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Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the start of summer for many Texans, and as the country picks itself up from the COVID-19 pandemic, many Texans will be vacationing this weekend.

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) is reminding Texans that they can help stop the spread of invasive species in Texas lakes by doing three simple things: "Clean, Drain, and Dry" their boat, raft, or paddleboard.

“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 destructive invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment – every time.”

TPWD fights an annual battle against aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and the giant salvinia.

Other invasive species that have been found in Texas lakes include: waterhyacinth, Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, and quagga mussels. “There’s no doubt that Texans love their lakes,” said John Findeisen, TPWD Brookeland Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Team Lead. “We also need Texans to take action to help protect their lakes. It only takes a tiny fragment of a plant to create a new infestation and preventing invasive species introductions avoids costly, long-term efforts to manage invasive species once they infest a lake."

Zebra mussels are currently found in 31 Texas lakes across six different river basins across the state. The TPWD says itself, and partner organizations, monitor lakes around the state for early detection of zebra mussels. However, once the zebra mussels have been introduced and become established in a lake, nothing can be done to control or eradicate them.

“Zebra mussels can be carried by anchors or attached to clinging plants and microscopic zebra mussel larvae can be transported in residual water in the boat,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species Management. “Taking just a few minutes to clean, drain, and dry boats can make a huge difference in our efforts to prevent the spread of this highly damaging species and harm to Texas lakes.”

There is a legal penalty for transporting prohibited invasive species in Texas: a fine of up to $500 per violation. Boaters are also required to drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles, including bait buckets, before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water and to immediately remove all invasive plants from the boat, trailer, and tow vehicle before leaving a lake.

The TPWD YouTube channel has produced a video on how to properly clean, drain and dry boats and equipment. Click here for the link to a short instructional video.

To learn more about giant salvinia, zebra mussels and other invasive species in Texas, visit tpwd.texas.gov/StopInvasives.

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