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Clean, Drain, Dry and Decontaminate

Learn how to clean, drain, dry and decontaminate watercraft and equipment to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

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Aquatic invasive species pose a big threat to biodiversity in Canada’s waters. These species also threaten our economy and society.

Human activities on the water can unintentionally introduce or spread aquatic invasive species to new locations. Species can hitchhike on watercraft, trailers and equipment.

Under the federal Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations, it is illegal to introduce an aquatic species into a body of water where it is not native, unless authorized under federal, provincial or territorial law. It is also illegal to possess, transport and release certain species listed in these regulations, such as Zebra and Quagga Mussels.

To prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species, and comply with the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations and other applicable legislation and regulations, Canadians should clean, drain and dry watercraft, trailers and equipment. In some cases, decontamination may also be needed.

Transport Canada’s Ballast Water Regulations apply to Canadian vessels everywhere and vessels in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. They also apply to vessels designed or constructed to carry ballast. Transport Canada’s Voluntary Guidance for Relevant Authorities on In-Water Cleaning of Vessels outlines best practices to control and manage biofouling for vessels more than 24 metres long. For pleasure craft, Transport Canada raises awareness among boat owners by including knowledge about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species in the National Pleasure Craft Operator Competency Boating Safety Course and Test Syllabus.

What is Clean, Drain, Dry and Decontaminate

Clean, drain, dry and decontaminate is an awareness campaign that encourages Canadians to take action to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The steps are simple and easy to follow, but must be done in order to be fully effective. Canadians are encouraged to follow these steps before moving watercraft, trailers and equipment between waterbodies. As a guideline, steps generally include:

1. Clean

This step consists of inspecting and cleaning watercraft, trailers and equipment.

All visible plants, animals, mud and other organic debris should be removed and disposed of on land.

The watercraft, trailer or equipment should be washed, scrubbed and/or rinsed. All small items (such as angling equipment, buckets and anchors) that could have come into contact with the water should be cleaned by hand washing.

All cleaning should be completed on dry land, away from:

  • storm drains
  • ditches
  • waterways

Local car washes should be avoided if aquatic invasive species are present. They could make their way into the environment through municipal drainage systems.

Man cleaning a boat.

2. Drain

This step involves draining all water from watercraft, trailers and equipment.

Drain all spaces or items that can hold water such as:

  • internal compartments or water holds for stability, bilges or livewells
  • equipment such as coolers, bait buckets and ropes

Water should be drained from the engines and the watercraft should be tilted when stored to allow the bilge to drain.

In some provinces, it is illegal to transport watercrafts between waterbodies with the drain plug in place. Refer to your province or territory for additional details.

A boat being drained.

3. Dry

This step consists of completely drying all parts of the watercraft and equipment and ensuring there is no water.

  • by air for a minimum of 5 days (times might change depending on your province so please always check your local legislation before completing this step)
  • using towels, wet/dry vacuums or pressurized air

Every part of the watercraft and equipment must be dry to the touch before entering a new waterbody.

Man drying a boat with a towel.
An image of a boat with the text “Clean Drain Dry” at the top. To indicate what parts of the boat should be cleaned, drained and dried, various labels are included: water-related gear, propeller, anchor, bait bucket, dock lines, live wells, bilge, motor, transom, drain plug, propellor, axle, bunks, rollers, hull and trailer.

Boat and water-related equipment that should be cleaned, drained and dried.

4. Decontamination

While clean, drain and dry is meant to effectively remove AIS from your boat and equipment, decontamination is done to kill any potentially remaining AIS.

Decontamination is the last step in the process and it can only be done after all clean, drain, dry steps are completed. Decontaminating before cleaning, draining or drying is like spraying bleach on a pile of dirty dishes. No matter how much bleach you use, the dishes will still be dirty if you don’t wash them first!

Decontamination of boats and equipment may involve chemicals, high temperature water and specialized equipment that is not available to the average person. However, you can still decontaminate at home by air-drying your boat and equipment for at least 30 days.

DFO employee decontaminating boat using hot water.

At the border

Import prohibitions and requirements for commercial importers of aquatic species and for travellers under the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations are specified in the Canada Border Services Agency’s Memorandum D19-8-5. Travellers towing or transporting boats, trailers and water-related equipment at any border crossing must ensure that they are free of aquatic invasive species (including Zebra and Quagga mussels), cleaned of aquatic plants, animals, mud and debris; drained of water; and dry before entering Canada.

At the border, fishery officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and/or the provinces will be notified to inspect and/or decontaminate any boats, trailers or equipment as required. The Canada Border Services Agency may work with enforcement officers to ensure travellers take their equipment to watercraft inspection stations.

Watercraft inspection stations for aquatic invasive species removal, including Zebra and Quagga mussels, must be under the authority of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada Agency and/or provincial or territorial government organizations.

If decontamination is not possible, travellers’ equipment may be either:

National Parks

In several western national parks, an Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit is required to access waterbodies with any watercraft or water-related gear. The type of Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit required depends on the park and the type of watercraft or gear. Before entering a national park, check with Parks Canada to see what steps must be taken before entering the water.

For the latest requirement in the mountain national parks, visit: Water activity rules and regulations - Banff National Park

Clean Drain Dry is considered a best practice at all Parks Canada administered places.

Provinces and territories

Clean, drain, dry and decontaminate is legislated in some provinces and may be mandatory depending on where you plan to travel. It is the traveller’s responsibility to know the aquatic invasive species laws. Failure to comply may result in fines.

Before heading out on the water, check the appropriate provincial legislation. For any additional questions or clarifications, contact local authorities.

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