OLYMPIA – With summer in full swing, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is reminding recreational boaters that they are legally required to remove all aquatic plants from their boats and trailers before driving away from the launch ramp.
Those that fail to do so could face a $378 fine.
Washington state law makes it illegal to transport aquatic plants that may be dispersed unintentionally along roads and highways. The law, which is being enforced as of July 4 to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, especially applies to recreational boaters whose vessels and gear get entangled with plants while in the water, said Bruce Bjork, chief of WDFW’s enforcement program.
“If boaters don’t remove all plants before they leave the ramp, they can easily spread into other bodies of water when the boat is launched again or if they’re dislodged when traveling,” Bjork said. “Noxious weeds such as milfoil are typically spread to lakes on boat trailers and fishing gear. Controlling the extensive spread of milfoil alone has cost the state millions of dollars.”
Several other aquatic invasive plants such as hydrilla and Brazilian elodea are also showing up in Washington, which could cause further problems for native species and habitat, Bjork said.
“Enforcing the law is an important preventative measure in stopping their spread,” Bjork said.
To inform the boating public before the new enforcement action went into effect, WDFW officers conducted several educational patrols over the past year at boat launches throughout the state.