Boaters and anglers around Wisconsin are more aware of the potentially detrimental effects of invasive species spreading between Wisconsin waterways and are actively taking preventative measures to stop their spread, a new survey said.

Two University of Wisconsin professors and a graduate student recently conducted a survey from 500 participants across Wisconsin from 2009 to 2010, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, a UW statement said. 

UW researcher Bret Shaw said it was heartening to see improvement among public action as a result of increased education efforts.

Shaw said the state and UW have allocated funding in an attempt to stop the spread of these invasive species, and the survey shows their efforts are working effectively.

He also said researchers investigated people’s motivations for protecting Wisconsin’s fisheries, especially their compliance with new laws to prevent further spreading of these harmful species.

“When you put a lot of effort and work into a campaign, whether it’s health, environmental or otherwise related, it’s exciting to see changes are indeed being made,” Shaw said.

The survey found 87 percent of boaters removed all plants from their boats enter existing the water, an increase from 76 percent in 2009. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed also drained water from their boats, an increase from 81 percent the previous year, the statement said.

The statement said preventive measures are extremely important because transferring water, bait or sport fish between bodies of water can facilitate the spread of dangerous invasive species including Eurasian water milfoil, curly-leaf pondweed and even water-born diseases like hemorrhagic septicemia, an illness that affects freshwater fish. 

Shaw said the spread of such invasive species across the state has decreased significantly because of increased public awareness and outreach efforts aimed at fishermen and recreational boaters.

While the results of the survey were encouraging, he added there remains room for improvement in both education efforts and public response.

Shaw also said the most significant aspect of the survey’s findings are a more clear path for next steps in new areas to focus education efforts in order to continuing to minimize the harmful effects of these species.