For years, resource managers focused on education, regulations, and boat inspections to help stop the spread of invasive species such a zebra mussels. But in late January, a new tactic was initiated as a first-of-its-kind boat design summit was staged here.
“If you can build a better boat, it makes it easier down the line,” said Brian Goodwin of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), which develops safety standards and is a sponsor. “There is no silver bullet that will solve the problem. But this is part of it.”
Other sponsors included the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Minnesota and Lake Minnetonka’s Tonka Bay Marina. Minnesota ranks No. 1 nationally in boat ownership per capita.
Organizers hoped that the event would stimulate recommendations for new designs for the more than 100 boat manufacturers, marina operators, conservation leaders, and biologists in attendance.
“This is a critical piece we need to look at and make sure we’re doing all we can do to reduce the risk,” said Ann Pierce of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “I think it will be extremely beneficial, and not just for Minnesota.”
In addition to attaching themselves to hulls, mussels often stow away on boats in any place that water accumulates, including motors, bilges, livewells, and transom wells. Pontoon boats, the fastest growing sector of the boating industry, and wakeboard boats, which collect water to create wakes, especially are conductive for aquatic hitchhiking. For example, lifting strakes on pontoons enable them to go faster, but they often are sealed only at one end, allowing small mussels entry at the other.
“For a lot of companies, it’s going to be a retooling,” said Bob Menne, owner of Premier Marine, the fourth-largest pontoon manufacturer in the nation, and the only one, he said, to weld strakes and keels to keep out zebra mussels.
“We take it as a very serious issue,” he said.