Summer is finally in after a long winter and as the boating season picks up, there are some crucial things to keep in mind. If you or someone you know boats in multiple lakes or rivers, you could inadvertently be creating a high risk situation for western provinces. Many aquatic invasive species are transported from one place to another by trailered watercraft. Every time your boat comes out
of the water, it should be CLEAN, DRAINED and DRY before you leave the launch. Do your part and help protect our waters from aquatic invaders!

     Aquatic invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to our freshwater resources. They can change the aquatic ecosystem by competing with native fish species and removing vital nutrients needed for their survival. They also pose substantial risks to the economy by clogging pipes and intakes, decreasing property values, and changing native fisheries that are important to Canadians.

     While there are many species that threaten Canadian waters, quagga and zebra mussels are of significant concern. These small, freshwater, invasive mussels can have major negative impacts on the aquatic environment and impair the function of water-related infrastructure.

     You've probably heard of these mussels and the problems they have caused in the Great Lakes. For over 30 years, research
has been demonstrating that these invasive mussels are linked to impacting native fish species, creating toxic algae blooms, filtering vital nutrients out of the water, completely changing ecosystems, increasing botulism-related bird kills, and causing billions of dollars in annual costs for repair and maintenance.

      

     The number one way that these critters access new areas of the country is by hitchhiking rides on boats, trailers, or equipment that has been in infested water bodies. Quagga and zebra mussels can live up to 30 days out of the water; just think how far you could haul a boat in 30 days! Juvenile mussels are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye, but can survive in standing water or damp areas on boats and equipment for quite some time as well. In the last few years, numerous mussel-fouled boats have been intercepted returning to Canada from high risk areas. While many of the fouled boats to date have come from hotspots in the southwestern U.S., the infested lakes are getting closer.

     “In October 2013, zebra mussels were detected for the first time in Lake Winnipeg, MB,” says the Executive Director of Fish &
Wildlife Policy for Alberta Environment & Sustainable Resource Development, Travis Ripley. “This signals the first known invasive
mussel infestation in a prairie province, and sounds the alarms that the threat is spreading.”

     Prevention is the best management strategy for invasive species, as control options are limited and very expensive. The western states have been actively preventing mussel invasions through the use of mandatory boat inspections, a tactic proving to be successful. You may be directed to stop at one of these inspection stations in your travels, but do not fear, they provide an important service to help protect the integrity of our environment! If you are travelling with a boat (new or used), there are some simple steps that can be taken to help prevent the spread of invasive mussels and make your visit to the inspection stations quick and painless.  

 


Any attached freshwater mussel is an invasive mussel, and must
be reported right away. Anytime a boat leaves a contaminated
water body, it should be inspected to ensure it is CLEAN,
DRAINED, and DRY before launching again.



SPREAD THE WORD
     The more boaters and anglers understand this issue and the steps that can be taken to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, the better off we will be. Please do your part to help protect the incredible freshwater resources (let alone your boat!) of the western provinces.

REFERENCES

1 Department of Fisheries & Oceans (2013). Risk Assessment for Three Dreissenid Mussels in Canadian Freshwater Ecosystems.
http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/445835/publication.html
No Free Rides!


Author: Kate Wilson. Kate is
the Aquatic Invasive Species
Coordinator, Alberta Environment
and Sustainable Resource.




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