Invasive species pose a serious threat to the health of our fresh water lakes in New York State. These species can travel from lake to lake by hitching themselves to watercraft, often quickly infesting and overtaking the native habitat and disrupting native species. Monitoring at launch sites and educating water craft owners about preventing aquatic hitchhikers became a priority in the Great Lakes basin and Adirondacks in recent years.
That initiative has also gained momentum in the Finger Lakes Region. Otisco Lake, one of the 11 Finger Lakes, “launched” its own watercraft steward program this summer. OLPA is pleased to announce the addition of Otisco Lake as the last remaining Finger Lake to complete participation in the stewardship program.
Stewards are trained to greet and voluntarily request participation from watercraft owners at launch sites. At the time of boat launch or removal, the stewards inspect the craft and identify any species caught or contained within the craft. Stewards educate water craft owners about cleaning and prevention techniques with regard to invasive species. Through consistent messaging, voluntary participation and ongoing education the stewardship program hopes to eradicate the spread of invasive species in our local bodies of water.
Working in partnership with the Finger Lakes Institute, OLPA was able to support the hiring of two stewards who inspected nearly 2,000 watercraft. In the first season of inspections, two stewards monitored both launch sites at Otisco Lake Marina and Otisco Lake Campgrounds. These efforts are necessary when considering that the percentage of boats with “organisms found” ranged from 13 to nearly 21 percent. Additional information was collected and is being collated by the Finger Lakes Institute. Final data summarizing the results will be placed on the OLPA website for public review.
OLPA President Time Creamer says, “The Steward program adds a vital element to the preservation of Otisco Lake. Invasive species of plants and invertebrates can alter the delicate balance between native species and the health of the lake. We thank our donors and volunteers who contributed to this project and hope to expand our steward program next year. The support of the community, boaters, fishermen and local governments in these kinds of programs will be key to preserving Otisco Lake. Our efforts now can make a vast difference in the future of this precious natural resource.”