Program helps boaters stop

spread of invasives

Minnesota Sea Grant is expanding its highly successful Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ program. The program educates boaters and anglers about how to prevent the spread of invasive species.


Zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species that were imported to the Great Lakes by transoceanic freighters and other sources have caused billions of dollars of economic and ecological damage. Minnesota Sea Grant’s Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ has worked to slow the spread of invasive species by educating boaters about the importance of washing their boats after every outing. Dirty boats can carry invasive species from one waterway to another. Sea Grant’s program uses a variety of tools — billboards, signs, cards, presentations, Web sites and social media — to educate boaters about the need to combat invasive species. The program began in Minnesota but has since spread across the Great Lakes basin. The program received a $1.5 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant in 2010 to expand outreach efforts. That grant helped the campaign educate more than 10 million people about the need to clean boats. In 2012, Minnesota Sea Grant received a $400,000 grant to expand the program. The new effort will use social media and education to teach people how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species via 15 different pathways. Sea Grant will produce 30 new or improved outreach products that could be seen by 7 million people in 40 communities. The program could help efforts to develop similar programs in other parts of the country.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Invasive species


Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers banner

The Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers program helps reduce the transfer of aquatic invasive species within the Great Lakes. Credit: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

Results and Accomplishments

The first phase of the campaign, which received a $1.5 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant in 2010, was seen by 10 million people across the Great Lakes basin.The latest Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant of $400,000 is expected to help the campaign reach another 7 million people.