Giant salvinia was found in a small pond near Houston in 1998. The plant has spread to 17-Texas lakes. Mark Webb is a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He says the floating, rootless fern can spread very quickly.
"If you can imagine, once you wind up with an acre of giant salvinia, you have two next week, four the next week, eight the next week, and so on and so forth. Frequently, by the time we realize giant salvinia is even in a reservoir, we may have ten, a hundred, even a thousand acres. And then, when you're looking at going from a hundred acres to two hundred, or a thousand to two thousand within a week, obviously that is very difficult to control."
Webb says giant salvinia is usually spread unknowingly by people moving their boats from lake to lake, with disastrous effects.
"There are actually water bodies where it's become so covered that there is no aquatic life. It's been a total fish kill, not in the large public reservoirs yet, but in some of the smaller ten, twelve, twenty acre reservoirs. It has basically killed all aquatic life underneath it, because all aquatic life has to have oxygen."
With the arrival of the spring outdoor recreation season Tom Harvey with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says they're launching a campaign to educate boaters who don't know that they may be carrying giant salvinia
"There are tens of thousands of boaters here in the Houston area, so this message is very relevant to this city. Many of those folks take their boats up to lakes like Toledo Bend, and maybe even as far as Caddo Lake, where this plant is somewhat established."
Boater LeRoy Harris says he makes it a point to clean his vessel when he takes it out of the water.
"Yes, especially when the wind is coming out of the north. When you pull your trailer out, it is completely covered with it. It's a nasty ugly sight and I don't think anybody wants their boat to be sitting in that mess, sitting on theirÎ¾ trailer."
Transporting giant salvinia, as well as other invasive species, is prohibited by state law. It is a class-c misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to 500-dollars per violation. Once again, Tom Harvey with Texas Parks and Wildlife:
"Our emphasis is gonna be on education and pro-active prevention, and trying to help people do the right thing. So enforcement is an option and it is illegal to transport this plant, but pro-active education through the awareness campaign is the focus."
More information on the campaign can be found at www.texasinvasives.org.