Aquatic Invasive Species violation rate climbing in Minnesota
St. Paul — It’s still early in the boating year, but conservation officers already are finding a higher percentage of violations related to aquatic invasive species (AIS) than they did last year. That’s despite widespread publicity about AIS laws and promises of ramped up enforcement.
“I’m very surprised and disappointed,” Maj. Phil Meier, operations manager for the DNR Enforcement Division, said.
Since May 19, conservation officers have checked 7,957 boaters for compliance with AIS laws. As a result of those checks, they’ve written 193 criminal citations, 463 civil tickets, and given 975 warnings.
That’s a 20.4 percent rate of noncompliance; last year’s rate was about 18 percent.
The primary violations have been for unpulled drain plugs; live wells and bait buckets that still have water in them; and vegetation stuck to boats and trailers.
“I think for a lot of people, they are just getting their boats out and getting them going,” Meier said. “It’s not forefront in their minds. But they just need to build that into their routine.
“We try to make these things pretty easy to accomplish and yet to provide the best protection that we can for the resource. It does create a little extra work for boaters and fishermen. They just have to plan ahead.”
Many boaters likely have noticed an increased presence of watercraft inspectors at public accesses around the state. The DNR was to hire and deploy nearly 150 of them. About a third of them are “level two” inspectors who, among other things, can order inspections and operate decontamination equipment.
Boaters seem to accept the work the inspectors are there to do.
“I have not heard of anyone refusing an inspection,” Meier said.
Conservation officers soon will be conducting roadside check stations, Meier said.
Most stations will be at or near public accesses, and people towing boats and trailers will be asked to pull over for a quick inspection. Decontamination units also will be on site and ready to go if officers determine a boat or trailer needs cleaning.
The fines for people who break AIS laws are set to double on July 1, the result of legislation approved earlier this year. Boaters who fail to remove their drain plugs, for example, will face a $100 fine, rather than a $50 fine.