Aquatic invasive species pose an ongoing threat to Washington's environment and economy. Anyone who uses Washington's waters – for work or play – can help stop the spread of these non-native species.

Invasive species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, European green crab and New Zealand mudsnails, are often spread by boats, trailers and other means of transportation. Once non-native species become established in a new environment, where their natural enemies are missing, these invaders can spread rapidly. 

Invasive species can damage irrigation and water systems, clog hydroelectric dam intakes, disrupt efforts to recover endangered salmon stocks, and out-compete native and commercially grown species. Non-native species also affect recreation, potentially reducing fish populations for anglers and forcing the closure of waterbodies for boaters and others who enjoy Washington's waters.

Both marine and freshwater can harbor invasive species. One of the most well-known invasive species are zebra and quagga mussels. Zebra and quagga mussels have caused billions of dollars in economic and ecological damage to the Great Lakes, and have spread throughout North America. Quagga mussels are present in Lake Mead (Nev. and Ariz.) and Lake Havasu, Calif., which greatly increases the risk of introduction into Washington state.

Readily observed examples of aquatic invasive species in the inland marine waters of Puget Sound include tunicates, oyster drills, varnish or dark mahogany clams, and cordgrasses.

Freshwater invasive species in Washington include New Zealand mudsnails, Asian clams, Red Swamp crayfish, and Eurasian water milfoil.

Preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in Washington is challenging and unpredictable. Discovery and continued findings of potentially invasive species on Japanese tsunami marine debris is a good example of a new threat to the state's coastal waters. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) asks anyone who visits state waters to take simple steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Penalties for transporting aquatic invasive species in Washington include up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Graphic showing the various parts of a boat and trailer that need to be inspected for invasive species.

Boating in Washington/Aquatic Invasive Species FAQs

Do you need to buy an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) boat sticker or permit?

  • Washington residents automatically pay an annual fee of $2 into the Department's AIS program when you register your boat. Your valid registration sticker certifies you have paid this fee.
  • Washington resident non-motorized/paddle sport boaters are not currently required to pay for an AIS sticker or permit.
  • Non-resident boaters, motorized or non-motorized/paddle sport, are not currently required to pay for an AIS sticker or permit.

Do you need an AIS boat inspection before launching in Washington State?

  • The only required state AIS inspections are at mandatory check stations when open during the boating season. These can be along roads or at boat launches.
  • Boats must be Clean/Drain/Dry during transport after every use. Learn more at http://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/youcanhelp.html.
  • Local jurisdictions may have their own watercraft AIS fee and inspection programs. For information on the Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish program, please go to http://whatcomboatinspections.com/

 More boating information…

 

Photo of 5 New Zealand mudsnails sitting on the edge of a penny.

New Zealand Mudsnails
New Zealand mudsnails are tiny non-native snails that have infested an increasing number of Washington's lakes and streams. These snails multiply quickly and disrupt the food chain, threatening native fish. The species' size makes it easy for anglers and boaters unknowingly to transport mudsnails from one waterbody to another. To date, there is no way to eradicate mudsnails once they have infested a waterbody without damaging the aquatic habitat. Learn more >>

  REPORTS TO THE LEGISLATURE
 
Aquatic Invasive Species Funding Advisory Committee Report and Recommendations
Ballast Water and Biofouling Regulatory GAP Analysis Report
Washington State Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention and Enforcement Program: 2015 Report to the Legislature
Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee Report to the 2012 Legislature
AIS Prevention and Enforcement Program Report to the 2012 Legislature
Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee Report to the 2011 Legislature
AIS Prevention and Enforcement Program Report to the 2011 Legislature
Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee Report to the 2008 Legislature
Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee Report to the 2006 Legislature
Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee Report to the 2004 Legislature
Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee Report to the 2002 Legislature
   

Get Adobe Reader