Boater numbers up and invasive species numbers down
Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (PSC AWI) released its Annual Stewardship Program for the 2020 boating season. The publication summarizes data on aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread prevention and highlights achievements from the previous summer field season.
The report, which can be found on adkwatershed.org/publications, states that six species of aquatic invasive species were found on boats in the Adirondacks in 2020, none of which were new to the region.
“The most commonly found plant species pulled off boats and trailers was Eurasian watermilfoil and the most commonly found animal species was Zebra mussel,” said Dan Kelting, AWI’s executive director and author of the report.
AWI operates the regional Adirondack Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program which relies on voluntary compliance of the boating public to meet the Clean, Drain, Dry standard required by New York State’s regulation to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. AWI deploys seasonal stewards to inspect and decontaminate watercraft and equipment at popular or high risk launches and along travel corridors across northern New York. Stewards inspect and wash boats, model appropriate AIS prevention steps, and provide education and encouragement for boater self-adoption of Clean, Drain, and Dry.
In 2020 AWI boat launch stewards reported a 25% increase in boats and boaters compared to the previous three years. However, fewer invasive species were found on boats than in past years and decontamination numbers were up in 2020.
The report states that AIS were more frequently found on boats leaving water bodies than on launching boats. The majority of AIS finds were at Lake Champlain launches followed by Chateaugay Lake and Second Pond on the Saranac Lake chain.
“More and more boaters each year agree to have their boats inspected by one of our stewards”, said Eric Paul, director of AWI’s stewardship program. “In fact 96% of motorized boats and 98% of nonmotorized boats encountered in 2020 were inspected.”
The busiest decontamination station in the AWI network is the Adirondacks Welcome Center which washed 538 boats in 2020.
“Boats arriving at the Welcome Center on I-87 northbound are high risk,” said Kelting. “Boaters who stop here tend to come from waterbodies known to harbor AIS, have visible AIS on the boat or trailer, or have standing water.”
The report states that not all boats pose a risk. AWI stewards found that more than half of the boaters they interacted with in 2020 launch their boat into the same waterbody or have their boats out of the water for more than 2 weeks, significantly lowering the risk of AIS transport. However, stewards treat each boater interaction with precaution.
“We distribute our inspection and decontamination stations strategically across the region,” said Dan Kelting. “The risk of AIS introduction is higher in the interior lakes where organisms can be more easily spread from lake to lake and therefore you’ll see our stewards at relatively small launches. We also prioritize large, busy launches that may attract boaters from other areas, like the Finger Lakes or the Great Lakes, which can serve as sources of new AIS in the region.”
The report states that AWI employs more than 100 seasonal technicians to operate 51 boat-inspection and 29 decontamination stations across northern New York.
“Working across this large landscape allows us to maintain consistent messaging and a level of customer service necessary to support regional spread prevention”, said Eric Paul.
The report is based on real-time data collected at the launches to record invasive species catches, to log the number of boaters at the launches, and to learn where boats come from before they visit Adirondack lakes. The data are part of a statewide database that helps New York State track invasive species and allocate resources to the highest priority areas across the state. Detailed reports for each individual location can also be found on AWI’s website.
The mission of the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute is to protect clean water, conserve habitat and support the health and well-being of the people in the Adirondacks through science, collaboration, and real world experiences for students.