Quagga and Zebra Mussels

Quagga and Zebra (Dreissenid) mussels pose a serious threat to California's waters and fisheries. The spread of these freshwater mussels threatens recreational boating and fishing, aquatic ecosystems and fisheries, water delivery systems, hydroelectric facilities, agriculture and the environment in general. As a means to stop the spread of these harmful invasive mussels, California is asking boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats!

Boaters should be prepared for inspections throughout the state designed to help ensure California's water bodies remain mussel-free. Properly cleaning and drying can help protect boats and help boaters avoid quarantines or being turned away from a water destination. In addition to being sure to clean, drain and dry watercraft, the Division of Boating and Waterways urges boaters to plan for possible launch restrictions and inspections by calling water bodies before leaving home. Programs and requirements vary and can change rapidly.

California registered vessels using fresh water bodies within the state are required to display a “Mussel Fee Paid” sticker on the hull next to the current registration sticker. Paying the Mussel Fee does not entitle vessels to bypass inspections or fees for inspections conducted by individual reservoir owners or managers.

The information below is provided as a courtesy by the State of California. For further information on the Quagga and Zebra mussels incident, please visit the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Website. Please view the Watercraft Inspections/Vessel Restrictions section for information on California waterways with vessel restrictions to stop the spread of mussels.



Quagga-Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention Fee FAQs

To prevent receiving a DMV Mussel Fee be sure to know what the Mussel Fee Paid sticker requirements for California registered vessels (PDF) are. If you have any further questions on the matter, please read our Quagga and Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention Fee FAQ's (PDF).

Legislation requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to collect an additional fee on behalf of the Department of Parks and Recreation Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) on all recreational vessels subject to registration in the State of California.

This boater registration Mussel Fee will aid infestation prevention and education efforts through grant funding, administered by DBW, to eligible agencies for quagga and zebra mussel prevention programs at reservoirs that allow boating and fishing recreation and supplementary funding for California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) prevention activities.
Yes. A set of unique identifying stickers will be issued for the vessel as evidence of payment of the Mussel Fee which must be attached to the vessel. Fee exempt vessels will not receive a sticker.

Contact the DMV directly to determine how you can obtain the QZ Mussel Sticker. Click here to see how to contact the DMV by phone, mail, or in person. If your vessel is only used in marine waters, and you claimed an exemption from the fee, you will not receive a sticker.

Boats used only in salt water such as along the California coast and bay areas such as San Francisco, Suisun, Monterey or San Diego are exempt from the Mussel Fee. Fresh water boaters must pay the Mussel Fee.
To claim the exemption, the vessel owner may notify DMV through one of the following ways:

  • Check the appropriate box on the Vessel Renewal Notice.
  • Verbally notify the department through the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system at 1-800-777-0133.
  • Submit a completed Statement of Facts (REG 256) form.

For original vessel registration applications, the vessel owner may claim the exemption by checking the appropriate box on the Application for Registration Number Certificate of Ownership and Certificate of Number for Undocumented Vessel (BOAT 101) form or submitting a completed REG 256.
Quagga and Zebra Mussels only live and reproduce in fresh water. Boat owners that do not operate in fresh water are exempt from the Mussel Fee for this reason.
A refund of the Mussel Fee paid upon original vessel registration and vessel registration renewal is subject to established DMV business rules and processing procedures. See: application for refund.
The Mussel Fee stickers do not pay for individual boat inspections that may be required by local water agencies. Boat inspection programs are implemented by the water managers and are varied. Please contact the particular waterbody directly for information regarding their program and requirement prior to your visit. View this California watercraft inspection list for contact information.
If you are not a California resident, but you’re planning on boating in California, you are not required to purchase the CA Mussel Fee Sticker. However we do recommend that you contact the waterbody that you’re planning on visiting ahead of your visit, for information on local fees, restrictions, and/or inspections.

A list of some California waterbodies and their contact information can be found on website at: Watercraft Inspections in California and Vessel Restrictions
No. Documented vessels are not required to pay the Mussel Fee or display Mussel Fee Paid stickers.  Existing California law does not include a fee-collection mechanism for U.S. Coast Guard documented vessels. However, individual water bodies may require boat inspections for the presence of aquatic invasive species; boaters may also be required to pay inspection fees prior to launch regardless of vessel origin, registration or documentation.
Law enforcement officers may stop a fresh water boater operating a vessel without the Mussel Fee stickers.
Stickers are to be placed on each side of the boat, next to, and in line with the CF number and vessel registration sticker. Click here for a more in depth look at the Mussel Fee Paid sticker requirements. 

If boat owners lose the stickers or the stickers are damaged, substitute stickers may be obtained from DMV for $16.
The fee is waived only for a replacement/substitute sticker when the vessel owner indicates on DMV's Application for replacement Plates, Stickers, and Documents (REG 156) form that the original stickers were not received from DMV.
DMV will collect the Mussel Fee and provide stickers when you register your new boat.
Quagga and Zebra mussels, non-native freshwater mussels native to Eurasia, multiply quickly and encrust watercraft and infrastructure, and they compete for food with native and sport fish species. These mussels can be spread from one body of water to another by attaching themselves to nearly anything that has been in an infested water body or via standing water from an infested waterbody entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets. More detailed information on these mussels may be found on DBW's website.
An Interagency Quagga/Zebra Mussel Team*, comprised of federal and state agencies and private partners, has been working together to contain and control quagga and zebra mussels in California since their discovery in Lake Mead in January 2007 and subsequently in water bodies in southern California. Zebra mussels were discovered in a central California water body in January 2008. Their actions include coordination and reporting of the following:

  • Increased watercraft inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture Border Protection Stations.
  • Development and implementation of monitoring plans for high risk water bodies in the state.
  • Training of state, federal and local agency staff and K-9 units to conduct watercraft inspections and monitoring.
  • Public outreach and education to watercraft owners through print and online media, outdoor signage and distribution of information at public/media events. (e.g., a Boat Cleaning Guide Book, watercraft inspections contact information, etc.). More information can be found on DBW and/or CDFW websites.


* California Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Water Resources, Food and Agriculture, Parks and Recreation/Division of Boating and Waterways, Cal Fire, CalTrans, State Water Resources Control Board, Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Lands Commission, Natural Resources Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Pacific Gas and Electric and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.





Online Information:
Toll Free: 866.440.9530

DMV will collect the Mussel Fee and provide stickers when you register your new boat.


Infestation Prevention Grant

The Legislature enacted Harbors and Navigation Code, Division 3, Chapter 5, Article 1.3 Sections 675 and 676, which became effective January 1, 2013. The statute requires the Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Boating and Waterways, (DBW) to promulgate regulations to impose an additional Quagga and Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention Fee to the boater registration fee collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles, for the purpose of funding infestation prevention programs in California's reservoirs.