Department of Environmental Conservation

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Aquatic Invasive Species Boat Stewards

kayakers at Round Lake
Kayakers at Round Lake

New York has more than 7,000 lakes, ponds, and rivers that could potentially be exposed to dozens of harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS) that have already been introduced and many more species that pose a threat. In July 2015, New York released its updated Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan to help prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species into and within New York State's waters.

One of the main pathways for transfer of aquatic invasive species between waterbodies is recreational water vehicles (boats, canoes, kayaks, and jet skis). For this reason the top priority of the statewide AIS management plan is to expand the coverage of boat stewardship programs across the state, particularly in popular, high-use areas. In-person interactions with boaters, anglers, and other recreational water users raises awareness about aquatic invasive species and practices (cleaning, draining, and treating) that reduce the chance of spreading aquatic invaders. Read more about the practices required to prevent the spread of AIS (PDF, 340 KB).

In 2016 more than 120,000 boats were inspected and boat stewards talked with more than 140,000 water recreationists.

Who are Boat Stewards and What Do They Do?

Boat stewards are volunteers or paid members of your community who help protect New York State's waters. An encounter with a steward will involve being asked if you already practice preventive measures and receiving instruction about how to inspect and "clean, drain, and treat" your watercraft and equipment. You will also be asked which waterbody you last visited so that the steward can determine if you are coming from infested waters and what species are there. Boat stewards will have access to this information for many lakes and ponds through the iMapInvasives website (leaves DEC website). Boat stewards have a wealth of information about aquatic invasive species. Feel free to ask them questions!

Resources for Boat Steward Programs

boat steward inspects kayaks
Boat steward April Brun inspects kayaks.

Setting up and maintaining a boat steward program can seem daunting. NYSDEC, NYS OPRHP (Parks), New York Sea Grant (NYSG), and several other partners have teamed up to provide support for boat steward programs. This team of agencies is making every effort to standardize the training, messaging, and information that is distributed throughout the state. The following resources are available for organizations interested in learning more about what is involved in developing a program and how to improve existing programs.

Funding and Personnel

Training Tools

Annual NYSFOLA 2016 workshop presentations

Education and Outreach Supplies

Invasive Species Regulations in New York

New York State Boat Launch Locations

Active Boat Steward Programs in New York State

Since 2008 the number of programs has been steadily increasing. As of 2016, more than 120 boat steward programs are active in New York State. Initially the majority of steward programs were found in the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes. Now programs have established in the Hudson Valley, Long Island, the Capital District/Mohawk River area, and Western New York. Many types of organizations pursue boat steward programs such as lake associations, colleges and universities, non-profits, county soil and water conservation districts, and municipalities. More information about individual programs can be found in the list of Active Watercraft Inspection Programs 2016 (PDF, 80 KB).