OPP Marine Patrols & Invasive Species

July 2015

FOCA  Asked:

Dear OPP,

Throughout your active involvement in so many of Ontario’s rural and waterfront communities, the OPP delivers not only law enforcement, emergency response and public safety generally, but also are ambassadors for the respectful use of our trails and waterways.

At a recent lake association meeting it came to our attention that OPP marine patrol boats, which move from one lake to another on an almost daily basis, are not inspected for aquatic invasive species, washed at the end of each day, nor between individual lake patrols. This was disappointing to hear, needless to say, as our association works diligently to encourage ALL boaters to do their part to protect our waterways. ( http://foca.on.ca/invasive-species/)

The Province of Ontario places a high priority on reducing the risks from the unintended introduction of invasive species in the Province. (See http://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/how-government-combats-invasive-species for more information).

The source of these harmful introductions include transient ATV or off-road vehicles (for on-land or terrestrial species like dog-strangling vine), and transient/trailered boat movements (for aquatic invasive species such as Zebra Mussels or Round Goby).

Given the breadth and scope of the OPP’s activities and the amount of vehicular movement your rural officers are involved with, we feel it is very important that our public law enforcement agencies do their part to reduce the threat of harmful species spread.

We would be pleased to work with you and your officers to help share this message, and to make cleaning your equipment a routine part of your ongoing patrol activities.

Attached is one example of some simple best management practices that we recommend be embedded in your field staff activities/routine.

We look forward to your response. We would love to share OPP’s plans to embed best practices in your activities with our members in an upcoming FOCA Elert or newsletter. We’d love to showcase “leading by example”.

Terry Rees, FOCA

OPP Answered:

From:  OPP Provincial Marine Coordinator

Hello Terry,

I am interested to hear more details/specifics relating to your concern so I may be able to address the matter fully.

As you have noted, this is an issue the Ontario Government takes seriously. Invasive species is a topic discussed both at training sessions for the operations of equipment as well as at Regional seminars, held in the spring of the year. Marine training programs in particular engage MNRF Conservation Officers within the instructor cadre and is mindful of the need to ensure we are not only protecting the environment but should be expected to be held to a higher standard of care.

The vast majority of OPP boats and Off-Road vehicle assets are assigned and deployed to local Detachments, where they operate in somewhat confined areas. I mention this as I would like to assure you that these units are not travelling all over the province but generally working within a local area environment. I would suggest that the majority of OPP boats do not in fact move from one lake to another on a daily basis. Having said that, having it occur even on occasion is not a prudent boating practice and would like to mitigate this.

I look forward to being provided with more information on this matter so I can address this concern.

Hope you enjoying the summer season…

FOCA Responded:

Thanks for your prompt and very encouraging reply.

I’d like to share your comments with FOCA’s members so that they are aware of OPP’s awareness and diligence on this issue, as it will go a long way to alleviating a concern that is shared with us from time to time.

No doubt your officers have many things to consider as they discharge their patrol, education and enforcement duties, and it is most encouraging to hear that environmental considerations and conservation are imbedded in the annual training.

I take your point that the vessels are operated in a fairly small geographic area which is good, though even proximate waterbodies can have different species and moving between two waterbodies could involve inadvertently transferring species even if it’s not the same day.

If it is helpful, we would encourage you to include the FOCA Invasive Species Tips for Boaters materials in your training materials, and as on-hand information for your staff. The handy “good-better-best” list at bottom could be helpful; incorporating a quick visual inspection and draining the water goes a long way – and in some instances may be the only practical steps possible, especially in light of the fact there are few if any high pressure washers available.

If there are other ways we can support your efforts with respect to training or information or support, as always we are willing to be involved.

The work of the Marine Unit is a valued service and everything we can do to support one another’s interests can help us all!

Best Regards,
Terry Rees

Terry ReesOPP Marine Patrols & Invasive Species