Spring is upon us. For many that means our attention turns to the lakes and rivers, and a plethora of water-based activities: boating, canoeing, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding.
For invasive species and watershed organizations, it means it’s time to turn up the heat on invasive species education and prevention efforts.
The increased movement of boats and other types of watercraft into and around the province means that there’s an increased risk of an accidental introduction of zebra and quagga mussels – a small freshwater mussel native to Europe that has tremendous destructive potential.
“The primary way the mussels would get to B.C. waters is by ‘hitch hiking’ on boats, fishing gear, or other watercraft such as canoes and stand-up paddleboards from other lakes where the mussels occur,” said Erin Vieira, program manager for the SWC. “We can keep them out, as long as we follow a couple preventative measures.”
The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) and the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) are working together to try to prevent just that from happening.
“Zebra and quagga mussels would create enormous problems in B.C. waters because they cling to, colonize, and encrust any hard surface under water: boats, dock pilings, water supply and irrigation systems – anything,” said Robyn Hooper, Executive Director of the CSISS. “Once they’ve established, it’s difficult to get rid of them and they just keep coming back.”
That’s not all.
“The mussels will litter beaches with their razor sharp shells,” adds Vieira. “They produce foul odours, and they pollute water quality which puts lake and river ecosystems at risk.”
Hooper says the mussels aren’t known to be established anywhere in B.C., but they do occur in lakes in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and several states.
“That means that anyone travelling into B.C. with a watercraft is considered higher risk, and they need to stop at a watercraft inspection station as they pass by,” she said. “Government staff will inspect and decontaminate your watercraft, if needed, free of charge. Anyone moving a boat within B.C. should be cleaning, draining, and drying their boat every time they move from one water body to another. This is a really good practice to avoid moving a variety of invasive species, but not as rigorous as a mussel decontamination.”
Hooper added, “and besides, is if good for your boat!”