DNR increases invasive species checks

Minnesota officials say they are cracking down on boaters who do not thoroughly clean their equipment.

The Department of Natural Resources reports that 20 percent of boaters violate laws designed to keep invasive species from moving from one water body to another.

“This rate is unacceptable,” said Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement Division operations manager. “The majority of violations could have been avoided if people had taken the time to change their routine when leaving lakes and rivers, and comply with AIS (aquatic invasive species) laws.”

Extra DNR patrols will continue through the summer as officials fight a variety of invasive species that take resources away from native species.

Through early June, conservation officers issued 193 criminal citations and 463 civil citations, the DNR reported. Also, officers issued more than 1,200 warnings.

All last year, about 850 citations and warnings were issued.

Minnesota law makes it illegal to transport invasive aquatic plants and animals, as well as water, from water bodies infested with zebra mussels and spiny water fleas. Violators could face fines up to $500, a figure that in some cases will double July 1.

Boaters must drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving a water access; remove plants from boats and boat trailers; pull the boat plug to drain all water back to where it came; and keep the drain plug out while moving the boat on roads.

While the DNR wages its battle, fears are increasing that the invasive Asian carp may be in the Great Lakes.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that silver carp DNA has been found in Lake Michigan, not far from where large populations of bighead and silver carp live in the Illinois River. An electronic barrier is in place to keep Asian carp out of the lake, but critics question whether it can do the job.

Once Asian carp are in one of the Great Lakes, many fear it will not be long before they are in all of them, including Lake Superior.

The newspaper reports that a year ago 1.5 percent of samples the Corps of Engineers took near Chicago found Asian carp DNA. That has jumped to almost 15 percent this year.

While the DNA does not prove live carp are in Lake Michigan, Norte Dame University researchers who developed the test say it appeared likely that there are live carp there.

Asian carp, like other invasive species, take so much of the food in water they inhabit that it hurts native species. They are moving up the Mississippi and have been found in Minnesota waters, spurring fears they could spread throughout the state.

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