The Memorial Day holiday weekend is all but a memory, but with plenty summer left to enjoy Wyoming’s boating opportunities, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reminding watercraft users to be aware of the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) laws and regulations. Although the number of citations were down slightly from the this time last year, a surprising amount of boaters, resident and nonresident, still do not understand the AIS program and the Game and Fish wants to help them.
This is the seventh year the Game and Fish watercraft inspection program and AIS decal have been in effect and, despite multiple educational and media outreach efforts, Green River Region game wardens and AIS technicians routinely encounter people who do not understand the AIS Decal requirements, the watercraft inspection requirements or the requirement to stop at AIS check stations.
“Watercraft enforcement, including enforcement of the AIS Program rules and regulations, are the responsibilities of being a game warden,” said Green River Game Warden Rob Shipe. “There continues to be people who intentionally do not stop at the AIS watercraft inspection stations. We will continue to provide a tremendous amount of education on the AIS program and we realize that AIS education is an ongoing process. We also realize there is some inconvenience for the boating public, but we do our best to make the inspections and check station encounters efficient and brief. However, it is the boaters’ responsibility to seek out an inspection when required to do so. The over-reaching goal is to minimize the chance of AIS getting into Wyoming waters.”
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Green River Region Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist Wes Gordon said the most confusion they see is with the watercraft inspection and AIS Decal requirements and offers the following information:
· Along with registration of watercraft, watercraft used on Wyoming waters must have an AIS Decal. A Wyoming AIS decal must be displayed on all watercraft using Wyoming waters with the exception of nonmotorized inflatable watercraft 10-feet in length or less. While these watercraft are not required to have a decal, they still require an inspection when coming from out of state.
· Boat Inspections: All boaters must stop at established check stations each time a boater passes a check station. Check stations are established at ports of entry, border locations, or at boat ramps and are set-up to ensure watercraft are Drain, Clean and Dry before launching. Inspections are also available at WGFD Regional Offices during normal business hours.
· Any watercraft transported into Wyoming from March 1 through November 30 must undergo a mandatory inspection by an authorized inspector prior to launching on any Wyoming waterway. If the watercraft was last used on a water suspect or positive for invasive mussels, it must be inspected prior to launching year round.
· If any person transporting a watercraft into the state does not encounter an open AIS check station in their route of travel, it is the boater’s responsibility to seek out a mandatory inspection before launching on any Wyoming waterway. Inspection locations may be found at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/fishing1001292.aspx
· A watercraft may launch without further inspection if the watercraft has a properly affixed seal applied by an authorized inspector and is accompanied by a valid seal receipt during transit. The person transporting the watercraft may remove the seal immediately prior to launching on the destination water and must retain the seal and valid seal receipt while on the water.
· Even if a watercraft has been previously inspected and has a valid seal and seal receipt, boaters are still required to stop at any open AIS check station. Having the properly affixed seal and valid seal receipt will expedite the inspection process.
· Any watercraft that has been in a water infested with zebra/quagga mussels within the last 30 days, is required to undergo a mandatory inspection by an authorized inspector prior to launching during ALL months of the year.
“I know some of our watercraft users get annoyed with our boat inspections and decontamination process, but please be patient and understand we take these steps in an effort to lower the probability of Flaming Gorge and other waters getting infested with mussels,” Gordon said. “Honestly, you, the watercraft users, are the first line of defense against an invasion. Even if we had every Game and Fish employee out inspecting boats all day, every day, we still cannot inspect every watercraft. Simply drain, clean, and dry your watercraft and equipment after every use and have your boat inspected when required to do so. We really do appreciate your time and vigilance.”
Zebra and quagga mussels ruin fisheries, clog boat motor cooling systems, foul watercraft hulls and equipment and clog water delivery systems used for power plants, irrigation and domestic water use, increasing maintenance costs; costs that are all passed on to the user. Even worse, these exotic filter-feeding mussels remove plankton, a.k.a. fish food, from the water resulting in serious declines in forage fish populations. These mussels cannot be eradicated from large reservoirs like Flaming Gorge, but Gordon said people can help by doing their best to prevent their spread into Wyoming.
For the most recent and up to date information Wyoming AIS go to the Game and Fish website wgfd.wyo.gov/AIS. The 2016 AIS decal is also available online, at all Game and Fish regional offices, and at automated license agents. A complete list of automated license agents may be found at the department’s website, under the Aquatic Invasive Species tab. There is also a combination watercraft registration and AIS Decal that may be purchased for one or three years. Watercraft users may also call the Green River Game and Fish Office for more information at 307-875-3223.