MARSHALL - Area businesspeople gathered at the Prairie Event Center on Tuesday to learn how to detect and decontaminate aquatic invasive species now spreading to Minnesota lakes and rivers. The seminar was sponsored by Minnesota Lakes, a non-profit organization which trains lake service providers on behalf of the state Department of Natural Resources.
"I'm here to learn what we need to stay on the up-and-up with conservation regulations, and keep zebra mussels out of our lake," said Randy Martin who runs Shetek Marine.
According to Minnesota Lakes Executive Director Lois Sinn Lindquist, the battle against aquatic invaders is driven primarily by the zebra mussel, originally from the Caspian Sea which is thought to have come to the Great Lakes in the ballast tank of a Russian ship in 1986. The mussel reproduces rapidly and spreads easily as the larval stage attaches itself to boats and docks, or in anything that holds water. The zebra mussel and fellow alien quagga mussel from the Dnieper River in Ukraine, foul boats and docks, clog intakes at dams and power plants, and consume the zooplankton that support native species.
The seminar focused on defining lake service providers, kinds of aquatic invasive species (AIS) current Minnesota law concerning AIS, and inspection and decontamination procedures.
"We're here to serve professionals who do lake and river service for a fee," Lindquist said. "That's anyone who installs or removes equipment from the water for hire."
An AIS is any non-native species which causes harm to the local economy, environment, or human health, according to Lindquist.
Other invasive species include the spiny waterflea from Asia, round goby fish, Asian carp, Eurasian milfoil water weed, and the European faucet snail which hosts a parasitic trematode which kills waterfowl.
"Last year we lost 200,000 ducks in Minnesota to this parasite," Lindquist said.
But invasive species do not necessarily come from across the seas. The rusty crawfish originally came from the Ohio River and is hard to distinguish from local crawfish except for its larger size.
"They strip the bottom of lakes clean and deprive local fish of food," said Larry Hanson, Marshall area water resource officer.
Hanson and fellow Conservation Officer Matt Loftness attended the seminar to answer questions about the enforcement end of the effort to prevent the spread of alien species from already contaminated lakes.
According to Lindquist, containment efforts center around watercraft inspection, public awareness, signage, DNR regulations, permits and conditions for lake service providers, enforcement, and watercraft decontamination procedures.
"The challenge is to interrupt the pathway and prevent the spread of invasive species," Lindquist said.