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Fines doubled July 1 for violating aquatic invasive species laws

July 9, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Civil fines for people caught violating the state’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) laws doubled on July 1, when new, tougher laws take effect, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced.

Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any AIS in the state.

AIS include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas.

Earlier this month, DNR officials announced that the AIS violation rate among Minnesota boaters and anglers is at an unacceptable rate of 20 percent.

“The larger fines should help people realize that this is a serious problem, and we need everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of AIS,” explained Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement operations manager.

For example, failure to remove a drain plug while transporting a watercraft will mean a $100 fine, instead of a $50 penalty.
The fine for unlawfully possessing and transporting prohibited AIS will increase from $250 to $500.

Other new AIS laws that go into effect July 1 include:

• Boat lifts, docks, swim rafts and other water-related equipment (except boats and other watercraft) that are removed from any water body may not be placed in another water body for at least 21 days.

The drying out period is designed to kill any AIS that might be attached to the equipment that are high risk and difficult to clean. (Two zebra mussel introductions occurred last year as a result of water equipment being sold and moved from one water body to another.

• Boat clubs, yacht clubs, marinas and other similar organizations are now considered lake-service providers, requiring permits for the clubs and staff working there.

That means they must go through AIS certification training.

To help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, boaters and anglers are required by law to:

• Clean aquatic plants and animals off boats, trailers and equipment.

• Drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving any water access.

• Keep drain plugs out while transporting water-related equipment.

More information, including a new 25-minute video called “Aquatic Invasive Species, Minnesota Waters at Risk,” is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index_aquatic.html.

Watertown firearms training coming up

Registration for Watertown firearms training will be Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Watertown Rod and Gun Club.

Class dates are Aug. 3, 6, 7, 9, and 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., with a field day Saturday, Aug. 11 at 8 a.m.

For additional information, contact Cory at (612) 218-3228 or WatertownFST@yahoo.com

Breeding mallard numbers average; Canada goose population high
From the DNR

Annual spring breeding waterfowl index surveys indicated average numbers of breeding mallards, lower numbers of blue-winged teal and other ducks, and large numbers of Canada geese in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The survey, designed specifically for mallards, estimates duck numbers for just a portion of the states.

The survey areas estimated breeding mallard population index was 225,000, which is similar to the long-term average of 226,000 breeding mallards, but 21 percent lower than 2011 and 17 percent lower than the 10-year average.

The blue-winged teal index was 109,000 this year compared with 214,000 in 2011 and 50 percent lower than the long-term average of 219,000 blue-winged teal.

The survey results for other ducks combined, such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads, was 135,000, which is 29 percent lower than last year and 24 percent below the long-term average.

The estimated number of wetlands (Types II-V) decreased 37 percent from last year and was 10 percent below the long-term average.

“It was a very unusual spring for weather, wetland conditions and breeding waterfowl,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “We had record warm temperatures and early ice-out by late March, so ducks moved into the state early. But wetland conditions were extremely dry at that time.”

Conditions have improved dramatically since then, but much of the precipitation to date came after ducks had already begun nesting or moved through the state, Cordts said.

Those, and other factors, make it more difficult than usual to interpret this year’s population indices.

The same waterfowl survey has been conducted each May since 1968 to provide an annual index of breeding duck abundance.

The survey covers 40 percent of the state, which includes much of the best remaining duck breeding habitat in Minnesota.

A DNR waterfowl biologist and pilot count all waterfowl and wetlands along established survey routes by flying low-level aerial surveys from a fixed-wing plane.

The survey is timed to begin in early May to coincide with peak nesting activity of mallards.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides ground crews that also count waterfowl along some of the same survey routes.

This data is then used to correct for birds not seen by the aerial crew.

The goal in the DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan is to attract and hold a breeding population of 1 million ducks.

“Although the survey does not estimate total duck populations in the state, the decline in this year’s spring duck population index indicates we’re likely well below our goal,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “The DNR remains committed to our long-term habitat goals of improving breeding and migration habitat for waterfowl in the state.”

Canada Goose

The Canada goose population is estimated by a separate helicopter survey conducted in April.

This year’s estimated goose population was 434,000, which was higher than last year’s estimate of 370,000.

“Because of the early spring, Canada geese nested early,” Cordts said. “Production appears to be excellent, with large numbers of goose broods across the state. This has resulted in increased reports of agricultural damage by geese this year.”

The Canada goose hunting season established by the DNR in recent years is open for 107 days, the maximum number of days allowed.

“We may have to explore additional options in the future in order to address the large Canada goose population,” Cordts said.

The Minnesota waterfowl report can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

DNR will announce this fall’s waterfowl hunting regulations in early August.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this week.
CO Mies worked on waters complaint.
CO Mies conducted boating work crews.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked area lakes and rivers for fishing activity.
Anglers were finding some good bass fishing, but overall fishing has slowed.
Reller continues to field numerous calls related to citizens worried about the well-being of young ducks, deer, fox and raccoons.
Enforcement action was taken for angling with extra lines, no ATV registration and operating an ATV on a county roadway.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) handled muskrat, goose and raccoon damage complaints.
Wave runner complaints were handled on the crow river running at high rates of speed causing shoreline damage.
A TIP on late night shooting was investigated which turned out to be fireworks.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) worked boating enforcement on Lake Minnetonka over the busy weekend.
Violations included BUI, failing to display registration, riding on transom, and wake violations. She also checked watercraft for invasive species at public accesses.
Numerous individuals were cited for failing to remove their drain plug.
She also attended taxidermy training at Camp Ripley.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling and boating activity.
Additional time was spent checking and advising boaters of the AIS laws.
Hatlestad also followed up on a public waters violation.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) continued working angling and AIS enforcement in the area.
Fishing has slowed down in the area due to the heat and the fact the lakes are in full bloom.
However, catfish fishing is starting to pick up with limits of channel cats observed in the bag.
CO Oberg investigated a call of a possible cougar sighting near Hutchinson.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: What are spiny waterfleas and what impacts do they have on the states aquatic resources?

A. Spiny waterfleas are zooplankton (microscopic animals) that are native to Europe and Asia and were introduced into the Great Lakes by ballast water discharged from ocean-going ships.

They eat small animals (zooplankton), including Daphnia, which are an important food for native fishes.

In some lakes, they caused the decline or elimination of some species of native zooplankton.

Although the spiny water flea can fall prey to fish, its spine seems to frustrate most small fish, which tend to experience great difficulty swallowing the animal.

Spiny waterfleas can spread by attaching to fishing lines, downriggers, anchor ropes and fishing nets, and can be unintentionally transported in bilge water, bait buckets or livewells.

For more information, visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/aquaticanimals/spinywaterflea/index.html.