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Public in Columbia Shuswap warned of dangers of invasive mussels

People urged to clean, drain and dry their watercraft, including paddleboards and canoes
A provincial watercraft inspector inspects a boat at the Golden Watercraft Inspection Station. (Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society image)

The search continues but, unlike other quests, the searchers hope they never find their quarry.

The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) and others continue to monitor lakes in the Columbia Shuswap in their effort to stave off the threat of invasive zebra and quagga mussels in the region.

In a July 6 news release, CSISS noted the mussels have not yet been detected west of Manitoba.

“Unfortunately, invasive mussels are excellent hitchhikers. An adult mussel can firmly attach to watercraft and gear, survive for long periods out of water and potentially infest a new waterbody in B.C. Larval mussels are so tiny they can easily go undetected in small amounts of water.”

Provincial watercraft inspection stations are inspecting and, when necessary, decontaminating watercraft that could be transporting the invasive mussels. The stations are set up at major border crossings into B.C., and all watercraft, including paddleboards and canoes, must stop to be inspected.

Read more: Invasive clams discovered in the Salmon arm of Shuswap Lake

Read more: Okanagan and Shuswap MPs want federal funds to help stop invasive species

Along with the stations, the provincial government’s Invasive Mussel Defence Program oversees a lake monitoring program, sampling waterbodies for mussels. Under the program, CSISS monitors lakes and rivers in the Columbia Shuswap. In 2021, the society announced it will be monitoring 13 lakes and rivers monthly, with higher priority waterbodies monitored bi-weekly.

“I spend my days looking diligently for something I hope I never find,” said Sue Davies-McGill of CSISS. “I talk to lots of boaters who are interested in what I’m doing, and I always tell them to stop at inspection stations when entering B.C., and also to clean, drain and dry their boat if they are moving it from one lake or river to another.”

Sampling is done across the region from the Kinbasket Reservoir in the east, to Adams Lake and Little Shuswap Lake in the west.

“We sample plankton with a very fine mesh net in order to detect any microscopic larvae present in the water column, and we install artificial substrates in the lake to monitor for adult mussels,” she said.

Davies-McGill said prevention is key because there is no known cure for invasive mussels.

CSISS relies on the support of many organizations and government ministries to do its work. For instance, BC Parks facilitates sampling at the Cinnemousun Narrows on Shuswap Lake by allowing CSISS staff to accompany wardens on their rounds.

Suspected invasive mussels should be reported to the RAPP line (Conservation Officer Service Report All Poachers and Polluters line) at 1-877-952-7277.

To learn more about invasive species in the Columbia Shuswap, go to
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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