by Hilary Gove, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Intern
The Finger Lakes Institute is pleased to announce that the Watercraft Steward Program has successfully begun its second season! The boat stewards began last week with two days of training at the Finger Lakes Institute. They were trained in how to properly inspect and clean boats of aquatic life and how to identify the most harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS) known to the Finger Lakes, such as Hydrilla, Asian Clam and Round Goby. They also learned about the devastating environmental and economic costs associated with the spread of aquatic invasive species.
After training, the stewards took to the boat launches. Stewards, in the rain and shine, have been working hard since last Friday inspecting boats for aquatic invasive species and informing boaters about the consequences of aquatic hitchhikers. Their goal is to stop the movement of aquatic invasive species, which are frequently carried on watercraft and boating equipment to different launches across the Finger Lakes. In addition to cleaning boats of aquatic life, stewards have been providing interested boaters with educational materials to increase awareness of identification of AIS and encouraging self inspections to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
This season is already proving to be a great success! In just the first week of work, stewards have inspected over 1,500 boats and have reached out to over 3,600 boaters! They are actively helping prevent the spread of harmful invasives, such as Curly- Leaf Pondweed, Eurasian Watermilfoil and Zebra Mussels, by removing them from watercraft.
Throughout this 2013 season, stewards will be present on all eleven Finger Lakes as well as Irondequoit Bay and Braddock Bay, located on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. Stewards will be located at 20 boat launches across the lakes at variable times, collecting valuable data on aquatic invasive species and educating the public. Throughout the summer, stewards will attend local events, such as fishing derbies and festivals, to help further facilitate community outreach about invasive species.
Next time you are at a boat launch in the Finger Lakes, look for a steward in a red shirt and hat! Remember to STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS by inspecting (clean, drain and dry) your boat, equipment, pets, and fishing gear!
If you are interested in learning more about aquatic invasive species identification, click here. Five free, public workshops will be offered in July across the Finger Lakes region.