Safe Harvest and Disposal of Aquatic Weedy Plants (E2745)
The full title of this publication is, "Safe Harvest and Disposal of Aquatic Weedy Plants to Prevent the Spread of Eurasian Watermifoil, Zebra Mussels, and Other Exotic Species."
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What is the Problem?
Zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species like Eurasian watermilfoil can be carried from an infested lake to a non-infested lake if aquatic plant harvesting equipment is not thoroughly cleaned. Whether you are a property owner or a professional, there are a few steps you should take to lower the risk of contaminating nearby lakes if you have reason to suspect that your lake is home to aquatic nuisance species.
Aquatic nuisance species of concern in the Great Lakes Basin include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and three species of water fleas. These exotic organisms, which are the focus of this factsheet, are not the only exotic species of concern but they are much more likely to be transferred by aquatic plant harvesters than, for example, exotic fish like round goby or Eurasian ruffle. Zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and exotic water fleas each have special characteristics that make it easy for them to hitchhike from one lake to another by way of aquatic plant harvesting if harvesters don’t take care to prevent the spread. Once harvested, aquatic plants must be properly disposed of to avoid contaminating additional bodies of water.
Jurisdictions have different rules about possession and transport of exotic species. Check with your DNR.
Aquatic plants and weeds are mechanically removed from lakes when other controls, such as chemicals, are not used. Some property owners do it themselves and others hire professionals. Sometimes aquatic plants are removed to improve fishing habitat and sometimes to improve boating or swimming. For a variety of reasons, thousands of tons of aquatic plants are removed from lakes each year. Aquatic plants that are “harvested” by hand pulling, raking, mechanized equipment or even by dragging an old bedspring can contain visible adult zebra mussels or invisible zebra mussel spawn. They can contain visible fragments or seeds of Eurasian watermilfoil or they might contain tiny eggs of exotic water fleas. It is easy to see how a bedspring-full of weeds from an infested lake might contaminate the next lake down the road if precautions are not taken. Sometimes the risk of contamination is not so obvious. Fortunately, aquatic plant harvesters can take some well-recognized precautions.