Policies and best management practices to clean boats, along with related gear and equipment, are used to reduce the risk that boats move AIS between bodies of water.

  • Inspection and decontamination programs provide information and tools for boaters to clean their boats and gear to remove unwanted organisms.  
  • Regulatory policies may be used to ensure boaters take specific actions to reduce invasive species risk.
  • Outreach to boaters and recreational users promotes voluntary risk reduction activities that strengthen overall prevention efforts.

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 to do not contribute to further spread of AIS. Such outreach efforts focus on implementing national messaging campaigns, including boat ramp signage, public service announcements, and dissemination of campaign-branded materials. There are also federally adopted Voluntary Guidelines for Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species Associated with Recreational Activities covering equipment for six recreational activities: anglers, motor boaters, non-motorized boaters, scuba divers and snorkelers, seaplane pilots, and waterfowl hunters.

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.