Boating in Washington FAQs

Preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in Washington is challenging and unpredictable. 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. 

The following are frequently asked questions about aquatic invasive species and boating in Washington. 

Who needs to buy an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) permit?

  • Washington residents automatically pay an annual AIS management fee into the Department's AIS program when registering their boats. A valid registration sticker serves as proof of payment.  
  • WDFW requires operators of non-resident boats, seaplanes, and commercial transporters of vessels to purchase an AIS prevention permit.

When should boats transported overland into and within Washington state be inspected for aquatic invasive species?

  • Boaters bringing watercraft from outside Washington are urged to call the department's AIS hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) before entering the state to determine whether a free boat inspection is needed.
  • AIS inspections are required during the boating season at mandatory check stations if you transport your boat past one when they are open. These can be along roads or at boat launches.
  • Boat owners must take steps to prevent the spread of AIS by cleaning, draining and drying their boats after every use.
  • Local jurisdictions may have their own watercraft AIS fee and inspection programs. More information on the Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish programs is available online.

When should boats voyaging over water into and within Washington state be inspected for aquatic invasive species?

  • Boaters entering Washington waters from outside the state should take steps to prevent the spread of AIS by adopting a "clean before you go" practice if your watercraft has barnacles, mussels, tube worms, or anything more than a slime layer and light sea grass attached.
  • Heavily fouled boats may face fines for possession or release of AIS (biofouling communities include attached species that can release larvae and mobile species that can "jump ship" and invade our waters).
  • There are no mandatory inspections, but WDFW Enforcement officers may conduct AIS inspections as part of routine on-the-water activities.
  • For more information on in-water boat cleaning requirements, please see the Washington Department of Ecology's hull cleaning advisory flyer.
  • Please call the department's AIS hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) if you have questions.