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. 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).

In 2018 more than 140,000 boats were inspected and boat stewards talked with more than 160,000 water recreationists.

Protecting New York's Waters

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!

New York State Boat Launch and Steward Locations

Active Boat Steward Programs in New York State

Since 2008 the number of boat steward programs has been steadily increasing. As of 2019, boat steward programs are active at 211 locations across New York State. 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 boat steward locations can be found in the list of Active Boat Steward Programs in 2019 (PDF).

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

Education and Outreach Supplies

Annual NYSFOLA 2016 workshop presentations

Invasive Species Regulations in New York