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Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

View DEC's new Guide to Water Gardening in New York for recommended water garden species and tips on avoiding invasive species.

Invasive aquatic plant species hanging off a trailered boat after it was pulled from the water.
Invasive aquatic plant species hanging off a trailered boat

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What do Eurasian watermilfoil, didymo, water chestnut, purple loosestrife, fishhook water fleas, and zebra mussels have in common? They are all species from other parts of the world that have been accidentally introduced and have flourished in New York State, often at the expense of our native species. Add to this list sea lamprey, northern snakehead, hydrilla, and fanwort that are native to the U.S, but have since spread to waters in which they were not originally found.

These plants and animals are all considered invasive species. Without the predators, parasites, and diseases that control their numbers in their native habitats, these species can reproduce and spread at an amazing pace. Similarly, fish diseases such as whirling disease and viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) have also been introduced to New York State. Although these diseases are not a threat to human health, they can have dire consequences for our native fish communities.

Some of these species were introduced into New York waters via ballast water discharges, as ships from ports around the world travel up the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes. Several invasive aquatic plants have been introduced through the home aquarium trade. How some other organisms are introduced, including many fish diseases, are still unclear. What is clear is that boaters and anglers can unknowingly spread invasive species from one body of water to another. This can occur by failing to properly dry or disinfect boating and fishing equipment, improperly using and disposing of baitfish, or illegally moving fish from one place to another.

How You Can Help Prevent their Spread

Clean, Drain, and Dry Your Boat and Gear

Anglers and boaters are asked to be aware of the part they may play in the spread of invasive species and to take action to help stop their spread. Unfortunately, there is no single preventative action that can address all invasive plant and animal species or diseases that an angler or boater may come in contact with. Following recommended guidelines such as properly cleaning, draining, and drying your boat and gear will lessen the likelihood of spreading these species and diseases as you fish or boat.

Don't Dump Aquariums

Aquatic invasive species may also be spread to lakes, rivers, and ponds via aquarium release or escape. Aquarium species such as koi, goldfish, and red-eared slider turtles sometimes lack predators in the wild and are able to grow and reproduce rapidly. Invasive plants such as Brazilian elodea, fanwort, and hydrilla are often sold as oxygenators for aquariums. If they aren't disposed of properly, these plants can become established in the wild. See our Guidelines for Aquarium and Pet Owners webpage to learn how to own and dispose of aquarium species responsibly.

Dispose of Invasive Plant Material Properly

When removing invasive plants, it is crucial that you take proper precautions and understand their life cycle. Improper disposal can allow invasive plants to regrow or be transported to previously uncontaminated areas. Many invasive plants can reproduce from very small pieces. See our Guidelines for Disposing of Invasive Plant Material (PDF) to help limit the spread of invasive plants.

Plant Native Water Gardens

If you have a water garden, it's important to use non-invasive and or native species. The plants and animals in your water garden can spread, even if your garden isn't near other waterbodies. Find out more about which species are best for your water garden in our Guide to Water Gardening in New York (PDF).

DEC's Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan

This 2015 plan (PDF) is an update to DEC's original plan written in 1993. The current plan includes more than 50 actions designed to address prevention, detection, and response to aquatic invasive species (AIS). Priority actions from the plan include, but are not limited to:

  • Expand the boat steward program and ensure consistency of these programs statewide
  • Develop an AIS response framework to guide decision making when AIS are detected, and communicate the reasoning for the response selected
  • Identify and evaluate risks associated with pathways for AIS introduction and movement within New York State.

Protecting the Adirondacks

In March 2015, NYS announced an agreement to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Adirondacks. 50 conservation groups, owners associations, local and state governments have signed on to the Memo of Understanding (PDF) to help preserve clean water, increase recreation opportunities and promote tourism in New York.

More about Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species: