During National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) May 15-22, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) wants to help Texans learn more about how invasive species affect our state’s natural resources and how everyone can help in slowing their spread.
Invasive species are species that are non-native to an ecosystem and are causing, or are likely to cause, environmental or economic harm or impact human health and quality of life. In addition, invasive species are very expensive to prevent and control and cause costly damage to crops, fisheries, forests and more. Recent estimates suggest that the annual cost of invasive species in the U.S. is approximately $219 billion. Many invasive species are spread inadvertently or intentionally by humans, who play an important role in preventing their spread.
A variety of plants, animals, insects, and even diseases can become invasive species. Invasive species often grow or reproduce rapidly and outcompete native species, enabling them to spread and become established and problematic across large areas. They can be introduced in a variety of ways, including intentional introduction through aquarium dumping or bait releases, and accidental introduction as hitchhikers through recreational activities. Once introduced, some species become established and can have a variety of harmful impacts on our native species and ecosystems and even impact recreation and may require costly, long-term management in cases where control is possible.
This year for NISAW, TPWD is sharing the five easy actions below that you can take to help prevent or slow the spread of invasive species in Texas.
Never Dump Your Tank
Don’t dump anything out of an aquarium, whether it’s fish, animals, or plants, into any of Texas’ waterbodies or flush them down the toilet. Whether saltwater or freshwater, there’s a good chance that your aquarium fish, animals, and plants are not native to Texas. If they are dumped into the wild, they can quickly introduce diseases, harm native aquatic life, or harm native vegetation and reef systems. Learn more on the Texas Invasives website.
Similarly, you should never release any animal that you have purchased as a pet into the wild. Most likely your pet is not a native Texas species and could cause serious harm to our native species and ecosystems. Find more resources on the Don’t Let It Loose website.
Only Use Native Gulf Shrimp as Bait
Shrimp is a popular choice to use for bait when fishing, but not all shrimp species can be used as bait due to the potential to introduce diseases. While not harmful to humans when eaten, imported shrimp may carry several known viruses or diseases that can be transmitted to native Gulf shrimp species and other shellfish such as crabs and crawfish. This could cause considerable harm to Texas ecosystems in both saltwater and freshwater environments. Many of these viruses can survive the freezing process and therefore may be present in frozen imported shrimp sold in grocery stores.
Never use imported frozen shrimp in Texas waters. Imported shrimp includes all shrimp species not native to the Gulf of Mexico, including shrimp from other countries like Venezuela, or Thailand or from other non-Gulf states like California. Shrimp from a non-Gulf state or different country is considered imported and cannot be used as bait. Learn more about bait shrimp on the TPWD website.
When landscaping near your home or planting a garden, it’s important that you choose plants that are native to your region. Non-native plants can escape cultivation and become invasive and have an impact on water quality, biodiversity, fish and wildlife habitat, wildfire risk, and more.
Don’t Carry Hitchhikers
You could be carrying invasive species with you and not even know it. Invasive species, like insects and plants, including plant seeds, can hitch a ride on your clothes, shoes, gear, or even in your firewood. You can help stop the spread by removing plants, animals, and mud from clothes, boots, gear, pets and vehicles, cleaning your gear before entering and leaving recreation sites, using only local firewood, and simply staying on designated roads and trails. Learn more on the Play, Clean, Go website.
Clean, Drain and Dry Your Boat and Gear
Boaters can help keep zebra mussels, giant salvinia, and other invasive species from being moved and harming more lakes by taking a few minutes to properly clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before they leave the lake. Remove plants, mud, and debris from the boat and trailer, drain all the water from the boat and gear, and then open up compartments once you get home and allow everything to dry completely.
TPWD also invites the public to participate in the NISAW Bioblitz using the iNaturalist app or website to report sightings of invasive species, be it in your backyard or in wild spaces. Citizens can learn how to identify invasive species on the Texas Invasives website.
For more information on how to properly clean, drain and dry boats and equipment, visit the TPWD YouTube channel for a short instructional video. If you have stored your boat on the water at a lake with zebra mussels, it may also be infested. Before moving it to another lake, call TPWD at (512) 389-4848 for guidance on decontamination.
Learn more about aquatic invasive species on the Stop Invasives page of the TPWD website.