MLA Report: Maximum mussel action required

On the May long weekend in Alberta, a boat infested with zebra and quagga mussels was stopped by government inspectors

On the May long weekend in Alberta, a boat infested with zebra and quagga mussels was stopped by government inspectors before it entered Sylvan Lake.

Had that same boat been headed for Windermere or Shuswap Lake, chances are pretty high that the infestation of British Columbia’s waterways by quagga and zebra mussels would now be underway. There is every reason to believe that under the current inspection program in B.C., an infected boat will not be found before it reaches a lake.

Alberta is the most recent jurisdiction to take serious legislative action to ensure that their waterways are protected from zebra and quagga mussels. This invasive species, once it has entered the water system, can never be eradicated. The consequences of infestation to our economy and our environment, should it occur, will be immeasurable.

The Alberta government recently passed legislation that makes inspection mandatory for all boats entering the province, with fines for non-compliance and designated inspectors on the ground to ensure enforcement.

The British Columbia government, in contrast, has chosen to take what it refers to as a “stepped up” approach which focusses on education and outreach.

Brynne Morrice, a young film maker from Vernon, has converted his passion for protecting our waterways into an international campaign against zebra and quagga mussels. You can watch his six-minute video at www.protectourfreshwater.ca.

In a public statement Morrice made to the Minister of Environment he stated: “You said on CTV News that with your current preventative program you are ‘watching to see what works.’ Let me point out what should be obvious. If any part of your program doesn’t ‘work,’ the result will be the infestation and subsequent destruction of our lakes and rivers.”

I cannot state this problem any more clearly than that. British Columbia must make boat inspection for every boat entering the province mandatory. We must have the inspectors on the ground to ensure that the law is enforced. And there must be meaningful fines for non-compliance.

In a recently released statement by the Minister saying that there will be ‘new action’ to stop mussels this summer, the Minister claims to have an ‘early detection’ system. Let’s be clear. Once zebra and quagga mussels are detected in B.C. waters, there is no going back.

Dealing with zebra and quagga mussels cannot be about early detection. It must be about 100 per cent border protection. This is an issue that calls for maximum action, not just “watching to see what works.”

Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke. He can be reached at 1-866-870-4188 and norm.macdonald.mla@leg.bc.ca.

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