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1 in 5 Minnesota boaters violate invasive species rules

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Boaters in Minnesota are doing a better job of following state laws to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, but there’s still a ways to go, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The agency said 20 percent, or one in five boaters checked by Minnesota conservation officers at roadside stops last year were breaking the law, the West Central Tribune reports. That's an improvement on the 31 percent violation rate in 2012, said DNR officials. But they are aiming for a "zero" violation rate in the coming year.

The law requires boaters and anglers to clean their boats and equipment and drain all water from the boat, livewells, etc., when they leave a lake, to keep aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil from spreading, MPR News reports.

People are aware of the invasive species laws, said Rodmen Smith, assistant director of the DNR's enforcement division. But they don't always follow through, according to MPR News.

“What we’re seeing with the weeds and aquatic vegetation is people have an attitude ‘well, that is good enough. There are sure a lot of weeds on there. I got most of them,’” he said.

"Unfortunately 'a couple on there' isn't good enough," Smith said, adding that it takes only one piece of vegetation to carry an invasive plant or microscopic-sized veligers (larvae) of zebra mussels to the next lake.

The DNR is planning to double the number of roadside checkpoints this year, from 18 to 36, according to the West Central Tribune.

Inspectors will also check boats at launches and other lake access points this year. The DNR had 150 inspectors at lake accesses last year, and they conducted 123,000 inspections, according to the agency.

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Penalties double for invasive species violations

Tougher laws aimed to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, like zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas, go into effect Sunday, July 1 -- doubling fines for Minnesota boaters who are caught violating the rules. The Department of Natural Resources says about 20 percent of boaters are not taking the basic precautions to comply with the laws. The new fines range from $100 to $500 dollars.