Officials urge clean boats, trailers to stop invasive species
VERMONT- As summer beckons, the Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds calls upon boaters to obey the law and clean their boats and trailers of all plant fragments and tiny animals before transporting them to other water bodies; otherwise, they risk hefty fees and fines and risk infestations of nuisance and invasive species that will wreck the health, beauty and recreational opportunities of the lakes, ponds, and rivers that all love and enjoy.
Act 67 took effect last June and authorizes the fish and wildlife department to crack down on violators by issuing fines, rather than just warnings, and puts the onus on boaters to inspect and clean their watercraft. Drying afterwards is an important precaution.
No matter how small, every invasive and nuisance plant and animal has the potential to root, multiply, and wreak havoc. Now transporting an aquatic plant, or part of any plant, failure to have a vessel inspected and decontaminated, or failure to drain a vessel could be subject to fines and fees of up to $1,197. Law enforcement officers can issue judicial bureau civil violation complaints, or tickets, for transport law violations. The waiver penalty, or ticketable fine, is set at $392. Under Vermont’s Noxious Weed Quarantine #3, continuing violations could lead to penalties up to $25,000.
The law prohibits transport of six aquatic nuisance animal species; Asian clam, fishhook waterflea, rusty crayfish, spiny waterflea, zebra mussels, and quagga mussels. Some of these exist in Lake Champlain and other waterbodies. No plants may be transported. Vermont has spent many tens of thousands of dollars to manage and try to control Eurasian watermilfoil, but hydrilla exists in neighboring states and is considered worse because it grows faster and is denser.
Aquatic invasive species will cause irreparable harm to waterbodies, degrading water quality, lake habitat, fish and wildlife ecosystems, property values, and communities’ ability to thrive. The burden of managing the AIS falls upon local municipalities and lake associations.
Help prevent the spread of unwanted aquatic species by reporting violations to Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens or by calling (802) 828-1529 or (802) 828-1483.