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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

May 24, 2009 at 10:08 AM

Boaters may face mandatory stops to check for invasive species

There is nothing worse than to have a hitchhiking invading aquatic species hook a ride under your boat.

Starting this Memorial Day weekend, boaters heading to Washington waterways may encounter new mandatory stops by state Fish and Wildlife enforcement.

These emphasis patrols will take place throughout the summer, and coincides with the recent seizure of a boat in Spokane contaminated with quagga mussels from Nevada’s Lake Mead.

The 24-foot boat has been decontaminated to avoid the spread of the tiny nonnative mollusks, which are prohibited in Washington to protect native fish and wildlife and water systems.

“These invasive mussels, first found in Lake Mead in 2007, have already spread to other waterways in several western states, and continue to move closer to Washington every year,” Allen Pleus, a state Fish and Wildlife aquatic invasive species coordinator said in a news release. “That’s a big concern, because if they get into our waters, they will likely spread rapidly and cause much damage.”

Milfoil and zebra mussels are two other invasive things we don’t need in our waters.

In order to prevent them from spreading boaters are asked to remove all plants and animals from their watercraft, trailer and gear before launching and leaving the boat ramps.

Boaters should also drain all water from the fish/live wells, holds and bilges.

Those caught could face a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and up to a year in jail. Knowingly bringing such species into Washington is a felony and can result in even greater fines and jail time.

Once established, nonnative mussels and other aquatic invasive species can multiply quickly and threaten native fish and wildlife by consuming available food and smothering other species.

They spread by attaching to boats or other water-based equipment, and clog water-intake systems at power plants, irrigation districts, public water suppliers, and other facilities.

Zebra and quagga mussels are native to the Caspian Sea. They entered the Great Lakes in the mid 1980s in ship ballast water, and have since spread to more than 20 states, including California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah, and two Canadian provinces.

Both zebra and quagga mussels are easily transported on boats and trailers because they can live out of water for up to a month.

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