Inspectors Block 28 Mussel-fouled Boats

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and its partners have inspected 33,000 watercraft this year, and reminded boaters to follow aquatic invasive species protocol during Fourth of July festivities

By Beacon Staff
A sign posted near the Somers boat ramp warns boaters about the dangers of zebra mussels. Beacon File Photo

As boaters and other water recreationists gear up for the Fourth of July holiday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is urging the boating public to follow the rules to prevent aquatic invasive species (AIS) from spreading to Montana’s waters.

So far this year, FWP and its partners have inspected 33,000 watercraft, according to an agency press release. Of those, 28 were mussel-fouled and 140 were found with aquatic weeds. The most recent detection was on June 27, when mussels were found on a recently purchased pontoon boat traveling from Illinois to Ronan. Inspectors washed the boat, locked it to the trailer, and AIS staff will follow up with the boat owner to conduct a thorough decontamination

FWP and partner agencies, which include tribes, counties and conservation districts, operate more than 17 roadside watercraft inspection stations across the state in an effort to enforce boat-inspection rules that have gained urgency in recent years as the spread of invasive species.

Six years ago, one of the most devastating invasive species in the world arrived at the gateway to the Flathead Basin, posing ecological and economic consequences that could imperil the pristine watershed in perpetuity. In November 2016, the discovery of destructive mussel larvae in Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs east of the Continental Divide signaled the first time the aquatic invasive species had been detected in Montana waters, pulling a hypothetical scenario into dire focus.

An infestation of zebra or quagga mussels could spell the beginning of the end for Montana’s most pristine watersheds, experts say, holding the potential to topple underwater food webs that prop up the Treasure State’s prized aquatic species while wreaking havoc on its infrastructure and recreation economy.

FWP rules include:

  • All boats must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $500. 
  • Always be sure to clean, drain and dry your boat.
  • All watercraft entering Montana are required to be inspected for aquatic invasive species. An inspection is required before launching on Montana waters.
  • Non-residents transporting watercraft into Montana must purchase a Vessel AIS Prevention Pass before launching. The fee is $30 for motorized and $10 for nonmotorized watercraft. The pass is valid until Dec. 31.
  • Inspection is required for Montana residents before launch if the boat is entering the state, crossing west over the Continental Divide or entering the Flathead basin. 

To find a watercraft inspection station or to learn more, go to CleanDrainDryMT.com or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at (406) 444-2440.

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