New for 2018 – Washington State Aquatic Invasive Species Permit for Out-of-State Boaters

Operators of most out-of-state watercraft and floatplanes, as well as commercial transporters of watercraft, are now required to purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention Permit from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW). The $24 permit ($20 permit + $4 fee) can be purchased online or at any WDFW license sales location throughout the state. Watercraft registered in the State of Washington automatically pay an annual fee as part of their registration and therefore do not need to separately purchase a permit; a valid Washington State registration sticker is proof of payment.

Who Needs the AIS Prevention Permit?

Operators of recreational vessels not registered in Washington, seaplane operators, and commercial transporters of watercraft are required to purchase an AIS Prevention Permit. Operators should carry the permit on the vessel at all times. Permits can be obtained online or at any Fish and Wildlife license dealer. Online purchased permits are mailed, and you can print a temporary permit which is good for 10 days. Permits are valid for one year from date of activation.

The following are exempt from the required permit:

  • Vessels registered in Washington (recreational vessels with a valid WA State registration);
  • Small watercraft (from Washington or out-of-state) that do not require state or country registration such as canoes and kayaks;
  • Watercraft registered as “tenders” to larger boats;
  • Vessels registered in Idaho or Oregon, when being used in shared state waters (private recreational unless otherwise registered);
  • S. and foreign commercial vessels (with valid commercial marine documentation as a vessel of the U.S. or a foreign country);
  • Private and commercial vessels being transported overland by a commercial transporter (a permit is required by the commercial transporter only);
  • Military vessels owned by the U.S. government; and
  • Vessels owned by any federal, tribal, state, or local government agency or other public entities, and used primarily for governmental purposes.


What’s the Purpose of the Permits?

AIS Prevention Permits were authorized by the Washington State Legislature in 2017. Fees from the sale of non-resident permits and fees from Washington State resident vessel registrations help support the department’s efforts to keep Washington’s waters free of aquatic invasive species and manage infestations where prevention fails.

Invasive species such as zebra mussels and quagga mussels, European green crab and New Zealand mud snails (to name a few) are often spread by boats and trailers. Both marine salt-water and freshwater can harbor invasive species. WDFW’s task of controlling invasive species in Washington waters is costly, and the AIS Prevention Permit fees help fund the department’s efforts to keep Washington’s waters free of these damaging infestations.

The Next Step?

WDFW is currently tasked with implementing this new permit, which has prompted a number of questions for boaters. Questions and concerns are coming from BC boaters with non-trailered cruising vessels that plan to cruise in Washington waters. We at Waggoner Guide have been in contact with WDFW and its Prevention Permit Administrator, Allen Pleus, about this new permit. We are currently awaiting more definitive answers to questions about the permits. However, from our telephone conversations with Allen and other department support staff, we understand the following:

  • AIS Prevention Permits are for fundraising and do not automatically trigger vessel inspections.
  • Inspections of watercraft for aquatic invasive species are currently land-based, focused on boats and boat trailers.
  • There currently are no on-water check/inspection stations for invasive species.
  • Most out-of-state boats need to carry a permit, but it is not clear who will be checking for this permit. WDFW suggests that enforcement will be done by various agencies. WDFW enforcement officers are specifically named as enforcement agents in the RCW law. Based upon Waggoner Guide inquiries with US Customs and Border Patrol, CBP indicates that they will not be acting as an enforcement agent.
  • At this time it is unclear if one or two permits are required for vessels with a separate dinghy. If the dinghy is registered as “Tender To” or “T/T” then it is exempt from Prevention Permit requirements. However, if the dinghy is registered with an out-of-Washington state or province and has its own registration numbers/decal/sticker, it might require a separate permit.

Where to get more information

Aquatic Invasive Species is an important topic for all Northwest boaters. British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho remain relatively free of invasive species. WDFW’s efforts, along with those of similar agencies in neighboring states and provinces are imperative to keeping the region’s waters free of invasive species. Increasing numbers and types of watercraft routinely on the move, make the containment job more difficult.

WDFW’s website has a host of valuable information on this topic. Please click through to learn more about their work and invasive species. Learn about some possible ways that both trailer-able and non-trailer-able vessels may unwittingly harbor and carry invasive species.

The Waggoner Guide team will be tracking this issue and should have further information from WDFW in a future edition of Waggoner eNews.

~ Leonard & Lorena Landon, Managing Editors, Waggoner Cruising Guide