The results are back – and they’re good news. The Columbia Shuswap region remains free of the dreaded invasive zebra and quagga mussels.
The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) has been completing baseline early detection lake sampling in the Columbia Shuswap region for microscopic larvae forms of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels for the past three years.
Throughout 2017, CSISS staff took 51 samples from 26 water bodies across the region to sample for the presence of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, and all results have come back negative.
Similar testing has been carried out across the province and, so far, there is no evidence of the mussels in B.C.
In 2017, CSISS also provided outreach information about invasive species to more than 4,673 people in the region, including many boat launches and regional marinas/boat shops, as well as collaborated with many regional stakeholders and the B.C. government.
Related link: Invasive mussels meeting held
Related link: Invasive mussel detectors
CSISS Executive Director Robyn Hooper states: “We are thrilled to find out all our water samples came back negative for invasive mussels. However, all it would take is one boat, canoe or kayak with a small amount of infested water to infest our lakes and rivers. We hope to continue to partner with the community and various levels of government to ensure we stay zebra and quagga mussel free through promotion of inspection stations, best practices, education and awareness.”
Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to North America and are highly invasive. Since their accidental introduction from Europe to the Great Lakes in the 1980s, these mussels have been spreading across the continent and are now found in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec as well as 24 US states as far West as California and most recently discovered in Montana. Zebra and quagga mussels (two separate but very similar species) are “propeller blade” shaped, about the size of your fingernail, and will attach to hard surfaces in dense layers up to 6 inches thick. Native mussels to B.C. are much larger, oval shaped, and do not bind to hard surfaces. Currently, there has been no reported introduction of live zebra or quagga mussels in B.C. lakes and waterways. These mussels pose detrimental economic, environmental and recreational threats to the province of B.C.
Due to their clinging nature, zebra and quagga mussels would clog and damage all water-based infrastructure, including intake pipes, boats, dams, and irrigation systems. The presence of mussels would massively increase maintenance costs for multiple industries including: hydropower, municipal water supply, fishing, agriculture, tourism, and recreation. For the public, this may mean higher taxes and utility costs.
All watercraft users coming into B.C. are required to stop at provincial inspection stations, where decontamination may be required for potentially infested watercraft. It is mandatory to stop at the inspections stations if you are transporting any type of watercraft, including canoes, paddleboards, fishing float-waders, or any other type of boat. It is also illegal to transport invasive mussels, dead or alive, on boats or related equipment into or within B.C. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment can result in a fine of up to $100,000.
All boat or watercraft owners must be sure to ‘clean, drain, and dry’ their watercraft and water toys every time its to another waterbody.
If you see a boat with clinging mussels, you can report it by calling the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277.