EDITORIAL: Mussel threat can’t be ignored

Time is running out to save the Okanagan lifestyle we all love from invasion of mussels

We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, but concerns about zebra and quagga mussels are not being over-exaggerated.

The mussels first arrived in North America from Europe in the 1980s. Since then, they have spread across the continent, devastating ecosystems and public infrastructure along the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River basin and Lake Tahoe. Anyone who believes the Okanagan is immune to this problem is being unrealistic.

Given high levels of calcium (needed for the development of shells) in local lakes, the invasive species could thrive here. They clog water intake pipes and pumps, deplete food sources for indigenous fish and produce toxins that contaminate drinking water.

Imagine walking along beaches covered in razor-sharp shells. Not only would recreational activities suffer, real estate values would be impacted.

Given the potential ramifications, it is critical that all residents support the Regional District of North Okanagan, which is demanding senior levels of government take immediate action to prevent an infestation or at least slow the species’ arrival.

All boats coming into B.C. from the U.S. or Alberta must undergo thorough inspection, while decontamination stations must be established at key locations in the Okanagan. As director Juliette Cunningham points out, levying a fine after a infestation occurs isn’t sufficient.

“We need to focus on preventative aspects,” she said.

Given the value we all place on our Okanagan lifestyle, write your MP and MLA and insist that they take the issue of zebra and quagga mussels seriously. Time is running out.