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Lights, Camera, Exotics!

Boater education is one of the best ways to prevent the accidental spread of exotic aquatic plants and animals. In an attempt to provide a dose of fun along with an educational message, Minnesota Sea Grant and several federal, state, and business partners from across the nation have teamed up to produce a 10-minute clean boating video, designed with owners of personal watercraft, motorboats, and sailboats in mind.

The clean boating message is being delivered by John Ratzenberger (a.k.a. Cliff Clavin of the television show, “Cheers”).

“John Ratzenberger’s character was key - it was the detail-oriented, know-it-all character that we thought would fit well with getting across the video’s message of how to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species,” said Doug Jensen, Exotic Species Information Center Coordinator for Minnesota Sea Grant.

“Mr. Ratzenberger agreed to do the video as a public service because he’s an avid angler and sailboater who understands the importance of this issue,” said Jensen. “We wanted to produce a video that was entertaining, could be used in workshops to educate boaters, and could be used in other public venues like environmental learning centers, and even in recreational fishing shops.”

“I got a call a while back from somebody in Minnesota who said they needed some help,” said Ratzenberger. “So who else were they going to turn to but yours truly? There’s the Mounties, the FBI and me.”

John Ratzenberger.

Actor John Ratzenberger (a.k.a. Cliff Clavin) is filmed in Brainerd, MN, for an aquatic nuisance species video project that will be completed this winter.

Ratzenberger said he’s been involved with the environment since the late ‘60s, even funding development of a substitute for Styrofoam that’s used as a packing material. He spends a lot of time on the water. “I had my first boat at 8 years old - as a matter of fact, before I got my first bicycle. And I’ve been fishing ever since. It’s going on 40-some-odd years now,” said Ratzenberger.

Ratzenberger learned about the problems exotic species pose by working on the video project. “You’ve got power plants and water treatment facilities, and if those intakes or outputs get clogged up by the mussels and whatnot, it will shut them down and then you’ve got millions of people impacted by something that’s no bigger than that,” he said, holding up his hand with his thumb and index finger slightly apart. “They can shut down a city. It’s not the big monsters like Godzilla that we have to watch out for, it’s the tiny ones.”

Filming took place this past September at two locations near Brainerd, Minnesota. The video is being produced by ProVideo Productions, Inc. of Duluth and is expected to be completed this winter. Logistical support was provided by In-Fisherman, Inc. Project partners are the Minnesota and University of California Sea Grant Programs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and SeaLand Technology, Inc.

Jensen got his turn in front of the camera recently for a TV special on aquatic nuisance species that was broadcast on the cable network, CNBC. “Aquatic Invaders,” the new edition of Information Television Network’s (ITV) TECHNO 2100 series, examines the threat posed by ANS and how scientists, policymakers and the public are working to prevent new introductions and control the spread of existing ones. The program premiered on August 14, and will be repeated at least 30 times over the next year in primetime slots.

Jensen discussed the value of boater education in preventing the spread of aquatic exotic species and aided the film crew in gaining access to the ballast water tanks of the William A. Irvin ore boat in Duluth, MN. He also helped the crew get out on the water with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service trawler that was netting exotic fish in the Duluth-Superior Harbor.

This 30-minute TV special, which will be accessible to some 66 million U.S. and Canadian viewers, was produced by ITV in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Great Lakes Commission, and other various federal, state and provincial agencies.

Copies of the ITV tape are available from Minnsota Sea Grant for $5 for Minnesota residents only. To order, look on the publications page and our mail order form, under the exotics category, item X 63. Out-of-state residents can request a copy from the Great Lakes Commission by calling 734.665.9135.

For more information on either of these projects, please contact Doug Jensen or Marie Zhuikov, Communications Coordinator, at 218.726.8106.

By Marie Zhuikov
November 1999

Return to November 1999 Seiche

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