Washington's State Boating Laws

Aquatic Invasive Species in Washington

Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) pose a risk to Washington’s native aquatic wildlife, ecosystems and to all of Washington’s water-based recreation. Common ANS in Washington state include: Zebra Mussels, Asian Clams, Sea Squirts, New Zealand Mud Snails, Aquatic Weeds, Chinese Mitten Crabs and a variety of Aquatic Weed types.

Unfortunately, Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) like these, spread easily from one body of water to the next, which is why Washington state has the following laws in place:

  • It is illegal in Washington to transport ANS on boats (of all sizes and types), on boat trailers, on fishing equipment (i.e. bait wells, and buckets, etc.).
  • When trailering a boat into Washington state from another state, you are required to have documentation proving that your boat is free of ANS.
  • Be aware the state authorities in Washington are permitted to arrest  and detain and boater they suspect to be transporting a boat or any boating equipment that they suspect to be contaminated with ANS.
  • More information about Washington’s ANS (those prohibited in the state) can be found here: wdfw.wa.gov/ais/species.html

Washington’s Muffler and Noise Level Laws

All boats equipped with an engine must also be equipped with a muffler system to prevent excessive engine noise.

  • The muffler must be in good working order, be well-maintained and must always be in operation.
  • An effective muffler does not produce sound levels in excess of 90 decibels (when subjected to a stationary sound level test).
  • For engines manufactured on or after January 1st, 1994, the maximum noise level is 88 decibels (when subjected to a stationary sound level test).
  • For engines manufactured prior to January 1st, 1994, the maximum noise level is 90 decibels (when subjected to a stationary sound level test).
  • When the sound level is being measured from the shoreline, the maximum noise level is 75 decibels.

It is illegal to modify or remove your boat’s muffler system, if doing so will increase the engine’s sound level. Additionally, the use of a muffler cutout or muffler bypass system is illegal, unless the boat is engaged in racing events and is in an area that has been designated for that purpose.

Washington’s Waste Disposal Laws

Prevent Pollution

Spilling oil or a hazardous substance into state waters is illegal. Polluters can be fined up to $10,000 per violation or $100,000 for each day the oil poses a risk to the environment, or even more if the spill was intentional. Visit the Washington Department of Ecology to learn more.

If your boat has discharged oil or a hazardous substance into Washington’s waters, you are required to contact both of the following agencies:

  • The National Response Center.
  • The Washington State Department of Emergency Management.

No Discharge Zones

Currently, Washington does not have ‘No Discharge Zones’ (NDZs). However, The Washington State Department of Ecology has drafted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency to establish Puget Sound as a NDZ area. If a NDZ area is established for Puget Sound in the near future, boaters will be required to retain sewage waste on their boat until it can be disposed of in a proper location or onshore facility.