Category: Aquatic Invasive Species
Author(s): Sergeant Eric Anderson
In has been found that Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) introductions and infestations have harmed the economy, environment, and public health throughout the United States. AIS infestations threaten the native fish and wildlife resources, usually through an unchecked population growth due to the lack of natural predators or environmental limiters that were present in the AIS historical range, but are not found in the new ecosystem. The AIS outcompete the native fish and wildlife species and this usually results in an alteration of the ecosystem. Many native species are irreversibly harmed or pushed to the brink of extinction with the introduction of these unwanted invaders. It has been documented that one of the primary methods of AIS introduction and spread is by contaminated watercraft that are transported from water body to water body between the states.
In 2002, the Washington State Legislature began addressing the issue of interstate travel of AIS contaminated watercraft by passing Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 6553. The legislation in ESSB 6553 required the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to develop a cooperative plan for inspecting watercraft entering the state in an effort to interdict AIS. This resulted in the development of a "Cooperative Boat Inspection Plan" which began to provide a framework for the effort of interdicting AIS entering Washington State.
In 2005, the Washington State Legislature unequivocally supported the belief that AIS were a major threat to the economy, environment and public health of the citizens and aquatic resources of Washington State by passing ESSB 5699. The main intention voiced in ESSB 5699 was "to prevent the introduction or spread of highly destructive species currently not found in Washington's waters." The legislation accurately concluded that prevention was and is significantly less expensive and causes far less ecological and economical damage than controlling new infestations. The legislation in ESSB 5699 created a funding source for this purpose by implementing a fee to be added to every Washington State watercraft registration. The funds generated from collection of the fee are appropriated to various agencies and these agencies, in turn, have mandated duties towards the prevention of AIS entering Washington. The legislation in ESSB 5699 mandated that WDFW and WSP would each have duties related to the enforcement of AIS laws. While ESSB 5699 was ground breaking legislation with regards to the prevention of AIS introduction by using enforcement as a tool for interdiction, the bill had deficiencies concerning authority and funding allocation and these deficiencies needed to be addressed. In 2007, with support from WDFW, the Washington State Legislature passed ESSB 5923. The new bill now allowed WDFW to have joint access to funds in the AIS enforcement account which had been previously managed solely by WSP. The legislation also clarified responsibilities with regards to cooperative enforcement efforts. It did this by naming WDFW as the primary agency in regards to enforcement of Washington State AIS laws. ESSB 5923 also corrected a regulatory gap by granting check station authority to WDFW to operate mandatory watercraft inspections in an effort to interdict AIS.
The following report summarizes AIS enforcement activities that the WDFW Enforcement Program executed during 2008 in an effort to fulfill mandated legislative obligations.