Tips for Stopping the Spread of Exotic Aquatic Species
In order to protect and preserve the abundant natural resources of Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department enforces laws that protect our state waters against the introduction of exotic aquatic species. The term “exotic” refers to non-native fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants introduced into Texas waters. These species compete with and often displace our native plants, animals and fish. Exotics are typically extremely invasive, colonizing at rapid rates due to a lack of natural controls and/or predators in their new environment.
In addition to displacing natives, exotic aquatic species create a host of other problems such as habitat degradation, negative impacts on boating and fishing access, potential for degradation of water quality, clogging of water intakes, fouling of beaches, and damage to boats and boating equipment to name a few.
Some of the main invasive aquatic species currently causing problems in Texas waters and to be on the lookout for are zebra mussels, giant salvinia, water hyacinth, water lettuce and alligatorweed.
|Zebra mussels are small — only centimeters in size when fully grown. (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo)|
There are ways we can all work together to prevent the introduction and spread of these “aquatic hitchhikers.” Here are some tips.
CLEAN your boat, trailer and equipment, removing all visible aquatic plants (including fragments), animals and mud before leaving the water access location.
DRAIN all water from your boat, motor, bilge, live wells and bait containers before leaving the water access location.
DRY your boat and recreational equipment for a week before boating on another water body. If you can’t leave your boat out of the water for a week, then washing it with a high pressure sprayer and hot (140° F) soapy water will help to remove or kill any hitchhikers that are not visible.
Also, don’t move fish or bait from one water body to the next. Dispose of any unwanted bait and other animals in the trash, not back into the water body.
If you suspect a new infestation of an invasive plant or animal, report it to your local TPWD law enforcement or fisheries office or use the reporting tool located at the Texas Invasives website provided below. Remember, it is illegal to possess or transport exotic species. If you have any questions and concerns or wish to learn more, contact your local TPWD office or visit the websites listed below.