Robert Melvin (left) and Maddy Laslett of the Invasive Mussel Defence Program speaking about the most common places mussels take root on boats during the workshop in Sicamous June 26. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Preventing invasive mussels in the Shuswap

Zebra and Quagga mussels threaten B.C. lakes and rivers

The estimated cost of dealing with a mussel infestation could be as high $50 million for the Okanagan and Shuswap, but so far, the region is free of the devastating invasive species.

According to Maddy Laslett of the B.C. Invasive Mussel Defence Program, if these mussels take root in a freshwater lake or river they will multiply and spread extremely fast, causing numerous problems for both local ecosystems and man-made infrastructure.

Laslett joined other speakers from the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) and Invasive Species Council of B.C. June 26 during an information session at the Finlayson Boat Launch in Sicamous centred on preventing the spread of invasive Quagga and Zebra mussels into B.C. lakes and rivers.

Mussels lower fish populations by out-competing lower levels of the food chain, leaving insufficient food for smaller fish to thrive. These mussels are also known to encrust the interior of pipes, dams and hydro plants, reducing the capacity to produce power by up to 50 per cent. The shells of Zebra and Quagga mussels are quite sharp and create a hazard on beaches, as well as creating a nasty odour when found in large numbers.

Thankfully, no live mussels have been found in B.C. rivers or lakes as of yet, though Laslett says the significant negative effects and costs associated with a mussel infestation have put prevention as a top priority.

She notes that in Ontario’s Great Lakes region they spend nearly $500 million per year combatting mussels. In contrast to this, the 2018 budget for the Invasive Mussels Defence Program in B.C. was just $3.75 million and was sourced largely from partners such as B.C. Hydro and Fortis B.C..

Lakes in the Shuswap and Okanagan region apparently have an ideal PH value for these mussels to thrive, making an infestation within them especially difficult to deal with.

Sue Davies, aquatic invasives coordinator with CSISS, says “keeping the lakes and rivers pristine is in all our interests… we also want as many people to know about this issue as possible. More knowledgeable local people means less chance of a mussel-fouled boat accidentally being launched into a lake,” she said.

The main preventative measure taken against the spread of these mussels is active screening and inspection of boats coming into B.C. from other provinces or the U.S.. To this end, the Invasive Species Council of B.C. (ISCBC) encourages boaters to clean, drain and dry their boat after every use, especially before returning from out-of-province trips.

Zebra and Quagga mussels tend to be transported either in standing water trapped on a boat or by clinging to the side of a boat, even growing in tiny crevices and inside the motors of powered boats. Boaters are required to ensure they leave no standing water in their boat, clean the exterior thoroughly using hot, pressurized water and completely dry the boat before transport.

Failure to do so can result in a 30-day quarantine of the boat and fines up to a maximum of $500,000 for intentionally causing the spread of invasive mussels.

In 2018 the Invasive Mussel Defence Program has stopped 11 boats carrying mussels, most destined for the Lower Mainland with others coming to the Okanagan. They work closely with the Canadian Border Services Agency to inspect boats crossing the Canadian border and reportedly have outright refused entry to boats suspected of harbouring mussels.

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold spoke at the invasive mussels workshop, saying it is a priority issue and that he is rallying Ottawa for more funding for prevention measures.

“The biggest thing we can do is prevent them from coming in the first place,” Arnold says. “Water quality issues that would come out of an infestation are insurmountable.”

He notes that of all the funding provided to deal with invasive species by the federal government, 80 per cent goes towards combatting just two species in Ontario’s Great Lakes region and Arnold hopes to argue for a more equitable share of that funding.


 

@Jodi_Brak117
jodi.brak@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Maddy Laslett of the Invasive Mussels Defence Program shows their cleaning process for boats: using pressurized water above 60 degrees celsius, applying it for ten seconds to interior and exterior partsof the boat, and then drainign and drying the boat. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Update: Wildfire near Peachland grows to 500 hectares, structures threatened

Peachland - Evacuation orders have been issued for Brent Road and Highway 97 South properties

Updated: Complete list of B.C. Interior wildfire coverage

Up-to-date information on blazes happening the Kamloops Wildfire Centre

Kelowna Riding Club offers up stalls for evacuees

75 stalls available for horse owners who are threatened by fires

UPDATED: Mount Conkle wildfire near Summerland hits 80 hectares

Lightning-caused fire near Summerland now at estimated size of 80 hectares

Chase RCMP request help locating missing First Nations girl

Shayna Ignace was last seen at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 18 in the Shuswap

Update: Wildfire near Peachland grows to 500 hectares, structures threatened

Peachland - Evacuation orders have been issued for Brent Road and Highway 97 South properties

Lower Mainland blueberry farms expect solid season

Blueberry Council of B.C. says season will be better than last year

B.C. to add hundreds of taxis, help cab companies modernize

Ride hailing companies have to wait until fall of 2019 to apply for licences

BC Summer Games ready to begin on Vancouver Island

More than 2,000 athletes will compete in 18 sports from Friday to Sunday

Plenty of heroes in Thai cave rescue, says B.C. diver

Erik Brown reflects on team effort that brought 12 boys and their coach to safety

Dental crew brushes back Gray Monk

North Okanagan Women’s Soccer Association roundup

Gallie going for gold at Games

Vernon 16-year-old a slugger with Zone 2

Chase RCMP request help locating missing First Nations girl

Shayna Ignace was last seen at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 18 in the Shuswap

Funding available to replace infected B.C. hazelnut trees

B.C. Hazelnut Growers to recieve $300,000 over three years to battle eastern filbert blight

Most Read