The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society and the Okanagan Basin Water Board are urging people to clean, drain and dry their watercraft to keep invasive mussels out of local waters.
Those bringing any type of watercraft into the province, including kayaks and paddleboards, are being urged make sure to stop at all mussel inspection stations along the way.
For 11 years, the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society has been helping deliver the water board’s Don’t Move a Mussel campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the impacts of invasive mussels and how everyone can help to protect Okanagan lakes from invasive zebra and quagga mussels.
To date, there have been no reported introductions of live zebra or quagga mussels into B.C. lakes and the organizations hope to keep it that way.
Once introduced to a water body, invasive mussels can rapidly multiply and form dense colonies, leading to significant ecological and economic consequences.
“Each year the valley attracts thousands of boaters from outside the province,” says Lisa Scott, executive director of the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society. “It would only take one contaminated boat to start an infestation. Invasive mussels could have lasting negative impacts to our lakes, as we have seen in other parts of Canada.”
Zebra and quagga mussels are non-native freshwater mollusks that are originally from Eastern Europe and Western Russia. They were first introduced to Canada in the late 1980s and since then, have spread into lakes and waterways around North America, mainly by contaminated watercraft.
In regions where they have already established, invasive mussels damage sensitive ecosystems, clog water intake pipes and water infrastructure, ruin beaches, reduce water quality and impact tourism. The cost of a mussel invasion would be staggering.
“This threat is very real,” says Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board. “Invasive mussels could devastate our beloved lakes, which are not only a source of recreation, but also our drinking water and critical to fish and the larger ecosystem. Our organizations are committed to raising awareness about the importance of preventing an invasive mussel introduction, and we encourage the community to join us in this critical endeavour.”
Staff from the invasive species society will once again be at boat launches, community events, youth camps and other key locations this summer. They will share the importance of stopping at inspection stations and to clean, drain and dry watercraft and gear. The funding for this program comes from the water board.
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