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More boats on the water could impact invasive species

"Sail Boats" by oatsy40 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Unwanted critters have a habit of making their way into the Great Lakes, and the word on the water is, more boaters could mean more invasive species.

Zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, plant fragments and Asian carp are just a few species that find their way into Michigan waters. Some of them are transfered in the same way: boats.

This year's Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness week began on June 27, with the intention of teaching boaters how to avoid bringing these uninvited guests into the water. Coming out of COVID-19, there's been an increased interest in boating, according to aquatic biologist with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Kevin Walters.

With extra motors on the water, the number of invasive species could be negatively impacted.

"I don't know of a study specific to this year's increase in boating recreation, but it certainly could, and we know that recreational boating is a priority pathway for focusing on prevention messaging about aquatic invasive species," Walters said. "So to us, it's a really important year to again, get that message out to boaters and anybody who's recreating around the water."

Walters said that awareness isn't just for recreational boaters, it's for professionals too, but the abundance of new boaters makes this a crucial year to spread the EGLE message. This is where the Landing Blitz comes in. It's a collaborative effort between local aquatic organizations to educate boaters in their area on how to clean their boats to avoid species spread.

"We try and teach boaters and anglers to do three simple things when they're done voting and angling for the day, and those three simple things are one clean, two is dry, and three is drain," Walters said.

Cleaning boats in between different lake excursions is another prevention recommendation from Walters.

Last year's Landing Blitz was held virtually through social media, and the level of engagement was so strong that the method will be used in combination with in-person messaging for 2021.


"That was one of the positives of having 2020 as sort of a gap year where we didn't do as much in-person outreach at all," Walters said. "I think that definitely will be a piece of what we do going forward, you know, COVID or not I think it is."


For more information on Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness week and to find a local Landing Blitz visit


This story was produced as part of the Michigan News Group Internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight community newspapers. Riley is based at the Cadillac News.