|FYI — July 2002|
|By Brad Dunn|
In April the water border between the United States and Canada became more difficult to cross when the two countries agreed that boaters had to apply in person and be fingerprinted in order to receive Canadian Border Boat Landing Permits for the Great Lakes Region--forms that were once easily available online. Moreover, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services and the Coast Guard have stepped up border patrols and spot checks in the Great Lakes. In addition to the Canadian border, security measures have been boosted at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit. A new no-boating zone now extends a half-mile into Lake St. Clair, prohibiting boaters from entering what was once a popular fishing spot. Violators face a $10,000 fine and possible prison sentence of up to ten years.
There is good news, however: You can aid in keeping the seas secure. "Boaters play an essential role in national security," says Chief Petty Officer Kurt Rugenius. "If they see something out of the ordinary, they should contact law enforcement."
Based on a state law passed in 2000, the new education requirements are being phased in gradually by age groups. This year boaters between the ages of 12 and 19 are required to get the certification by passing an exam or taking a course with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadron. By 2008 boaters of all ages will have to be certified.
So far the agency says it's been successful in getting the message out to boaters in the state. The only real problem with the certification program, says the state Marine Patrol, is how to police the thousands of out-of-state boaters who are not required to register with the state.
The agency's new national program "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" aims to prevent the spread of marine nuisance species throughout the United States. These include plants and animals that attach to boats, migrate to areas where they have no natural predators, and reproduce beyond control.
"For marina owners or operators, they can be troublesome and expensive," explains Ken Burton of the FWS. "Some, like the zebra mussel, which unfortunately has spread out of the Great Lakes into most major waterways in the eastern U.S., can foul water-intake systems on boats, causing extensive damage."
Many aquatic hitchhikers can lock on to anything that floats and relocate in almost any environment. For example, exotic fish like the goby and the sea lamprey reproduce so rapidly that they devastate native species, decimate fish populations, and wreak havoc on boat engines.
For more information, log on to www.protectyourwaters.net.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.