The propeller of a motorized boat encrusted with invasive mussels. Zebra and Quagga mussels can thrive in tiny crevices and even inside outboard motors, meaning very thorough cleaning is required to prevent their spread. Photo: Contributed

No invasive mussels found in Columbia-Shuswap area

Precautions to keep the waterways mussel free still necessary

The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society has been completing early detection lake sampling in the Columbia Shuswap region for microscopic larvae of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels for the past four years.

Throughout the 2018 season, society staff collected 118 samples from 22 waterbodies in the Columbia Shuswap Region.

Similar programs are taking place across the province, and as with previous years, there was no detection of zebra or quagga mussels were found in any sampled waterbodies in B.C.

“This is such great news,” said Robyn Hooper, executive director of the society, “if mussels did get into BC waters, we could be looking at huge costs to just manage them on underwater infrastructure, let alone the damaging effects on fish and water quality, and the fact that our beautiful sandy beaches would become nasty banks of razor-sharp, stinking shells.”

The society collaborated with many partners and stakeholders throughout the region to provide extended outreach and monitoring efforts in 2018.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Fund funded the society to monitor waterbodies in the Columbia Shuswap region, and the Shuswap Watershed Council and Columbia Basin Trust funded aquatic outreach activities, along with extra monitoring.

Outreach at boat launches, aquatic-focused events, and a special marina focused networking event attended by, politicians and the BC Ministry of Environment’s Invasive Mussel Defense Program was also held in June to increase awareness of the issue.

Mel Arnold, MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap, has called for federal funding to be available to protect B.C. from the threat of invasive mussels.

At present only a small proportion of the federal Aquatic Invasive Species budget is spent on Western Provinces.

MP Arnold has won unanimous support for a bill to study the federal government’s approach to managing the spread of the aquatic invasive species.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District supported this study and asked for an examination of whether federal funds for these types of programs are distributed in an equitable way around the country.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board has called for the B.C. government to tighten the laws around out-of-province watercraft to allow for spot checks of out-of-province watercraft at any boat launch, and to increase the watercraft inspection station program to include locations in the Interior.

What can you do to help?

All watercraft users coming into B.C. are required to stop at provincial inspection stations, where decontamination may be required for potentially infested watercraft.

It is mandatory to stop at the inspections stations if you are transporting any type of watercraft, including canoes, paddleboards, fishing float-waders, or any other type of boat.

It is also illegal to transport invasive mussels, dead or alive, on boats or related equipment into or within B.C.

Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment can result in a fine of up to $100,000.

The society’s outreach coordinator Sue Davies said, “We encourage all boat or watercraft owners to be sure to “Clean, Drain, and Dry” your watercraft and water toys every time you move it to another waterbody.

Clean off all weeds, mud, and any encrusting material (ensure your trailer is clean too); drain all water from all parts of your watercraft onto dry land; and dry off your watercraft.

If you see a boat with clinging mussels, you can report it by calling the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277.”

To report a mussel fouled boat, or to arrange an inspection, please call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

For more information, on zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic invasive species that threaten the Columbia Shuswap region, please visit: columbiashuswapinvasives.org/resources-for-boaters/

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Zebra mussels. US Fish & Wildlife Office photo

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