A boat is cleaned off at one of B.C.'s watercraft inspection stations in 2020. (Contributed)

Shuswap group asks B.C. government for more resources to keep invasive mussels out of province

Infestation could cost Okanagan taxpayers alone $42 million annually

More resources are being sought from the B.C. government for efforts to keep invasive mussels out of the Shuswap.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Land, Water and Resource Stewardship Minister Josie Osborne, Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) chair Jay Simpson said the threat posed by invasive zebra and quagga mussels “will never subside,” and more action is needed by the province to “curb this significant threat to our water security.”

“While it could take just a single watercraft from out-of-province infested with invasive mussels launching into B.C. waters, it is of utmost importance that the IMDP (B.C.’s Invasive Mussel Defence Program) be expanded such that all routes into B.C. from Alberta and the USA have a watercraft inspection and decontamination station,” wrote Simpson, adding the IMDP is the first line of defence to protect B.C.’s waters, but in 2022 there were only six permanent stations and two roving stations set up at provincial borders.

Read more: Invasive mussels being held at bay in the Shuswap

Read more: No invasive mussels found in Columbia-Shuswap area

Simpson explained the Shuswap is at high risk to invasive mussels because the region is a destination for boaters.

“Fortunately, early detection monitoring has indicated that the Shuswap is still invasive-mussel free,” said Simpson. “This is due, in part, to the preventative work by the Province and regional organizations such as the Shuswap Watershed Council, and others. However, every year infested watercraft arrive at our provincial borders.”

In addition to further supporting/expanding the defence program, Simpson and the SWC is asking the province to introduce ‘pull-the-plug’ legislation, requiring all watercraft to have their drain plugs removed prior to travelling on B.C. roads. The province is also being asked to review and update its related early detection and rapid response plan, with research being done on new methods for eradicating invasive mussels from water bodies.

“Lastly, we urge you to advocate for new containment measures in Manitoba and Ontario which already have (mussel) infestations,” wrote Simpson, stressing the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans needs to take strong action and fully enact the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulation.

“Our prevention efforts in the west must be met with robust containment measures in eastern and central Canada.”

Simpson and the SWC said an invasive mussel infestation in B.C. could cost taxpayers in the Okanagan alone an estimated $42 million annually in ongoing costs and lost revenue.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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