Penalties rise for invasive species violations

Zebra mussels on a twig
In this July 2011 file photo, Margaret Schupp displays zebra mussels latched on to a twig on the shore of Fair Hills resort on Pelican Lake in Minnesota. Starting Sunday, July 1, 2012, boaters face increased penalties for violations of aquatic invasive species laws.
AP Photo/The Forum, Chris Franz

Minnesota boaters face increased penalties starting Sunday if they violate aquatic invasive species laws.

DNR conservation officer Shane Siltala says boaters need to take basic precautions to prevent the spread of invasive species like milfoil or zebra mussels.

"We want to see that drain plug out of the boat," Stiltala says. "One of the new invasive species laws requires that drain plug to be out of the boat whenever they're transporting the boat on a public road. That tells us all the water is going to be drained out of the boat."

He adds: "We're also looking to make sure there's no other water in the live wells or other compartments."

Siltala says boaters will be fined $100 if they hit the road without pulling the drain plug.

Conservation officers are also looking for any invasive species on equipment. Transporting an invasive species is a $500 fine.

The DNR says about 1 in 5 Minnesota boaters violate the aquatic species laws.

Siltala says most boaters are aware of the aquatic invasive species (AIS) laws, and increasing fines should encourage more people to comply with the laws.

"Fine amounts for the AIS violations are doubled," he says, "and on top of that any repeat offender, their fine amount will also double, so potentially you could have anywhere from $100 to $1,000 fine."