Invasive species awareness and education activities, coupled with voluntary and/or regulatory inspection and decontamination programs are common prevention strategies used to help ensure that boats, trailers and other recreational equipment are free from invasive species and do not move live plants and animals between bodies of water. These strategies are critically important for stemming the spread of AIS from infested to uninfested waters.
In the Great Lakes region, the recreational boating industry includes 4.3 million registered boats, presenting a particularly significant challenge for managing this pathway. An important first step is educating boaters and other recreational users on the damage the AIS can cause, and the actions they can take to ensure their activities to do not contribute to further spread of invasive plants and animals. Such outreach efforts focus on implementing national messaging campaigns including "Clean, Drain, Dry" and "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers" via a variety of methods including boat ramp signage, PSAs, 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 recreational activities and 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, live wells); specific agency authorities (e.g., mandatory inspection); and associated penalties. The National Sea Grant Law Center (NSGLC) and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies developed guidance on model legislative provisions and model regulation for watercraft inspection and decontamination.