Recreational boating AIS prevention programs

Photo: Whitewood Lake in Michigan ©Doug Lemke

GOAL: Prevent the introduction of new aquatic invasive species / METRIC: Recreational boating AIS prevention programs

What we track

Blue Accounting is reporting on regional consistency in the regulatory policies and prevention programs used to ensure boaters take specific actions to reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.

Recreational boating prevention programs

Progress towards effective regional management of the recreational activities pathway includes both the implementation of education and outreach programs encouraging voluntary behavior change, and the adoption of comprehensive and regionally harmonized watercraft inspection and decontamination programs and policies. There are several different components to prevention programs, including:

A worker for a watercraft inspection and decontamination program cleans the back of a trailered boat

  • Agency Capacity (does the relevant management agency have sufficient capacity, including funding, personnel, and authority, to implement and manage recreational boating AIS prevention programs);
  • Partnerships (does the relevant management agency efficiently coordinate with external partners to implement and manage recreational boating AIS prevention programs);
  • Outreach (does the relevant management agency implement outreach campaigns designed to educate boaters and encourage responsible behaviors);
  • Reporting and Evaluation (does the relevant management agency regularly report on and evaluate their recreational boating AIS prevention program); and
  • Inspection and Decontamination (does the relevant management agency implement broadscale watercraft inspection and decontamination programs).

Both programmatic and regulatory components are included in each of the categories above.

Why it matters

In the Great Lakes region, the recreational boating industry exceeds 4.3 million registered boats, presenting a significant challenge for managing this pathway. It is important to educate boaters and other recreational users on the damage that aquatic invasive species can cause and the actions that boaters can take to ensure their activities do not contribute to further spread of AIS. Outreach efforts focus on implementing national messaging campaigns, including boat ramp signage, public service announcements, and dissemination of campaign-branded materials.

In addition to outreach and voluntary efforts, some agencies adopt regulatory-based inspection and decontamination policies for recreational watercraft. These regulatory programs may vary in the specific activities that are regulated (e.g., possession and transport of plants and animals; draining of water from bilges and live wells), agency authorities (e.g., mandatory inspection), and associated penalties. The National Sea Grant Law Center and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies have developed guidance on model legislative provisions and model regulation for watercraft inspection and decontamination to aid jurisdictions in developing and passing consistent boating policies.

AIS Work Group

Prevention: Recreational Boating Programs

Both programmatic and regulatory components are included in the dashboard below. Programmatic components were developed through expert elicitation with relevant management agencies for each jurisdiction. Regulatory components are based on the National Sea Grant Law Center and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Model Regulation for State Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination Programs. To use the dashboard:
  • The map automatically includes all of the different prevention program categories. To learn more about a specific category, select the Layers button on the map to toggle between different categories.
  • Click on a jurisdiction to see how many prevention program components are in place
  • Use the Select a Jurisdiction dropdown menu to focus on a specific jurisdiction
  • Use the map to zoom into a jurisdiction to see recreational boating launch points.
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AIS Work Group

Reporting and Evaluation

Updated: January 26, 2022


Updated: January 26, 2022


Updated: January 26, 2022

Inspection and Decontamination

Updated: January 26, 2022

Agency Capacity

Updated: January 26, 2022

Click on one of the above cards to learn more about how each jurisdiction is implementing the prevention components in that category and/or what roadblocks currently exist that prevent implementation. Sustainability of program components varies by jurisdiction and is directly impacted by capacity and investment.

AIS Work Group