Exploring the efficacy of an aquatic invasive species prevention campaign among water recreationists

Abstract

Water recreationists regularly engage in behavior that can contribute to the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which can result in costly consequences for managers. As AIS prevention is more cost-effective than response, educational campaigns are implemented as a preventative management strategy. However, little is known about the efficacy of education campaigns in promoting recreationists’ knowledge, personal responsibility, and engagement in behaviors that can prevent AIS spread. This study explored the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ (SAH!) campaign by conducting survey and focus group research with water recreationists’ in Illinois and Indiana. Results from the survey research indicate moderate campaign success (55 % were aware of the SAH! campaign), and that awareness is significantly related to increases in knowledge, personal responsibility, and engagement in four of the six recommended control behaviors. Additionally, findings demonstrate that boater-anglers were most aware of the campaign (69 %), most knowledgeable of AIS species, and felt the most personal responsibility for AIS control. However, focus group results demonstrate the need for campaign enhancement, including streamlining campaign messaging and increasing campaign exposure. Policy informed by our recommendations may improve the efficacy of educational campaigns to manage recreation behavior and corresponding environmental impacts among multiple water recreationist groups.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Disposing of unused bait was not included in the comparative analysis, as the behavior does not apply boaters that are not anglers. High pressure and hot water rinsing, as well as drying equipment for 5 days, were included as these behaviors are not just recommended for boaters and boater-anglers but also recommended for shore anglers.

  2. 2.

    It is important to note that focus group discussions did not include any blaming of specific type of water recreationist for AIS spread.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for this work was provided by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Summer Student Internship Program, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We would like to thank Natalie Mountjoy, Ph.D. for her assistance with the focus group research.

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Correspondence to Erin Seekamp.

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Seekamp, E., McCreary, A., Mayer, J. et al. Exploring the efficacy of an aquatic invasive species prevention campaign among water recreationists. Biol Invasions 18, 1745–1758 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-016-1117-2

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Keywords

  • Outreach
  • AIS prevention
  • Behaviors
  • Survey research
  • Boaters
  • Anglers