State comptroller: DEC needs to improve efforts to control aquatic invasive species in NY
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that the Department of Environmental Conservation needs to improve efforts to control aquatic invasive species in the state.
According to his office, an audit released on Monday says that the DEC needs to control these species - including zebra mussels, hydrilla and giant hogweed - that have established footholds across New York and threaten native species, agriculture and tourism.
He says the boating season poses a significant risk for the spread of aquatic invasive species.
MORE: Read the audit
“Invasive species can wreak havoc on our natural ecosystems and be harmful to people. They cause a loss of wildlife habitat, native plants, fish and animals as well as losses for farmers and industries that depend on outdoor activities,” DiNapoli said. “The agency has undertaken important steps to address this problem, but my auditors found several areas where DEC could strengthen its practices to identify non-native plants and animals and stop them from spreading. I urge DEC officials to follow our recommendations to protect New Yorkers and keep our precious natural resources intact.”
DiNapoli's office says fishing is also severely impacted by invasive species, causing an estimated $500 million in economic losses each year, 80% of which affects commercial and sport fishing.
The office says controlling the spread of an established invasive species can be costly. For example, between April 2017 and September 2019, the DEC spent nearly $1.8 million trying to control and stop the spread of hydrilla, and planned to spend more.
DiNapoli says the DEC has implemented a range of programs and processes to help control the spread of both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, but he recommended that the DEC also:
· Develop a process to: regularly communicate duties and responsibilities to registered boat owners and stewards; monitor steward performance; and coordinate with other oversight entities to improve preventive efforts at public boat launches throughout the state.
· Develop and implement policies, procedures, or guidance on issuing permits and monitoring compliance relating to invasive species; circumstances that warrant adding specific invasive species management mitigation provisions to permits; identifying non-native species and conditions that should trigger assessments for non-native species; and periodic complete testing of trap samples for potentially invasive species.