AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging boaters and paddlers to clean, drain and dry their boats after being on the water this Memorial Day.

TPWD said that cleaning, draining and drying your watercraft is important in order to prevent the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels and giant salvinia.

“Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to boating season in Texas, and while we want everyone to have a great time, we also want them to avoid giving free rides to invasive species and helping them travel to new lakes,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries regional director. “The best way to prevent the spread of many harmful aquatic invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment – every time.”

According to officials, all it takes for some of these species to spread is for a small fragment to be taken from one lake to another.

“There’s no doubt that Texans love their lakes, but we also need Texans to take action to help protect them,” said John Findeisen, TPWD aquatic habitat enhancement team lead. “It only takes a tiny fragment of an invasive plant to create a new infestation and preventing aquatic invasive species introductions avoids costly, long-term efforts to manage these species once they infest a lake. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure–it only takes a small amount of our time as responsible boaters to clean, drain, and dry our boats and equipment to prevent new introductions of aquatic invasive species.”

The species giant salvinia has already spread to 27 East Texas lakes and officials said that the plant can produce thick surface mats which make fishing or boat nearly impossible.

According to TPWD, zebra mussels, which have spread to 36 Texas lakes, attach to hard surfaces which damages boats and critical water supply infrastructure.

“Zebra mussels and quagga mussels can be attached to boats or even carried by anchors or attached to plants clinging to boats,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD senior scientist for aquatic invasive species. “Microscopic zebra mussel larvae can be transported in residual water in the boat. Taking just a few minutes to clean, drain, and dry boats can make a huge difference in our efforts to prevent further spread of this highly damaging species and harm to Texas lakes.”

The TPWD recommends that boaters:

  • remove plants, debris and mud
  • drain all water from boats and gear
  • open all compartments and allow them dry for at least a week

On top of being damaging to the environment and infrastructure, transportation of an aquatic invasive species is also illegal and punishable with up to a $500 fine, according to the TPWD. The TPWD added that its also illegal to not drain all the water from a boat and onboard receptacles.

To learn more about stopping invasive species visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department online.