Keeping invasive mussels out of the Columbia Shuswap: What’s at stake and what we can do to help

With summer just around the corner, and boating season already underway, here are some useful tips to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels to our pristine waterways.

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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

With summer just around the corner, and boating season already underway, here are some useful tips to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels to our pristine waterways.

Currently, there has been no reported introduction of live zebra or quagga mussels in BC lakes and waterways. These mussels pose huge detrimental economic, environmental, and recreational threats to the province of BC. The economic impact of these invasive mussels to hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreational boating has been estimated to be $43 million per year in British Columbia.

The provincial government operates 10 mussel inspection stations around BC to inspect and decontaminate infested watercraft from entering BC waters. The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) will be continuing baseline early detection lake sampling in the Columbia Shuswap region for microscopic larvae form of the invasive mussels, known as ‘veligers’. CSISS will also be educating watercraft users around the region at events, boat launches and marine industry groups. All it would take is one boat, canoe or kayak with a small amount of infested water to contaminate our lakes and rivers!

How can you help? As a boat or watercraft owner, be sure to stop at provincial inspection stations and “clean, drain, and dry” your watercraft every time you move it to another waterbody within BC. 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.

All watercraft users coming into BC 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 BC. Failure to properly decontaminate mussels off boats or equipment can result in a fine of up to $100, 000. 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 summer student Braden Lamoureux has first hand experience with these invasive mussels, “I grew up swimming and boating in some of Ontario’s zebra and quagga mussel infested lakes. I remember cutting my feet on them all the time, seeing boat motors break down because of clogging, and lakes that once contained diverse fish and plants reduced to a gloomy monoculture of mussels,” he said.

Who We Are

The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention,management, and reduction of invasive species in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. CSISS is thankful for the generous support of the Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, and the Province of British Columbia.

For more information on how to identify clinging mussels, what is being done to prevent them from entering B.C., and what you can do to help, see this fact sheet on invasive mussels.

Author: Braden Lamoureux, CSISS

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