Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic Invasive Species Education

Unit 9

There are more than 180 non-native species in the Great Lakes including fish, invertebrates, microscopic organisms, and aquatic plants. It is estimated that aquatic invasive species continually arrive in the Great Lakes at a rate of one every eight months. The total economic losses in the Great Lakes basin due to aquatic invasive species were estimated at $5 billion per year in 2005.

Aquatic invasive species, or AIS, have also caused significant ecological change, with the potential to do more. For example, zebra and quagga mussels, sea lamprey, round goby, Eurasian ruffe, purple loosestrife, and Eurasian watermilfoil, have displaced native species, drastically altered aquatic ecosystems, and interfered with business and recreational activities.

Once established, AIS are virtually impossible to eliminate, and eradication is possible only under very limited conditions. Measures to control invasive species can be extremely expensive and are generally reactive, usually occurring only after ecosystems have already been seriously damaged.

Therefore, prevention of new introductions is essential. Best AIS management practices present an opportunity to prevent new introductions and to inhibit existing invaders from spreading into new territories, such as inland lakes and rivers. Many invasions are the direct result of human activity. Ballast water from commercial shipping has been a significant source of AIS; however, the spread of certain invasive species to inland waters shows that recreational boating and improper disposal of unwanted bait by sport anglers are also pathways of introduction.

Best Management Practices and Legal Setting

This unit addresses how marina operators can play a significant role in boater education about aquatic invasive species. The following overview of federal laws and regulations aims to provide a framework for shared requirements. It is not a complete reference. Please consult your state officials for complete requirements. Also, see: State Laws page.

Section 1: Aquatic Invasive Species Background

  • Overview of the issue
  • Terms
  • Aquatic invasive species identification
  • Pathways of introduction
  • Impacts of aquatic invasive species

Section 2: Role of the Marina Operator in AIS Prevention

  • Provide AIS educational materials
  • Provide inspection and cleaning guidance to boaters
  • Encourage boaters to wash and dry equipment
  • Provide a boat wash area
  • Train staff
  • Report suspected new invasive species
  • Seek out additional information and resources

Unit Review

Legal Setting

Before reviewing the best management practices, please take a few moments to review the legal setting for aquatic invasive species. This overview of federal laws and regulations provides you with a basis of understanding. It is a starting point, however, it is not a complete reference. Please consult your state officials for complete requirements. Also, see: State Laws page for your state.

Clean Boating Act

As an alternative to requiring permits for recreational vessels, the Clean Boating Act (CBA – Public Law No: 110-288, 2008) directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and publicize management practices for recreational vessels. The identified practices are directed at mitigating adverse effects from recreational boat discharges, such as bilgewater, graywater and deck runoff, that may contain substances harmful to water quality or could spread AIS. Through the Clean Boating Act, the EPA is developing management practices for recreational vessels. The practices are likely to mitigate recreational boat discharges, including (but not limited to) discharges that may spread aquatic invasive species.

Lacey Act

The Lacey Act, passed in 1900 (18 U.S.C. 42; 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378), is one of the primary tools for prohibiting interstate and international trafficking in protected wildlife species in the U.S. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law, and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species. The injurious wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act are one tool that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) uses to manage and prevent illegal introductions of invasive species. The 2008 Farm Bill (Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) amended the Lacey Act by expanding its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products. 

Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act

The Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990 (Public Law 101-646; 104 Stat. 4761, 16 U.S.C. 4701) established a broad new federal program to prevent and control the spread of introduced aquatic nuisance species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all were assigned major responsibilities, including membership on an Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force established to develop a program of prevention, monitoring, control, and study. The Act expands content of state plans to include rapid response and early detection strategies. The Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force publishes guidelines to assist states in developing and implementing plans. 

Ballast Water Management for Control of Nonindigenous Species in Waters of the United States

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, Part 151 states vessels carrying oil, noxious liquid substances, garbage, municipal or commercial waste and ballast water, Subpart D Ballast water management for control of nonindigenous species in waters of the United States “implements the provisions of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 4701-4751), as amended by the National Invasive Species Act of 1996. In 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard established a policy of voluntary best management practices (including saltwater flushing) for No Ballast Onboard (NOBOB) vessels. In the spring of 2008, the U.S. and Canadian Seaway agencies enacted regulations that require saltwater flushing of all ballast tanks containing residual amounts of ballast water to a salinity level of 30 parts per thousand. Many vessels traversing the Great Lakes declare No Ballast Onboard (NOBOBs). However, these vessels may contain residual ballast water and/or sediments that may contain AIS. See: (1) Title 33, Navigation and Navigable Waters, Part 151, Subpart D, Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) website; and (2) Ballast Water Management, U.S. Coast Guard. For a more extensive summary of the legal setting pertaining to invasive species, see: Federal Laws and Regulations at the National Invasive Species Information Center.

State Laws and Regulations

State laws often incorporate and sometimes surpass federal requirements. For instance, state-specific requirements regarding transportation of AIS vary in the Great Lakes region. See your State Laws page for AIS transportation regulations.

State Management Plans

The Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force encourages state and interstate planning entities to develop management plans describing detection and monitoring efforts of aquatic nuisance (invasive) species, prevention efforts to stop their introduction and spread, and control efforts to reduce their impacts.

Management plan approval by the ANS Task Force is required to obtain funding under Section 1204 (State Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plans) of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA). Regardless of financial incentives, plans are a valuable and effective tool for identifying and addressing ANS problems and concerns in a climate of many jurisdictions and other interested entities. All Great Lakes states have approved state plans. The state plans may affect the actions you take to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species. 

State management plans are comprehensive management plans prepared and submitted by the governor to the ANS Task Force. The plans: identify areas or activities for which technical, enforcement, or financial assistance is needed to eliminate or reduce the environmental, public health, and safety risks associated with invasive species; and identify the management practices and measures that will be undertaken to reduce infestations of invasive species.

Plans approved by the ANS Task Force are eligible for federal grants to support implementation. For more information, see: State ANS Management Plans.

Next: Section 1: Aquatic Invasive Species Background