Mussel defence program nabs 17 contaminated boats

The provincial Ministry of Environment is touting the success of its expanded invasive mussel defence program.

The provincial Ministry of Environment is touting the success of its expanded invasive mussel defence program.

This past summer was the first for the expanded program and through it more 24,500 watercraft were inspected for invasive quagga and zebra mussels at eight checkpoint stations set up along B.C.’s provincial and international borders, including a station just outside Radium Hot Springs, and another up near Golden.

Ministry of Environment spokesperson Danielle Bell told The Echo that of the 24,500 total, 4,673 boats were inspected at the Radium Hot Springs station, of which 143 were identified as high risk. In orders were issued and no invasive mussel fouled boats were intercepted at the RadiumInspection station. A total of six tickets and eight warnings were issued to motorists who failed to stop at theRadium inspection station. The Radium inspection crew interacted with approximately 10,100 people at to raiseawareness about Clean, Drain, Dry and Aquatic Invasive Species

Province-wide, the stations altogether found 683 boats coming from areas considered “high-risk” for invasive mussels. Of those, 17 were confirmed to actually be carrying adult invasive mussels. The majority of these contaminated boats 14 in total came from Ontario, with the other three coming from Manitoba, Michigan and Nevada.

Inspection crews across B.C. issued 92 decontamination orders, as well as 46 tickets and 36 warnings to driverswho failed to stop at the watercraft inspection stations, as is required under provincial law.

“Invasive mussels may be tiny, but they pose a huge risk to B.C.’s ecosystems and economy. That’s why we are working hard with our partners and neighbouring states and provinces to prevent the spread of invasive mussels.To date, no zebra or quagga mussels have been detected in B.C,” said provincial Environment MinisterMary Polak in a press release.

A total of 32 trained officers manned the eight stations throughout the summer. As well as inspecting boats, thecrews engaged in education and outreach activities, promoting the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedure. The ministryestimates this education reach more than 49,000 people during the course of the summer.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the program this past spring along with $2 million in funding coming from BC Hydro, FortisBC, Columbia Power and the Columbia Basin Trust, as well as the provincial government in-kind contribution of staff, office space, and equipment to launch it.

Zebra and quagga mussels are originally from Europe and were introduced to Canada (in the Great Lakes region)in the 1980s as a result of ballast water being discharged by ships travelling from Europe. According to the ministry, they threaten native species and fisheries in lakes and rivers, and also clog water intake pipes, leadingto increased maintenance costs for hydroelectric, domestic water, industrial, agricultural and recreational facilities.

The economic impact of invasive mussels in Canada in terms of their effect on hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreational boating is estimated at $43 million per year.

When the B.C. Ministry of Environment first announced the expanded defence program in the spring, LakeWindermere Ambassadors program co-ordinator Megan Peloso lauded the move, at the time pointing out that“despite research, nobody has succeeded in ridding water bodies of invasive zebra or quagga mussels once theyhave made them their home. They are highly resilient and have no known predators in North America.”

She added that lakes that see heavy recreational boat traffic, such as Lake Windermere, are at particular risk.

“Lake Windermere, like many lakes in the beautiful Columbia Valley and Kootenay region is a popular recreational destination. This means we are particularly vulnerable to invasive specie, including plants, bein gintroduced via travelling vessels.”

The ministry is encouraging the public to report any mussel-infected boats and equipment to the Report AllPoachers and Polluters (RAPP) toll-free hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

To find out more about the Clean Drain Dry program and the Invasive Species Council of BC,