North Okanagan Regional District seeks bigger muscles in fight against mussels

113 tickets issued to people who failed to stop at mandatory check stops this year

The Regional District of North Okanagan will write to the province requesting more enforcement in the fight against invasive zebra and quagga mussels.

“We’re playing with fire,” RDNO director Brian Quiring said. “We have to ramp this program up.”

Quiring said he doesn’t believe current boat checks at B.C.’s borders are sufficient enough.

Inspector Aaron Canuel, the officer in charge of the Invasive Mussel Defence Program, said inspectors are still hard at work monitoring the borders.

Twelve locations, including one in Osoyoos and one roving station based out of Penticton will continue inspecting watercraft until Oct. 26.

If boaters skip out at a mandatory watercraft check point, the fine is $345.

In 2019, 113 tickets were issued to individuals who didn’t stop at a check point. Eighty-two tickets and 50 warnings were issued by conservation officers in 2018.

“We keep them going for that exact reason,” Canuel said. “Even though the main watercraft season is May until the end of August, but if you have nice weather, you still have people getting out and enjoying the water.

“So we still keep our parameter defence up and running.”

If they didn’t, and the invasive species was to find its way into British Columbia waters, it could cost around $43 million every year to repair, mitigate and defend against the damages caused by the mussels, Canuel said. That number does not include the cost effects on real estate or social values.

“That’s harder to put a value on.”

If the waters of Okanagan Lake were to become infested, Canuel said that could be detrimental to tourism and general enjoyment of the Okanagan’s popular beaches.

“Say those water bodies were to become infested like Lake Winnipeg, where you’re ankle-deep in shells, people may just stop coming,” he said.

The invasive mussel species have spread across North America and their introduction puts water quality at risk, damages infrastructure, creates hazards on beaches, endangers fish, affects the existing ecology and threatens property values.

Watercraft includes sailboats, motorboats, car toppers, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.

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— with files from the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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