The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released some initial statistics from its increased aquatic invasive species (AIS) patrol efforts.
So far this year, the AIS violation rate among boaters is 20 percent. "This rate is unacceptable," said Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement Division operations manager. "The majority of violations could have been avoided if people had taken the time to change their routine when leaving lakes and rivers, and comply with AIS laws."
The extra patrols began May 12 and will continue through the summer.
"Enforcement activities, whether educational opportunities or issuing citations and warnings, are geared towards compliance," said Meier. "Enforcement is a primary motivator to changing the behavior of those who may intentionally or unintentionally move invasive species."
Through June 6, conservation officers had worked nearly 3,200 hours dedicated to AIS enforcement, making more than 20,000 combined law and education contacts. During this time, 193 criminal citations, 463 civil citations, 975 written warnings and 267 verbal warnings were issued.
Last year about 850 citations or warnings were issued to violators of Minnesota's AIS laws. That compares with 293 citations and warnings issued in 2010.
"We hope these citations, warnings and public contacts will continue to raise awareness that this state looks at invasive species very seriously," Meier said. "We will enforce the rules."
Under Minnesota law, it is illegal to transport invasive aquatic plants and animals, as well as water, from water bodies infested with zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas. Violators could face fines up to $500. Some penalty amounts will double beginning July 1.
To help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, anglers and boaters are required by law to:
• Drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving any water access.
• Remove aquatic plants from boats and trailers to prevent the spread of invasive species.
• Pull the plug on their boat and drain all water when leaving all waters of the state.
• Keep the drain plug out while transporting water-related equipment on roadways.
"Once an invasive species gets established into our waters, it's very unlikely we can eliminate it," Meier said. "That's why vigilance and prevention are critical."
For more information on aquatic invasive species and how to prevent their spread, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index_aquatic.html