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Coast Guard Auxiliary Joins The Fight Against Aquatic Nuisance Species

by Wayne Spivak, ADSO-CS 1SR, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary


We're at war, and you're probably not even aware of the enemy. I'm sure you don't even know that the enemy has been here for years, and that their foothold is growing stronger than ever. The enemy has been dubbed the ANS.

Aquatic Nuisance Species

Aquatic nuisance species (ANS) (which are also non-indigenous species (NIS)) are marine animals that have been introduced into non-native or foreign eco-systems. The separate classification of ANS marks a significant difference between NIS animals and ANS animals.

While NIS animals, whose introduction into the eco-systems of our waters sometimes has had positive economic and/or ecological impact, those of the variety which have been called ANS, have not. An example of positive introduction of a species is the Japanese oyster on the Pacific Coast of North America. These animals have formed the basis of a strong, vibrant aqua cultural economic boom.

However, the introduction of the zebra mussel has had disastrous results. This species out-competes native mussels in the Great Lakes for food and location. The rate at which this animal reproduces has caused millions of dollars in damage to boats, power plants and water supplies by encrusting and ultimately decreasing or closing off intake pipes.

Introduction - Ballast Water

The majority of NIS animals are introduced into our country's eco-system through ballast water. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh, brackish or open ocean water has been used by vessels as ballast. This ballast is then dumped into our ports.

Bacteria, small mussels, marine plant life, and fish are found in the ballast water. However, these NIS are just that - non-native species. Many ANS species and NIS are found in a single commercial vessel.

Recreational Activities

So how does this impact the recreational boater? Part of the NISA was the requirement that regulations be promulgated for the prevention and control of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species from spreading via the millions of recreational boats used in the United States. Again, NISA tasked the United States Coast Guard with this mission.

Let's take the zebra mussel. These pesky and potentially dangerous ANS are also very resilient and innovative. They are like relatives that come to stay, and never leave. Once a marine vessel, be it a boat, a trailer, a SCUBA tank comes in contact with a zebra mussel, that mussel attaches itself to the item. These animals will live for more than 4 days out of water!

So, if you trailer your boat from one body of water to another, and don't take precautions, you can potentially be introducing this pest to a new environment. And it's not just trail boaters who need to be concerned. Here is a list of potential carriers of these pests:

  • SCUBA divers

  • waterfowl hunters

  • recreational anglers (fisherman)

  • boats (trailer and non-trailer types)

  • sail boats (all types including wind surfers)

  • seaplanes

  • PWCs


Here are some general guidelines on protecting the environment from ANS infestation.

  • Inspect all equipment that has been in contact with the water for "hitchhiking" organisms. Search out, and remove any animals or plant    materials that might be clinging to the equipment.

  • All equipment should be dried for at least 5 days before placing it into another body of water.

  • Use of hot water and high-pressured water is suggested to remove any organisms.

  • Never release live bait taken from one body of water, into another.

  • PWC: All engines should be run for 5 to 10 seconds after removing them from the water to blow out water and vegetation from intake and exhaust manifolds and pipes.

  • Clean rudders, fishing equipment, inspect and bathe your dog(s).

  • Drain all water from your equipment.

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