N.Y. (WETM) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is asking residents who engage in water sports to clean their watercrafts and gear to protect local waters from invasive species.

The DEC says that boaters should drain, clean, and dry their boats and trailers and disinfect their fishing gear before entering waters. Harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS) can stick to your watercraft and gear and infect local waters, so it’s important to keep everything clean. Boat stewards will be stationed at over 200 boat launches and decontamination stations across the state by Memorial Day weekend to assist and educate the public about boat and gear cleaning. The boat stewards can be identified by their blue vests.

“The Watercraft Inspection Steward Program continues to play a significant role in defending lakes, ponds, and rivers against the spread of AIS,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Our boat stewards have successfully increased public awareness about the threats of AIS and helping more New Yorkers participate in best management practices such as Clean. Drain. Dry. I ask all New York residents and visitors to please continue to do your part in protecting our waters from the negative impacts of invasive species.”

According to the DEC, in 2022, boat stewards inspected over 200,000 boats and intercepted over 8,000 invasive plants and animals. Some of the invasive plants intercepted were hydrilla. Hydrilla is one of the hardest invasive species to control and negatively impacts aquatic ecosystems and water recreation. Hydrilla can currently be found in Broome, Tioga, and Tompkins Counties.

The DEC has some cleaning recommendations to stop the spread of harmful invasive species like hydrilla. Water recreationists should clean all mud, plants, and animals from their boats and equipment and dispose of the materials in a trash can or at a disposal station. Trailer bunks, axles, lights, motors, tackle, waders, and more all need to be cleaned. Before leaving any body of water, you should drain any compartment that holds water. Before entering another body of water, your boat and gear should be left to dry in warm conditions for at least five to seven days. When there isn’t enough time to wait, you can disinfect your watercraft and equipment with water that is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

For more information about cleaning your boat and gear, you can visit the DEC’s website. The website also has a map that shows where boat stewards can be found across the state.