Statewide campaign aims to stop aquatic hitchhikers
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism recently launched a statewide campaign, Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers, to educate Kansans about the environmental and economic threats that aquatic nuisance species such as zebra mussels and Asian carp pose to the state’s aquatic resources.Aquatic nuisance species are animals and plants not native to Kansas that can threaten lake and river ecology, harm native or desirable species, and interfere with our economy. They often hitchhike with unsuspecting people, so an informed, watchful public can help protect Kansas waters.
Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers features animated Asian carp hitching a ride in a boat and includes a new website, ProtectKSWaters.org; billboards, print advertisements, and television and radio spots. It aims to alert the public about the threat of ANS and encourages people to visit ProtectKSWaters.org where they can learn more and use what they learn to help prevent the spread of ANS.
“Some people may not realize that these non-native species may affect them even if they don’t fish or boat,” said Jason Goeckler, Kansas Aquatic Nuisance Species program coordinator. “Zebra mussels will attach themselves to anything below the water line. In addition to damaging boating and fishing equipment, they’ll foul rocky shorelines with their sharp, dime-sized shells, making it hard to walk or wade along the shore. Also, they can also clog water intakes and damage power-generating facilities.”
In early May, the city of Council Grove experienced a temporary water shortage due to a thick layer of zebra mussels coating the inside of the intake tank at Council Grove City Lake. Asian carp consume up to 40 percent of their body weight each day, competing with native fish for food and threatening the diversity and quality of other aquatic life.
“When young, Asian carp resemble native minnows and shad, which is one reason we adjusted our bait fish regulations to limit the use of wild-caught bait fish. When grown, Asian carp can weigh up to 100 pounds, and they are prone to leaping out of the water when disturbed, posing a real physical threat to boaters,” he said.
In an attempt to stem the spread of ANS, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission passed new regulations effective Jan. 1. The new regulations prohibit the movement of wild-caught live bait fish between bodies of water or up streams. They also require that vessels being removed from all waters in the state have livewells and bilges drained and drain plugs removed before being transported on any public highway.
“We realize that the new regulations will require anglers and boaters to modify the way they fish and boat today. But if we don’t take these steps, the way in which we enjoy our waterways in the future will drastically change,” said Goeckler.
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