It's the law!

The Alberta Government changed legislation to help protect Alberta’s waters from aquatic invasive species.

When highway signage indicates that a watercraft inspection station is open, it is mandatory that everyone transporting a watercraft must report to the onsite inspectors to have their boats, trailers and other water-related equipment checked for invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, and plants. For further information see Invasive species.

Bypassing an open inspection station while transporting a watercraft is a violation of the Fisheries (Alberta) Act and can result in a $310 fine. Additionally, all watercraft must have their drain plugs pulled while being transported on Alberta highways. Failure to pull the plug may result in a $172 fine.

To review the legislation see Bill 13: Fisheries (Alberta) Amendment Act, 2015 and the Ministerial Order 30/2015 as per Section 32 (14) of Fisheries (Alberta) Act.

We appreciate your compliance. We are taking these steps to protect Alberta’s waters from harmful aquatic invasive species that pose great threats to native fisheries, water quality, local economies and industry.

Check out the video below to learn more about mandatory watercraft inspections.

Watercraft inspection stations: What to expect

Environment and Parks (AEP) operates inspection stations across the province during the boating season. The majority of these stations are located along major highways near border crossings at Commercial Vehicle Inspection stations.

Large highway road signage with flashing lights indicate when the station is open.

Everyone transporting a watercraft must stop for an inspection when the station is open.

Initial assessment

The goal of a watercraft inspection is to ensure that the watercraft is free of aquatic invasive species. When arriving at a station, boaters are required by law to answer a few simple questions to help establish the risk factor of their watercraft and any other equipment that has come into contact with water. They will then be welcomed to participate in the inspection process with the watercraft inspector.

  • When you pull up to one of our mandatory Watercraft Inspection Stations you will be greeted by a watercraft inspector.
  • Our inspectors will begin by asking you a series of questions that are designed to help them assess the risk the watercraft may pose in regards to aquatic invasive species.
  • Information is collected using digital tablets and is designed to help us assess risk and understand boater behaviour and movement – where the majority of boats are coming from and where they are going.

Watercraft inspection

An inspection of your watercraft and trailer will be conducted and sometimes these inspections are supported by trained K-9 inspectors. Watercraft inspectors will be looking at all areas of the boat that could harbour invasive mussels, plants or standing water. This includes but is not limited to:

  • anchors
  • bilge areas
  • hull
  • life jackets and paddles
  • live wells
  • motor
  • trailer
  • wet storage compartments

You will be asked to remove ballast bags, demonstrate that internal holds are dry, and to engage bilge/ballast pumps if applicable.

Your assistance with accessing these areas is required under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act and will help to expedite your visit. If you have any questions during your inspection, please do not hesitate to ask your watercraft inspector.

Remember, watercraft inspections are now mandatory in Alberta. All passing watercraft, including non-motorized, commercially-hauled and privately-hauled watercraft, must stop every time, regardless of where you are coming from or going to. It’s the law!

What a dog-supported watercraft inspection looks like

If your watercraft is undergoing a dog-supported inspection, here is how it works:

  1. The dog and its handler normally begin their inspection at the bow (the front of the watercraft), make their way along the side until they reach the stern (the rear of the watercraft), and then continue along the other side.

    The search will include everywhere below the waterline or where water will drain out, such as through hull fittings and bilge drains. Equipment such as anchors, buoys, and lifejackets may also be passed out of the boat for the dog to sniff.

    Dogs wear booties so they don’t scratch the watercraft.

  2. The dog is trained to search for the odour of mussels. Once the odour is detected, the dog will display a change of behaviour the handler is trained to watch for. Once the dog decides he has found the scent, he will display a passive alert by sitting down.

  3. If necessary, the handler will ask the dog to pinpoint exactly where the odour is located on the boat so it can be verified. The dog will pinpoint the exact spot with his nose.

  4. Once verified by the handler, the dog will receive the reward – a special toy to engage in play with the handler. These dogs do not need a paycheque, they just work for the toy!

For more information on dog-supported watercraft inspections, visit: Conservation K-9 Program.

Inspection results

Deemed low risk

If your watercraft has not been in mussel infested areas and is clean of any debris (mud, sand, plants), drained (plugs pulled and bilge empty), and dry (no standing water), you should be on your way relatively quickly with a Proof of Inspection Form, which details the results of your inspection.

  • Keep the form in case you are asked by a Fishery Officer or Fishery Guardian when your watercraft was last inspected.
  • Always remember to Clean, Drain, Dry your boat and gear. Not only does it help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species but it helps to facilitate the inspection process and will save you time at the inspection station.

Suspected contamination

If zebra or quagga mussels are suspected or found on your watercraft:

  • Our watercraft inspectors will inform the owner, explain why it is a concern and the process moving forward.
  • Watercraft inspectors will also contact a Decontamination Technician who will assess the situation further and decide what actions need to be taken to mitigate the risk.
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to quarantine the watercraft.

Decontamination of watercraft

If decontamination is required the next steps can vary depending on the location and situation.

If you have questions about the Fisheries (Alberta) Act legislation changes, watercraft inspections or aquatic invasive species please call: 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).