LITTE ROCK (AGFC) – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's fleet of hatchery vehicles have a fresh new look and a strong message to say, thanks to a grant provided by the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force to educate the public on aquatic nuisance species.
Five hatchery trucks have been outfitted with special vehicle wraps to catch the eye and spread the word about nonnative aquatic invaders, and three more are in the works. Jimmy Barnett, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the AGFC, said educating the public is a key component to fighting the spread of these plants and animals.
"Our hatchery trucks already get a lot of attention on the road and at boat accesses," Barnett said. "These wraps will help convert that attention to awareness."
Three species were chosen for the wraps – silver carp, didymo and zebra mussels. Each was chosen because of its potential impact to a fishery as well as its likelihood to be moved to new waters by people.
"Didymo is a nuisance in our trout streams, so it was a natural pick for the (Jim Hinkle) Spring River Trout Hatchery," Barnett said. "The other two are threats to our warmwater fisheries."
Barnett says these aren't the only three aquatic nuisance species to worry about in Arkansas. About 30 species of nonnative animals and plants cause concern for fishery managers.
The wraps are the latest techniques Barnett has used to get the message of aquatic nuisance species out to the public since the AGFC's official ANS program began in September 2015.
"The program was formed to support the Arkansas Aquatic Nuisance Species Plan, which was approved by former governor Mike Beebe in 2013," Barnett said. "A lot of people worked on that plan to give us the direction we need and now we're able to implement its awareness and education components."
In addition to the wraps, fisheries staff are putting up signs at boat accesses in key areas to spread the word about spreading nuisance species.
"We're focusing our efforts on giant salvinia along the Louisiana border," Barnett said. "It looks like giant duckweed and can grow so dense that it chokes out everything else in the water. Arkansas doesn't have this species yet, but Louisiana does. We want to do everything we can to let folks know how bad it is and how not to bring it back to The Natural State."
Other signs, focused on preventing the spread of zebra mussels, will be placed around Bull Shoals and the Arkansas River, two popular fisheries that are known to harbor these aquatic pests.
"Arkansas is blessed with good fishing waters all over the state, but that means more people are moving from one body of water to the next to try out different lakes all the time," Barnett said. "We want to do everything we can to prevent them from bringing along an uninvited guest."
Barnett repeats the mantra, Clean, Drain and Dry, a popular slogan developed by Wildlife Forever.
"Clean any bits of vegetation and mud you find on your boat and trailer before leaving the lake. Drain all the water from the boat's bilge area and live wells. Let everything dry out at least five days before visiting a new body of water. If you can't wait that long, rinse the boat and trailer thoroughly with a high pressure washer or hot water that's at least 120 degrees to help remove any invasive organisms."