 hours OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
DISPOSE of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash.
Invasive species pose many problems. Thriving invasive plant populations outcompete native plant communities and upset the healthy balance of plants and animals. These aggressive plants change fish and wildlife habitats, disrupt local food webs, and may degrade water quality. Further, large patches of plants can interfere with recreational activities, making boating, swimming, and fishing difficult in these areas. Prolonged effects on recreational opportunities may harm tourism and local businesses, reduce waterfront property values, and become costly to manage and control over the long term. The most efficient and cost-effective management strategy is to prevent the plants from moving to, and becoming established in, a waterbody – and clean boats are the first line of defense.
For more information on Rhode Island Freshwater Fishing Regulations and boating laws, visit www.dem.ri.gov or https://rules.sos.ri.gov/regulations/part/250-60-00-10.