While many look forward to hitting the water over the May long weekend, two Shuswap organizations are focusing their efforts on keeping things out of the water.
The increased movement of boats and other types of watercraft into and around the Shuswap means that there’s an increased risk of an accidental introduction of zebra and quagga mussels, small freshwater mussels native to Europe with tremendous destructive potential. The Shuswap Watershed Council and the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society are working together to try to prevent just that from happening.
“Zebra and quagga mussels would create enormous problems in the Shuswap because they cling to, colonize, and encrust any hard surface under water: boats, dock pilings, water supply and irrigation systems – anything. Once they’ve been introduced to a lake, it’s impossible to get rid of them for good,” says Robyn Hooper, executive director of the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS).
“The mussels will litter beaches with their razor sharp shells. They produce foul odours, and they pollute water quality which puts the lake ecosystem and drinking water at risk,” adds Erin Vieira, program manager for the Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC). “The primary way the mussels would get to the Shuswap 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.
“We can keep them out, as long as we follow a couple preventative measures.”
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. Government staff will inspect and decontaminate your watercraft, if needed, free of charge,” says Hooper.
Watercraft inspection isn’t required for travellers within B.C. However, Shuswap residents can help raise
awareness for the importance of inspection.
“We encourage Shuswap residents to talk to their out-of province friends and family that are bringing watercraft to B.C.,” adds Vieira. “The more people know about Zebra and Quagga Mussels, and the importance of watercraft inspection, the less vulnerable we are to an infestation.”
Watercraft owners also ought to clean, drain, and dry their watercraft every time they move from one
waterbody to another.
In 2018 the provincial watercraft inspection program, which is run by the BC Conservation Officer service,
intercepted 25 mussel-fouled watercraft.
“This number seems low, but it’s very scary. It will only take a single contaminated watercraft launching in the Shuswap to establish invasive mussels here,” says Hooper.
Both organizations recently shared their concerns with a parliamentary committee that’s reviewing
Any suspected transport or possession of zebra and quagga mussels should be reported to the Provincial RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277. For more information about bringing a boat into B.C., visit the provincial
website at www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/invasive-mussels. For more information on zebra and quagga mussels, visit the SWC’s website at www.shuswapwater.ca.