In 2015, the Whatcom Boat Inspection Program conducted over 8,900 boat inspections at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species to Whatcom County waters.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are non-native plants, animals, and pathogens that live primarily in water, thrive in a new environment, and cause economic loss, environmental damage, and harm to human health.
While the majority of boats inspected had been properly cleaned, drained, and dried, AIS inspectors intercepted 187 boats transporting vegetation and 218 boats that were wet or were found to have standing water. These boats were of particular concern because standing water can host and spread the microscopic larvae of damaging aquatic invasive species, such as zebra or quagga mussels.
If introduced, these invasive mussels could cause serious impacts attaching to and damaging public and private infrastructure, making shoreline areas hazardous or uninviting for recreational users and property owners, causing long-term taste and odor problems in our drinking water, and displacing and outcompeting native aquatic species.
The inspected watercraft came from a total of 360 different waterbodies in 19 different states or provinces prior to launching at Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish in 2015, including two waterbodies infested with invasive mussels. As watercraft continue to arrive from high-risk waters, the Whatcom Boat Inspection Program remains an important defense in the protection of our local waters. The 2015 inspection results can now be viewed using an interactive online Story Map that shows where boaters are traveling from.
Last year the Lake Whatcom Management Program launched the Whatcom Boat Inspections website and online AIS Awareness Course to educate boaters and community members about the importance of stopping the spread of AIS to Whatcom County waters. Over 2,800 people have taken the AIS Awareness course since it launched in April 2014. Successful completion of the course entitles participants to a $10 discount that can be applied to each annual boating permit purchased.
The Lake Whatcom Management Program has been operating a mandatory watercraft program since April 2013. Inspections and AIS permits are required for all watercraft operating on Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish. Over 20,000 inspections of both motorized and non-motorized watercraft have been conducted so far by the Whatcom Boat Inspection Program. In addition to quagga and zebra mussels, inspectors are looking for invasive aquatic plants and New Zealand mudsnails.
More detailed results from the 2015 boating season can be found in the Whatcom Boat Inspections 2015 Annual Report and by viewing our interactive Story Map. For more information visit: www.whatcomboatinspections.com.