New rules in place to stop spread of prolific aquatic invasive species

Boaters in Montana have a couple of new rules to abide by this summer geared toward fighting the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Boaters are now required to remove all vegetation from their vessels upon removing it from any surface water and before leaving the boat launch site. Additionally, drain plugs and any valve or device to prevent water from draining out of bilges or livewells must be removed before leaving the boat launch site. If the vessel doesn’t have a plug, reasonable measures must be made to dry or drain all compartments or spaces that hold water.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is a leader in the fight across Montana against the spread of AIS. One of the primary concerns for the agency is the introduction of quagga and zebra mussels into the state. Both mussels can exist in microscopic stage in standing water. So even if you can’t see mussels, you could still transfer them into Montana waters by transporting infected water from other states.

Additionally, Montana has experienced some outbreaks of AIS plants, like Eurasian milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed. These outbreaks are limited at this point and following these new rules will help keep it that way.

“Our fight against AIS involves a variety of strategies including education, outreach, inspection stations, rules and laws,” said Tom Boos, AIS coordinator for FWP. “Educating our public about these new rules and enforcing their use is critical in keeping Montana’s waters clean.”

Everyone should do their part whenever they’re out on the water. That includes following the tenets of clean, drain and dry: Clean off your watercraft and equipment when leaving the water; drain all water from you watercraft and gear; and dry everything completely.

Additionally, this year law enforcement officials around the state are enforcing the law requiring that people with watercraft stop at all open AIS inspection stations.

The new rules are endorsed by leading fishing and conservation groups in Montana, who are important partners with FWP in the fight against the spread of AIS.

“These inspection stations and boat launch rule changes are a good start. Given the potential magnitude of AIS damage to our world-class fisheries and our state economy, this level of effort is a step in the right direction,” said David Brooks, associate director of conservation for Montana Trout Unlimited. 

“Montana TU and our 4,000-plus members statewide especially encourage enforcement of tougher penalties for intentional illegal introductions of invasive species.”

Walleyes Unlimited of Montana executive director Bob Gilbert was similarly supportive.

“Walleyes Unlimited of Montana members support these efforts to keep our waters free of any aquatic invasive species,” Gilbert said. “We will work with any boating or fishing group, and FWP to make these efforts successful.”

If a watercraft passes through an inspection station with standing water and the boat is known to have been in AIS infected water in the past 30 days, the watercraft will be subject to decontamination by AIS staff. This decontamination could include hot water washing and flushing, and drying time, including interior portions of engine systems and pumps. If needed for decontamination a vessel may be locked to a trailer to prevent launching until adequate time for drying has passed.

“Protecting Montana’s waters is everyone’s responsibility,” Boos said. “The risk from AIS is too great to our fisheries and water supplies to take these rules lightly.”

For more information on AIS rules, inspection stations and these new rules, contact Boos at 444-1267.

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