As state agencies work to keep invasive species at bay, they are calling on boaters to help prevent moving unwanted critters from one body of fresh water to another.
“The best way to keep our lakes and rivers clean and free from invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment,” Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the state Invasive Species Council, said in a news release.
The council and state Department of Fish & Wildlife are asking that boaters take the potential spread of invasive species seriously.
“We only have one chance to keep Washington free of these invaders, which wreak havoc on our environment, stop recreation and destroy water-based industries. Once here, invasive species are really hard and expensive to remove,” Bush said.
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Invasive species are animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens not native to an area that can damage native wildlife.
Invasive species in the water can settle in the bilge of a boat or cling to its hull, motor or trailer. They can also catch a ride on fishing gear and boots.
Transporting or spreading invasive species is illegal and can result in up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, according to the release.
To prevent the spread of invasive species, the state recommends boaters:
▪ Clean: Remove plants, algae and mud from anything that touched the water.
▪ Drain: The boat completely before moving it.
▪ Dry: Allow the boat and gear to completely dry out before using it in another body of water.
If traveling between states, Fish & Wildlife offers low-cost inspection and decontamination services when appropriate, according to the release. Travelers should call the invasive species hotline at 1-888-933-9247.
The state’s primary concern is preventing the introduction of quagga and zebra mussels, which thrive in freshwater upstream of dams where they clog pipes and filters and compete with native species for food, according to the Invasive Species Council.
While not found in Washington, quagga and zebra mussels that are established in other areas could cost the U.S. an estimated $8 billion over a six-year period, according to the release.