Battling Aquatic Invasive Species
Lakeshore Weekly News, 5/17/2016
The University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Brunswick Freshwater Boat Group and Tonka Bay Marina have partnered to launch research aimed at reducing the spread of invasive zebra mussels by recreational boaters.
“This is an opportunity for the private sector and the public sector to come together and face this issue,” said Tonka Bay Marina Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Jabbour of the partnership.
The project will examine “residual water,” or water left after a boat’s operator has attempted to fully drain it, which can act as a carrier of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Residual water can contain microscopic zebra mussel larvae, called veligers.
In an effort to contain the spread of AIS, Minnesota law requires that drain plugs and other water-controlling devices be removed from boats and other water-related equipment when draining a boat, and drain plugs must remain out and open while boats and water equipment are transported.
However, some watercraft do not fully drain for a variety of reasons, and can carry residual water in engines, bilges, ballasts, live wells designed to hold fish, and other compartments.
“The role of this research is to determine the real risk of different types of boats, and how we can go about minimizing that risk,” said Dr. Michael McCartney, lead zebra mussel researcher at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC). “Zebra mussels can’t be eliminated from lakes they are already in, but we can look at ways to stop the spread.”
While AIS experts have long known that zebra mussels are commonly transported on watercraft, a more comprehensive study of boats common on popular lakes is needed to determine the level of risk that residual water poses to the spread of zebra mussels.
Through the University of Minnesota study, researchers will measure the amount and location of residual water in the compartments of different types of boats and equipment, and will evaluate concentrations and survival rates of zebra mussel veligers living within it. Research will take place on Lake Minnetonka and Gull Lake, in Cass County. Sample collection will take place on weekends, June through August, this summer and next summer.
Findings could help boat designers and manufacturers identify where possible redesigns or retrofits might be warranted to reduce zebra mussel spread. The information collected could also influence the state’s AIS inspection procedures and decontamination requirements.
“We are looking forward to what may arise from this work, and how it will ultimately make boating more convenient and worry-free for boaters,” said JD Sienicki, vice president, product development & engineering for the Brunswick Freshwater Boat Group.
The DNR will contribute nearly $50,000 in-kind to the project. This includes statewide watercraft inspectors to collect samples, fleet travel, and boat use. The MAISRC is contributing in-kind researcher salary, labs, and other facilities. Tonka Bay Marina is providing approximately $50,000 to support a graduate student and core research costs. Additionally, Tonka Bay Marina will be providing support through staff and facilities on Lake Minnetonka.
To learn more about the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and this project, visit www.maisrc.umn.edu.