Celebrating staying invasive mussel-free in the Columbia Shuswap

2017 sampling finds no zebra or quagga mussels found in the region.

Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society staff sampling for invasive zebra quagga mussel larvae in the Columbia Shuswap were happy to share that all the samples taken in 2017 were negative; ensuring our precious waterbodies stay free of the invasive mussels that would cause hugely detrimental impacts to our economy and environment. Photo: CSISS.

Submitted by the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society.

The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society say results show water bodies across Columbia Shuswap region remain free of invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Here is what the organization has to say about the results of their 2017 testing;

The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) has been completing baseline early detection lake sampling in the Columbia Shuswap region for microscopic larvae form of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels, known as ‘veligers’ 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 for the mussels in BC. 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 Province of BC.

“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,” said Robyn Hooper, CSISS executive director.

Size and shape comparison of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels (top) to the native mussels found in B.C. (bottom) Photo: BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

What are Zebra and Quagga Mussels?

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 U.S. 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 six 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.

What are the impacts of an infestation of invasive mussels?

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!

What can you do to help?

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.

“We encourage all boat or watercraft owners to be sure to “Clean, Drain, and Dry” your watercraft and water toys every time you move it to another waterbody.  Clean off all weeds, mud, and any encrusting material (ensure your trailer is clean too); drain all water from all parts of your watercraft onto dry land; and dry off your watercraft. 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,” CSISS Outreach Coordinator Sue Davies said.

For more information, on zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic invasive species that threaten the Columbia Shuswap region, please visit: http://www.columbiashuswapinvasives.org or contact CSISS at info@columbiashuswapinvasives.org, or 1-855-785-9333.