|OLYMPIA – Washington State got a close call this week when a commercial truck hauling a 57-foot boat contaminated with zebra mussels was stopped. If the boat had entered Washington waters, it could have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage should those zebra mussels became established here.|| |
“We had a close call this week,” said Chris Christopher, chair of the Washington Invasive Species Council. “Thanks to the skill of our state enforcement officers and the quick response by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to decontaminate the boat, we still can say Washington waters are free of zebra mussel, and we can avoid spending millions of dollars to remove them.”
In the western states, zebra and quagga mussels are present in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. Great Lakes utilities spend up to $500 million a year on zebra mussel control, retrofitting, and cleaning of intake pipes and other equipment.
The boat was stopped at the Cle Elum Port of Entry and was inspected by a Washington State Patrol commercial vehicle enforcement officer and a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officer. The boat was sent to SeaView Marina in Bellingham, where it is being decontaminated. The boat owner, boat hauler, and marina manager worked cooperatively to ensure this boat didn’t contaminate any Washington waterway.
Department of Fish and Wildlife and State Patrol officers at port of entries have been checking boats being hauled into the state since 2006. They have found quagga and zebra mussels on more than 20 boats as they were entering Washington.
Importation of aquatic invasive species is 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.
To avoid introducing aquatic invasive species, recreational boaters and anglers should carefully inspect and clean their boats, trailers and equipment before moving their boats from one body of water to another. Boaters should clean off any mud, vegetation and debris, drain any water from where they last boated and then thoroughly wash and dry their boats and trailers when they get home. Besides cleaning boats and trailers, boaters should also be aware that diseases and juvenile stages of some species can be inadvertently transported in bait buckets, live-fish well water and ballast tanks.
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 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.