OSOYOOS—Detection, team work and new provincial regulations successfully worked together to prevent a mussel infested boat from entering BC last week. An established alert system, aquatic invasive species training, a rapid response plan, inter-governmental support and collaboration all worked to quickly address a potential significant threat to BC’s lakes.
The highly invasive zebra and quagga mussels are not wanted in BC and collaboration across all jurisdictions is critical to keeping them out.
The evening of March 12th, 2014 provided the first test of BC’s invasive mussel emergency response plan. At the Osoyoos border crossing, a Canada Border Services Agency guard inspected an incoming commercially hauled boat and found visible mussels on the hull. The 44 foot long boat was being transported from Arizona to Okanagan Lake. An immediate call to the BC RAPP line raised the alert with BC Conservation Officer Services and to the BC Aquatic Specialist which led to boat detainment, further inspection and full decontamination—all possible thanks to the new and strong regulation prohibiting the transport of invasive mussels into BC—dead or alive!
With the new regulation, last spring Conservation Officers participated in invasive mussel detection and boat decontamination procedures training, enabling the quick response last week. The tiny invasive mussels, especially in their larval stage, are difficult, if not impossible to see. Using a combination of high temperature pressure washing and flushing, a thorough cleaning was completed to ensure that the boat was mussel-free.
Zebra and quagga mussels, originally from Europe, were first introduced to Canada and the US in the 1980’s. Currently they are confirmed in over 24 states and 3 provinces. These small fingernail size mussels, attach to boats and trailers and are then transported to new waters. Where introduced, these fresh water invasive mussels cause extensive changes to the ecology, change water quality and cause extensive economic losses. Based on a 2013 economic impact report released by the Ministry of Environment, the projected economic losses to BC are estimated are $21.7 million considering only impacts to hydro generation, recreational boaters, and water utilities. Currently there are no ways to treat and eradicate zebra and quagga mussels once introduced to fresh water - the only solution is to prevent them from being introduced.
Preventing these invasive species is a high priority across the Pacific Northwest. In 2009, B.C. signed on as a partner in the Columbia Basin Invasive Mussel Rapid Response Plan, along with Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The system provides early detection, rapid response and notification related to zebra and quagga mussels. The provincial government, supported by the Invasive Species Council of BC, coordinates standardized training, public outreach and response plans. Since 2012, a Clean Drain Dry program for boaters was launched to ensure boaters are aware, trained and committed to protecting our lakes.
The new Controlled Alien Species Regulation introduced in 2012 prohibits the transfer of any mussels in BC and enables boat detention and fines up to $100,000. Conservation officers now have the power and training to stop suspected boats and ensure they are decontaminated. Federal regulatory change is under review and is clearly needed to provide border inspectors with the authority to prevent mussel infested boats from entering the province. Other actions being considered include mandatory boat inspections. The risk is simply too high for BC and our neighbors; the solution is to stop boaters at our borders and ensure a coordinated response.
Find out how you and your community can become involved in the Clean Drain Dry program to protect your local lakes; contact www.bcinvasives.ca. If you see a mussel attached to a boat, dock or trailer in freshwater—it will be invasive. Report it to the RAPP line 1-877-952-7277 immediately to ensure it is inspected and decontaminated. Help be part of the BC protection plan - BC does not want these highly invasive mussels in our waters!
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The Invasive Species Council of BC is a registered charity working collaboratively to build cooperation and coordination of invasive species management in BC. The ISCBC has grown rapidly since its inception in 2004. It is recognized across the country for its leadership in building collaboration to the challenging and exploding problem of invasive species.
For more information on this topic and invasive species in the province, contact the Invasive Species Council of BC: www.bcinvasives.ca
Contact: Gail Wallin, Executive Director
Cell Phone: (250) 305 – 9161 | Email:firstname.lastname@example.org