CONTACT:
Jane Vachon, NHF&G: (603) 271-3211
Jody Connor, DES: (603) 271-3414
Amy Smagula, DES: (603) 271-2248
June 10, 2004


Boaters: You Can Help STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS!

CONCORD, N.H. -- If you enjoy boating or paddling on New Hampshire's beautiful waterways, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking for your help in stopping the spread of invasive plants and animals. Exotic aquatic species like milfoil can easily be transported on boats, motors, trailers, fishing equipment, bait buckets, diving gear and other aquatic recreational equipment. These "aquatic hitchhikers" can take over lakes and ponds, choking waterways with explosive growth, fouling intake and discharge structures, lowering lakefront property values, and possibly harming native fish, plants and insects. Once established in a waterbody, they are nearly impossible to eradicate.

New Hampshire already has five different species of invasive aquatic plants in its waterways -- two kinds of milfoil (variable and Eurasian), fanwort, water chestnut and Brazilian elodea. In all, 60 New Hampshire lakes, ponds and rivers are infested to date, according to Jody Connor, Director of the Department of Environmental Services (DES) Limnology Center, which tests biological samples from freshwater lakes around the Granite State. Of these, 54 waterbodies are infested with milfoil, including a new infestation last summer at Scobie Pond in Francestown and a new infestation of fanwort at Lake Massabesic in Auburn. Another invasive water plant called hydrilla is lurking near our borders in Massachusetts and Maine, just waiting to hitch a ride in.

When you do head out for the water this year, don't be surprised if you are greeted at the boat launch by a local "Lake Host" -- a person on duty to check your boat, motor, trailer and gear for nuisance invasive plants before you launch. At more than 50 New Hampshire lakes, people are stationed at boat launches to provide a courtesy inspection and educate boaters on how to prevent the spread of exotic species. They are on the watch for the spread of variable milfoil and other invasive plants and animals.

The Lake Host Program is working well, according to Connor. Last year, the program prevented exotic aquatic plants from infesting seven new lakes in New Hampshire, including Newfound Lake, the state's last remaining large lake still free of exotic aquatic plants. Already this year, the hosts prevented milfoil from being introduced into Silver Lake in Madison.

"There's no question that milfoil is one of the greatest threats to the quality of New Hampshire's lakes, ponds, and waterways. Fiscal health of the state and individual towns are also affected as recent studies have shown substantial drops in shoreline property values where a waterbody is infested with exotic aquatic plants," said Connor. "When boaters get to a launch site, we want checking their boats, motors and trailers for milfoil to be as automatic as making sure the boat plug is in before they launch."

Here's how you can help to prevent the spread of exotic weeds and other pests:

  • Look for "Warning Signs" for exotic species near boat launch sites.
  • Hand-remove all materials (plant or animal) from equipment. Don't throw the material back into the water! Dispose of it far away from the water. Pay special attention to the bunks or rollers where the boat is seated on the trailer.
  • Wash and dry all equipment before reuse. Hose off the boat, diving gear or trailer.
  • Drain and flush the engine cooling system and live wells of your boat, your bait buckets and the buoyancy control device from diving equipment that's been in contact with an infested waterbody (to protect against the spread of zebra mussels).
  • Help spread the word - STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS.

For more information on preventing the spread of aquatic exotics:

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NH Fish and Game Dept.
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301

603-271-3421
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