Download PDF Download Document

Washington State Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention and Enforcement Program For Recreational and Commercial Watercraft Report to the 2008 Legislature

Category: Aquatic Invasive Species

Date Published: December 2007

Number of Pages: 52

Author(s): Allen Pleus, Pam Meacham, and Eric Anderson


This biennial report is submitted to the legislature for meeting the requirements of both Chapter 43.43.400(4) and 77.12.879(4) RCW and describing the actions taken to implement the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention and Enforcement Program. The AIS Prevention and Enforcement Program is managed through the WDFW Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Unit and is encompassed in the department’s Recreational and Commercial Watercraft Pathway (RCWP) Management Plan.

The ANS Unit coordinates with other state and federal agencies, tribes, NGOs and other public and private stakeholders in the overall management of AIS. Three of the primary entities include the state’s recently created Invasive Species Council, the Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee, and the Columbia River Basin Team (CRBT) as part of the national 100th Meridian Initiative. The primary AIS of concern in the RCWP management plan are the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), its relative the quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis), and the Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) IVb virus. The environmental characteristics of these species make their eradication unlikely if they are not aggressively dealt with at an early stage.

The transportation of recreational and commercial watercraft into and within Washington State represents one of the highest risk pathways for AIS introduction and spread. This risk continues to grow with an increasingly mobile recreational boating public, a growing fish tournament industry, the ability and availability of inexpensive used watercraft being sold from infested states, and the ability of AIS to remain viable for weeks out of their original habitat. Most recently, the discovery of quagga mussels in Southern Nevada and California means that they are now only a day’s drive away.

The environmental, economic, and social/human health risks of AIS are significant. For example, the zebra and quagga mussel health risks include interruptions and contamination of water supplies, increased occurrences of blue-green and other toxic algae blooms, ability to concentrate contaminated sediments up to 300,000 times ambient levels and then disperse these into the food chain through direct consumption or through fecal matter, and closure of public beaches or swimming waters due to sharp shells or stench from typical mass die-offs.

2005-2007 biennium accomplishments include:

Working closely with the CRBT to develop and implement their Interagency Invasive Species Rapid Response Plan in 20081.

All 91 WDFW Enforcement field staff (21 Sergeants and 70 Officers) have been trained on state AIS laws, identification, inspection, detection and response.

All 66 Washington State Patrol staff (commercial vehicle inspectors) at the five Port of Entry Weigh Stations have been trained in AIS identification.

39 WDFW non-enforcement field staff were trained in coordination with trainers from the 100th Meridian Initiative-Columbia River Basin Team.

200 commercially hauled watercraft have been inspected at WSP Port of Entry weight stations of which ten watercraft have been intercepted that were contaminated with zebra or quagga mussels. The last three have been cited and fined.

An “AIS Check Station” enforcement policy (see Appendix F of the report) has been adopted for watercraft at random check stations. Implementation of the policy begins in early 2008.

Portable watercraft inspection and decontamination kits have been developed and deployed for use during free inspections, patrols and AIS check station actions.

11,475 watercraft owners have been directly contacted and 7,088 recreational watercraft have been inspected for AIS in the past two years.

WDFW uses the boater surveys, enforcement actions, public education, and a series of 180 monitoring sites across the state to implement an early detection plan.

WDFW has developed and has started implementing a Citizen Requested Watercraft Inspections program.

WDFW and the Washington State Department of Transportation are in the final stages of developing AIS signs, for posting at highway entry points into Washington.

WDFW developed public information

Suggested Citation:
Pleus, A., P. Meacham, E. Anderson, and J. Nicholas. 2007. Washington State Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention and Enforcement Program For Recreational and Commercial Watercraft: Report to the 2008 Legislature. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State Patrol. Olympia.