White Paper Released: Boat Inspection and Decontamination for Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention – Recommendations for the Adirondack Region

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a significant threat to the Adirondack environment and economy. For more than a decade, organizations and communities in the Adirondack region have worked together to address invasive species through coordination, prevention, education, detection, and management initiatives. Shoreowners, municipalities, and state agencies spend millions of dollars managing infestations each year. Studies show that investments in prevention yield the greatest economic return. In recent years, greater attention has been given to the need for more effective AIS prevention programs.

As of 2013, nearly 90 waterways in the region had one or more AIS; however, more than two out of three waterways surveyed, at least 230, are still free of AIS, which presents an opportunity to limit their spread. While there are many AIS pathways, recreational boating remains one of the most significant in the Adirondack region. As a result, groups are promoting the expansion of the boat launch steward program, which conducts education and inspections at boat launches. Data from 25,000 boating parties surveyed in 2012 show that boaters are traveling from more than 600 destinations, and 35% are not taking any spread prevention measures. This signals the need for additional focus on the importance of cleaning recreational equipment.

Prevention efforts promoting clean boating practices are underway and include education, such as brochures, signage, presentations, news releases etc.; inspections, i.e. volunteer and paid boat launch stewards; local laws prohibiting the transport of aquatic species; and, boat washing, i.e. decontamination. An increasing emphasis on inspection and decontamination among lake communities highlights the need for determining its role in a regional AIS prevention program.

This report evaluates the concepts of inspection and decontamination and uses existing datasets to inform recommendations for the region. The process involved five steps: 1) reviewing peer-reviewed scientific literature on recreational watercraft as an AIS pathway and the effectiveness of inspections and decontamination in removing AIS, 2) compiling Adirondack AIS distribution and boat access data, 3) compiling Adirondack boat launch steward data, 4) analyzing information in aggregate to understand trends, and 5) developing recommendations appropriate to the region. The process began in January 2013, and several drafts of the report were shared with a team of reviewers and the Adirondack Aquatic Invasive Species Committee members for input.

Though the peer-reviewed literature on the effectiveness of inspection and decontamination is limited, the papers that are available are credible, informative, and provide important guidance on integrating inspection and decontamination in a regional prevention strategy. The reference material is further enhanced by white papers and state reports from across the country. In addition, the AIS distribution and steward data available for the Adirondack region are among the most complete in New York State and were instrumental for informing the specific recommendations presented here. Because it is difficult to forecast which AIS will arrive, survive, and reproduce in Adirondack waterways, it is necessary to take a multi-species, long-term approach to AIS prevention efforts in the region. Therefore, in order to address all possible threats and offer the highest possible protection to the region, the recommendations presented include methods shown to be most effective in removing, and in some cases, killing a wide range of AIS.
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