Robert Garrick is passionate about taking his boat out on Texas' lakes. But now some lakes are under siege.
“This is news to me,” said Garrick.
They are under siege by a plant.
“A plant that is neither welcome nor wanted in our great state,” said Carter Smith Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
It's called giant salvinia, and it is one of the most dangerous, invasive aquatic plants in Texas.
“Yeah it is your worst nightmare,” said Mike Gore, a fisheries technician. “You'll have it on your boat and you won't even notice it.”
If left unchecked, giant salvinia can grow quickly and suffocate native plants by preventing light from penetrating below the surface. It can endanger fish and other wildlife.
When it grows unchecked it can choke off boating and fishing to an entire lake. When that happens, it can endanger the ecology and threaten the economies of lakeside communities that depend on fishing, boating and tourism. It's commonly spread by boats, propellers and trailers. It only takes a tiny little section of plant to create a new infestation.
Giant salvinia is native to South America. The fern was illegally brought to Texas 12 years ago by either the aquarium or gardening trade. It has now spread to 17 lakes in East Texas. It has not yet reached the Highland Lakes or Lake Austin. Governor Rick Perry wants to keep it that way.
“This is a real threat to the future of our waterways in Texas,” said Perry. “If we don’t get a handle on it and the other invasive species that are working their way into our ecosystem, the Texas we know and love will be changed forever and not for the better.”
He joined the Texas Parks and Wildlife Thursday afternoon on the shores of Lake Austin to launch a new campaign to educate boaters.
“To clean your boat, clean your gear, clean your trailer as you move from lake to lake,” said Smith.
Invasive species of all kinds costs the state millions of dollars. More than half a million is budgeted to manage and control giant salvinia.
Garrick says he realizes it's a fight Texas can't lose.
“Being a boater out here -- I don't want any more issues on the lake,” said Garrick.
It's illegal to transport salvinia, whether it's done accidentally or intentionally. Violators face fines up to $500.