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Saginaw Bay Area
Posted on behalf of Mary Jane Belter



They are dangerous, expensive, quiet, tiny and some are able to double their numbers ina matter of hours, and they are hitching rides to invade pristine lakes, rivers and coastal resources.

Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their partners have unveiled a new national program called "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" along with a new instructive web site, at www.protectyourwaters.net.

"Most of these aquatic invasive species tag along with people who are some of our best conservation partners," said Service Director Steve Williams. "They are the people who are out there for recreation ? fishing, boating, diving, hunting and a lot more.

Their conscientious efforts have already helped in this fight, and that's why it's important we lend a hand." The "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" campaign features a long-term educational and outreach effort designed to elevate awareness about the spread of aquatic nuisance species throughout the United States, and offer advice, help and voluntary guidelines for aquatic recreation users.

The "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" campaign promotes some simple steps to recreational users every time they leave the water:

  • Remove visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment.
  • Eliminate water from equipment before moving it.
  • Clean and dry anything that was in contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, clothing -- and even pets.)
  • Never release plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they were found there.

Many aquatic invaders entered the United States through the discharge of ballast water from international freighters and by other means. These species are often spread by people -- unknowingly -- as they engage in a number of recreational activities.

Many aquatic nuisance species -- like the round goby, the zebra mussel or the sea lamprey -- have not only reproduced and spread quickly, but have wreaked havoc with native species, have reduced game fish populations, ruined boat engines and industrial water intake systems, fouled water and power plants, made lakes and rivers unusable for boaters and swimmers, reduced property values and have even affected human health.

As part of the "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" campaign, a web site has been designed for recreational users interested in helping to stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species.

Located at www.protectyourwaters.net, the site provides details on the recommended procedure to follow each time someone leaves a body of water, suggestions about how individuals and clubs can become involved to help stop invasions and information on the impact of nuisance species, along with detailed information on some of the more troublesome hitchhikers, and more.

Cathleen Short, Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, said the "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" campaign, which will rely on voluntary participation, includes a consortium of partners. The campaign is being developed by the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, co-chaired by the Service and NOAA.

Other members include the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service and the Department of State.

"In some cases, it may not be possible to roll back some of the damage, but we are convinced that by harnessing the energy of thousands of recreational users in this country, we can make a real difference," Williams said. -fws-

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