self inspection

Relatively low cost program for low risk waters or on higher risk waters where organization or physical capacity prevents a more aggressive approach.

We recommend either a voluntary or mandatory self-inspection program.  Mandatory programs work best if the authority to enforce provisions of the program (e.g., authority to require that all watercraft operators complete and post self-certification form) is in place. In the absence of that authority, a voluntary program should be implemented.


This type of program involves the use of an inspection form, which can be made available at either an entry station, kiosk or message board with boldly printed instructions for the watercraft/equipment operator to answer all the questions and inspect all designated areas of watercraft, trailers and equipment. The form is then placed in or on the transport vehicle where it can be easily seen. If the program is mandatory, spot checks by enforcement personnel can be used to reinforce compliance.


This type of program has limited effectiveness because it is unstaffed, and contaminated watercraft can launch  (though it does provide great benefits in terms of public outreach and education). A relatively low cost, a well signed self-inspection program essentially equates to having a full-time person at each location educating boaters and raising their awareness about the consequences of a mussel invasion and the importance of cleaning, draining and drying watercraft between uses. 


Another benefit from this type of program is that it provides a way to overcome political resistance to more “heavy-handed government” approaches by giving the boating public an opportunity to self-regulate and exercise personal responsibility. If the boating public fails to act responsibly, it is much easier to convince others that more formal efforts are required to protect water resources and local economies.


Self-inspection programs can be implemented for under $1,000/year for individual water bodies (including staff time for verifying and/or enforcing compliance). Enforcement actions aimed at ensuring compliance are a necessary tool to inform the public that agencies are serious about compliance. 

screening out high-risk watercraft and equipment

Moderate to high risk waterways where budget or other considerations prevent a more comprehensive program.

We recommend a program that includes a screening interview to identify high risk watercraft and/or equipment followed by a brief inspection to verify interview information. All watercraft that are not clean, drained and dry, or those reporting coming from areas where dreissenid mussels are known to exist within the last 30 days are then excluded from accessing that waterway.


This type of program can often be incorporated into an existing entry station operation that is set-up to collect access fees, confirm reservations or provide use information and regulations. Current entry station staff can be easily trained to conduct screening interviews and verifying inspections, and the number of watercraft excluded would normally be expected to be low on waters where this type of program would be implemented. Because a rigorous inspection is not required and no decontamination or quarantine facilities are used, this is a relatively low cost protection option.


A Level 2 program is designed to exclude all high risk watercraft where the cost of implementing a more comprehensive program is prohibitive. It maintains boating access for low risk watercraft (the majority), but completely excludes others for lack of comprehensive inspection, decontamination and/or quarantine capability. Exclusion can have adverse economic, political and social consequences.


Programs like this typically cost between $2,000 and $5,000 a year to operate per water body if existing screening facilities and staff are available.  However, if those assets do not exist, the cost can be considerably higher.


High risk waters, large waterbodies and wherever possible.

We recommend this type of program for all high risk waters. The program should include screening interviews at the point of entry; a comprehensive watercraft/equipment inspection of all high risk watercraft/equipment performed by trained inspectors; and the decontamination and/or quarantine or exclusion of suspect watercraft. The level of program may include vessel certification.


This type of program may require construction or modification of entry facilities, purchase of a hot water powerwash and wastewater containment system, hiring and training inspectors and decontamination operators, providing a safe and secure quarantine facility, a good working relationship with law enforcement authorities, and the development of a set of policies and rules that allow all of the above actions.


We estimate that about 30 western state, federal, tribal and local agencies and organizations currently operate comprehensive watercraft intervention programs at the state, regional or local level on over 300 high risk waterbodies in the western United States. Programs like this can cost between $50,000 and $1 million dollars per waterbody per season to operate depending on the size of water involved, type of equipment and facilities used, hours of operation, and the number of access points available to boaters. 


Some programs operate border inspection stations. 


Only comprehensive programs offer any opportunity for cross-jurisdictional reciprocity of watercraft decontaminations.

Types of Training Offered


  • Inspector – An individual certified to perform watercraft inspections for AIS.

  • Decontaminator – An individual certified to perform decontaminations for AIS.

    • Must have inspector certification first.

  • Trainer – An individual that is certified to train others to perform watercraft inspections and decontaminations for AIS. 

    • Must be certified in inspection and decontamination first.


Student Training Curriculum for Watercraft Inspectors and Decontaminators to Prevent and Contain the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species in the U.S.A.

Glossary of Terms

Certification—A process whereby watercraft/equipment are determined to present minimal risk based on inspection, decontamination or quarantine/drying time and receive some visible form of certification of that fact (e.g., trailer tag, band, paper/certificate, etc.). It is important to note that is not possible to certify watercraft are “free of mussels”, only that the most currently available and effective protocols and standards have been applied to kill and remove all visible mussels.

Clean—Absent visible ANS, attached vegetation, dirt, debris or surface deposits including mussel shells, byssal threads or residue on the watercraft, trailer, outdrive or equipment that could mask the presence of attached mussels.

DAS—A watercraft/equipment tracking tool developed by Diversified Aquatic Solutions, Inc. that uses applied bar or number codes and computer technology.


Drained—To the extent practical, all water drained from any live well, bait-well, storage compartment, bilge area, engine compartment, floor, ballast tank, water storage and delivery system, cooler or other watered area of the watercraft, trailer, engine or equipment.


Dry—No visible sign of water on or in the watercraft, trailer, engine or equipment. Out of the water long enough to be totally dry.


Decontamination—The process of killing and removing all visible attached mussels, and to the extent practical, killing all veligers and concealed mussels from every area of watercraft, trailer and equipment.


Exclusion—Not allowing watercraft or equipment to be launched. In extreme cases, exclusion can be applied to all watercraft, but in most cases, is applied to only watercraft and equipment that are considered to be high risk, when other options are not available.


High Risk Waterbody—The determination of “high risk waterbody” is the prerogative of the responsible management entity. Some of the factors used to determine risk potential include:


  • Whether water quality parameters will support the survival, growth and reproduction of Dreissenid mussels.

  • The amount and type of boater use.

  • Proximity to Dreissenid positive or suspect waters

  • Whether the water in question is a headwater, water or power supply system or supports listed species

High Risk Watercraft/Equipment—Any vessel or piece of equipment that has operated on or in any waterbody known or suspected of having zebra or quagga mussels in the past 30 days or any watercraft or equipment that is not clean, and to the extent practical, drained and dry.

Screening Interview—Asking the vessel operator a series of questions prior to launching or entry that are designed to determine the level of risk based on the recent history of use. This should be an element of every intervention program.

Quarantine/Drying Time—The amount of time out of the water required to assure that all mussels and veligers are killed through desiccation. This time requirement varies widely depending on temperature and humidly conditions.


QID—A computer based proprietary tool developed by Quagga Inspection Services, LLC that allows for real time tracking of watercraft and equipment using vessel ID numbers and smart phone or computer technology.


Self-Inspection (Voluntary/Mandatory) —A self-inspection program can be implemented alone or as an “off-hours” adjunct to a more direct and comprehensive inspection program. This type of program involves requiring (mandatory) or requesting (voluntary) the cooperation of individual watercraft operators to complete an inspection of their vessel prior to launching by following a set of instructions and completing a checklist provided at an entry station or kiosk.


Reciprocity—The acceptance of watercraft/equipment inspection and/or decontamination by several or all jurisdictions when similar protocols and standards are employed by similarly trained and motivated professionals.

Watercraft/Equipment Inspection—Where all or selected watercraft are subjected to a thorough visual and tactile inspection of all exterior and interior surfaces, areas of standing/trapped water, trailer and equipment to determine the presence or likelihood of mussel contamination.


Watercraft Interception Program (WIP) —Any program which seeks to prevent the spread of dreissenid mussels and other Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) on trailered watercraft or equipment by requiring that they be cleaned, and to the extent practical, drained and dried prior to launching.