New rules in place for invasive species

·3 min read

New Ontario regulations, aimed to help prevent the spread of invasive species in Ontario waters, came into effect on Jan. 1 and will affect anglers and recreational boaters.

The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry's newly-implemented regulations now classify regulated watercraft, such as boats, canoes and kayaks, as potential carriers of invasive species, under the Invasive Species Act.

"Letting invasive species aboard your boat helps them spread in our lakes, rivers and streams and costs us millions to repair their damage," said ministry officials on the invasive species action plan website.

Boaters are now required to follow "clean, drain, dry" practices to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants, animals and algae.

Watercraft owners will have to clean any mud, algae, vegetation and mussels or other animals off their boats and other equipment, such as motors, trailers, anchors and more, before transporting the boat overland.

The new measures require boaters to "take reasonable precautions to remove all aquatic plants (weeds), animals and algae from any boat, boat equipment, vehicle or trailer," said the ministry.

According to the ministry, the measures also require boaters to drain all water by opening or removing the drain plug, pulling the plug on the transom, bilge, livewell or any other water containing devices before transporting the watercraft overland.

However, this does not apply to drinking water systems, marine sanitary systems or closed-engine cooling systems or a livewell, if the person transporting the livewell overland is transporting live fish in the livewell pursuant to a licence to transport live fish issued under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, said the Ministry.

"Some aquatic invasive species can survive up to two weeks out of water and not every invader attached to your boat can be seen with the naked eye," ministry officials noted.

Owners are required to dry or disinfect their watercraft before transporting. The ministry recommends the owner either dries the boat in the sunlight or cleans the boat from top to bottom with hot or pressurized water.

"It is illegal to place a boat, boating equipment or any vehicle or trailer into any body of water if there are any aquatic plants, animals or algae attached to it," added the ministry.

Jamie Lemery, president of Kingston Avid Anglers, said he and other tournament anglers have already been following these recommendations to help reduce the spread of invasive species from one body of water to another.

Lemery hosts fishing tournaments throughout Eastern Ontario, including on Big Rideau Lake, Charleston Lake, Lower Beverley Lake and other sites.

The revisions to the Invasive Species Act also include 13 new invasive species, which will be regulated under the act to help prevent their introduction and spread within the province, and include many aquatic species, such as the red swamp crayfish, New Zealand mud snail, Tench Fish, Prussian carp and marbled crayfish.

The act also now includes the Bohemian knotweed, Carolina fanwort, yellow floating heart, giant knotweed and the Himalayan knotweed as invasive species.

"The reality is a lot of invasive species that are in the Great Lakes, like zebra mussels and gobies, have already moved, unfortunately, to other bodies of water through transporting and boats," said Lemery.

From his many years on the water, Lemery said he has seen that the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are now "crystal clear" as a result of zebra mussels, and they have spread to "back lakes north of the 401."

More information on the regulations can be found at www.ontario.ca/page/invasive-species-ontario.

(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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