Invasive species council calls on boaters to clean, drain, dry

As people get ready to remove their boats from the water and clean up their yards for the season, the New Brunswick Invasive Species Council is asking them to be on the lookout for invasive species.

The volunteer organization has a new information program focusing on the threat certain aquatic species can pose to the ecosystem.

Project co-ordinator Kristin Elton says Eurasian water milfoil is one of the main concerns. The aquatic plant, which is native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa, is one of the most noxious of the invasive plants in Canada.

It grows in vertical columns and can choke out native plants. Its green branches with red tips can also form thick, dense mats that can clog boat-launch areas and beaches, she said. 

Eurasian water milfoil is already in the St. John River watershed, but the council hopes to prevent it from spreading upriver and into lakes with the help of boaters and the "Clean Drain Dry" program, said Elton.

"So when you're moving your boat in between different bodies of water, making sure that you're removing and cleaning any mud, plant life, anything stuck on the trailer, emptying all water from your boat so that we get rid of any live organic matter," and using a cloth to dry off any nooks and crannies.

"If there's just a little bit of water, they can stay viable until the next time they're in a body of water. So these are the three steps where we're asking to be the most diligent."

Organisme des bassins versants de la Haute-Côte-Nord

Meanwhile, the council is urging property owners to be mindful of the Japanese knotweed. It looks like bamboo, but "has a voracious appetite for everything around it," said Elton.

"It was likely introduced for ornamental reasons."

People planting it in their gardens probably didn't realize the impact until it was too late, she said.

The Japanese knotweed can spread in multiple ways, including seeds as well as the rhizome, or underground stem, and can grow back quickly, so getting rid of it takes a phased approach, said Elton.

She recommends cutting it down, ideally before it seeds, then laying down a heavy plastic black tarp with a weight on top of it to prevent any new growth from popping up.

"It's a very strong plant," she said. "It has been known to break through pavement as well, so it does take some determination."