Irondequoit Bay Marine Park boat launch. Photo: Dan Reude, NYS OPRHP
by Dan Reude, Irondequoit Bay Boat Steward
I recently accepted a job with New York States Park, Recreation, and Historic Preservation department, spending my summer as a Boat Steward. You may be wondering, what is a boat steward exactly? My daily job duties entail, but are not limited to, teaching the public about aquatic invasive species and their effects on the environment, taking samples of aquatic invasive species for research, and performing boat inspections, removing any aquatic vegetation and animal life and giving the public the tools and knowledge so they can do so themselves in the future.
Although there are Boat Stewards located throughout New York, my site is located up on the beautiful Irondequoit Bay, part of Lake Ontario by Rochester, NY. With it’s vast size, Lake Ontario gives an impression like that of an ocean, more so than a lake. Located in the town of Sea Breeze, people flock to this area to enjoy the coastal village atmosphere. With places like Margie’s, a beach themed bar where you can enjoy a nice cold beer while digging your toes in the sand, or taking the boat out for a spin with the family, perhaps indulging in the great fishing opportunities. It didn’t take long to realize I was part of a special place, a place that depends on the overall health of its natural resources.
With this position, and other teaching opportunities in my past, I am aware of the power of education and the passing of knowledge. After a couple weeks on the job, I began to see a pattern of those who were already aware of the preventive measures of invasive species, and those who didn’t know that aquatic invasive species are even a serious issue or that even such a thing existed. Unfortunately, the people who appreciate and partake in activities, like boating and fishing, can sometimes be the contributors, if proper preventive measures aren’t taken. But how can you point the finger at someone, if they aren’t aware of the effect of their actions? I wanted to see if the industries that are involved with these recreational activities, that act as carriers of aquatic invasive species, provided any kind of information or awareness. So on my day off, I went and did some investigative work.
That morning, I made my rounds to several boat distributors, fishing gear retailers, and a couple of local pet stores. I acted as an interested customer, and asked questions like, “so what is all this talk about aquatic invasive species?”, and “do you have any information pertaining to such issues?” What I found was the same contradictory pattern each time: those who had an idea of what I was asking or those who had no clue. I also looked for informational literature or notices within the establishments. The few times I actually saw something regarding this serious issue, it was often small and easy to overlook. My first question was, if invasive species is such a big concern and is as detrimental to our economy and environment as its made out to be, why is this information and awareness not standard practice with all related industries? My next question is, how do we all get on the same page and inform those purchasing goods and participating in such activities, and become aware of the implications? And what are the implications of aquatic invasive species?
A NYS OPRHP Boat Steward learning about Aquatic Invasive Species with NYS OPRHP Environmental Analyst Karen Terbush. Photo: Matt Brincka, NYS OPRHP
Weeks prior to the start date of my job, I attended a two day educational workshop at Paul Smith’s College, where we received Regional Watershed Steward Training. We were introduced to the aspects of what this job entailed and why our service is so important. When I was informed that invasive species are the second leading cause to the loss of biodiversity, the first being habitat loss, my eyes grew wide with concern. Another alarming fact that was mentioned, that I validated through the National Wildlife Federation, “Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife. Approximately 42% of Threatened or Endangered Species are at risk primarily due to invasive species.” Other devestating effects of aquatic invasive species on our environment include, impacting drainage, altered nutrient cycles, and food cycles. What happens is that invasive species come here from other places, thus lacking native competition, like predators and diseases. These non native invasive species thrive due to this, and our ecosystems can’t adapt to the changes quick enough. Before this training, I thought I knew about invasive species and the havoc that they bring, but not to the severity. For some, this “environmental” issue may not seem to directly affect them. If the environmental strategy doesn’t work, I suggest this: try telling them that it could ruin their boat, raise taxes, and ruin the local economy. I’m sure those previously in doubt will suddenly be “all ears.”
As I mentioned before, I am located at Irondequoit Bay, in the town of Sea Breeze, where seasonal tourism seems to make up a significant portion of the local economy. The beaches and the fishing seem to be a major attraction. Massive populations of zebra mussels and asian clam shells can easily cut up the feet of the those trying to enjoy themselves by the Lake, with the potential to close down beaches. Native fish species declining due to the replacement by invasive species, hinder the fishing market. Those who love and care for their boats should know, according to the the Lake George Park Commission, “,…zebra mussels can get in the cooling system and ruin the boat.They clog the cooling systems of oat motors, causing them to overheat, clog up exhaust pipes, clog bilges, live wells, and ruin props and entire motors.”
Taking out a couple minutes of your time to inspect your boat and trailer (anything that comes in contact with the water) and remove any visible plant, animals or debris, clean and drain anything that contains water, and dry anything that comes into contact with the water may seem like silly, pointless procedure required by the State but, as you have read here, has major benefits both for the environment and for our boats. With towns like Seabreeze, and resources like Lake Ontario, we have a responsibility to conserve our environment for future generations, and for nature itself. We all have a special place, whether it’s Irondequoit Bay, or a favorite fishing spot; it’s special because it has provided us with an experience, making it personal. Like any healthy, long lasting relationship, both parties must be available and willing to give their all.
For more information check out
“Invasive Species – National Wildlife Federation.” Invasive Species – National Wildlife Federation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.
“LAKE GEORGE PARK COMMISSION Zebra Mussel Alert.” LAKE GEORGE PARK COMMISSION Zebra Mussel Alert. N.p., 16 Feb. 2000. Web. 09 June 2016.