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This summer, WNY PRISM started its first fully staffed Watercraft Inspection Steward Program. Throughout the summer, our 20 stewards performed 17,065 inspections and spoke with 39,697 people at 22 different launches. Our busiest launch at Sturgeon Point completed nearly 20% of these inspections. Check out the 2019 Data Report for more information and keep reading to learn about the brave steward who was stationed at this busy launch.

A Boat Steward at Sturgeon Point

By: Jason Kappan, 2019 Boat Steward and Invasive Species Management Assistant

I had the opportunity to work for WNY PRISM’s Watercraft Inspection Program this summer. It was a unique and eye-opening experience. I was stationed at Sturgeon Point Marina in Evans, New York, a small town south of Buffalo near Lake Erie. Even though the town is small, the boat launch was usually very busy. People came from all over, from Pennsylvania, Ohio and even from Florida. The marina was always bustling with people and wildlife as well. There is a bald eagle nest in the forest next to the marina and the young bald eagles could be seen flying over the launch site with fish in their claws. Blue herons were often seen walking on the docks.

There was always an interesting mix of people at the marina, from jet skiers and leisure boaters, to fishers and kayakers. Before I got to my launch at 7:00 am each morning, fishers would have already filled the parking lot. Halfway through the season I already had a handful of regulars that came to the marina, some on a weekly and others on a daily basis. All the boaters were welcoming and appreciative that I was at the marina to check their boats, especially the fishers as they know invasive species negatively affect the fish they love to catch. Sometimes boaters would approach me to ask if I wanted to inspect their watercraft, which would often lead to a discussion about invasive species. At one point a fisher and his wife that frequented the marina asked about a species they found on a walleye they caught; fortunately, it was a native species of leech – Helobdella stagnalis.

One of my favorite memories from this summer was when I inspected a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research boat. The scientist in charge told me they were studying the soil of Lake Erie. When I approached and asked if I could inspect the boat, they were eager to see if I would find any invasive species. I recall I found curly leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) on the trailer of the boat. It was wonderful to talk to like-minded researchers. I asked if I could inspect their boat next time they launched at the marina and they had no reservations. I also met a few NYSDEC officers who docked their boat at the marina. They were curious about what I was doing. After I briefly explained my job responsibilities, we chatted about invasive species and the importance of aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention. They were glad I was there and told me to keep up the good work.

My experience as a boat steward was memorable as I met many people. It also helped me improve my public speaking skills and honed my identification of local invasive species, as there are unfortunately a good amount in Lake Erie. I will grow from this experience and bring the skills and know-how to the next step in my career field.

Jason Kappan honing his watercraft inspection skills at our Spring Training session.