Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Bolstered by a record from the Texas Legislature, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, river authorities and other partners are stepping up the war against aquatic invasive species, including one of the most noxious pests—giant salvinia.
With the busy summer boating season getting underway, a major public awareness campaign is calling for boaters to help stop the spread of this destructive invader, which can severely limit fishing, swimming and boating access and displace native beneficial plants that are used as habitat by fish.
Giant salvinia, a non-native plant first found in Texas in 1997, is a free-floating fern that can double in size in just a few days and can form mats up to three feet thick. It can take over an entire lake cove in a matter of weeks, choking out all aquatic life below its thick mats and making boating, swimming or fishing impossible.
Once giant salvinia becomes established in a lake, it is nearly impossible to completely remove, though Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff have been successful in eradicating giant salvinia in some lakes when it was spotted early and confined to the area immediately around a boat ramp.
This summer’s awareness campaign reminds boaters to “Clean, Drain and Dry” their boats, trailers, and gear before traveling from one lake or river to another, since boats are the main way aquatic invasive species like giant salvinia are spread. Although the emphasis is on encouraging people to do the right thing voluntarily, it is illegal to possess or transport any exotic aquatic plant or animal listed as harmful or potentially harmful, with possible fines of $25-$500.
The giant salvinia awareness campaign is funded primarily with state dollars, with additional contributions from the Sabine River Authority and Brazos River Authority. The “Clean, Drain, Dry” campaign includes targeted online and radio ads, billboards, gas station advertising, and emails. (see below) The campaign also includes humorous videos starring the “Lake Dudes,” animated characters designed to engage boaters and encourage social media sharing.
This is the first time since 2011 that TPWD has been able to fund a giant salvinia awareness campaign, made possible through a record funding increase in state dollars to manage aquatic invasive species. In 2015, the Texas Legislative appropriated $6.6 million to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the 2016-2017 biennium to address statewide management of aquatic invasive species, an increase from $1.1 million in the previous two-year funding cycle. The salvinia campaign is part of a broader, statewide effort that uses the increased funding to control giant salvinia and other aquatic invasive species.
The public can learn more about giant salvinia at http://texasinvasives.org/giantsalvinia.