Boat infested with invasive mussels stopped at B.C. border

Currently there are no ways to treat and eradicate zebra and quagga mussels once introduced

Zebra/quagga mussels infest the underside of a boat being hauled on a trailer.

Zebra/quagga mussels infest the underside of a boat being hauled on a trailer.

Invasive Species Council of BC

OSOYOOS—Detection, team work and new provincial regulations successfully prevented a mussel infested boat from entering B.C. recently.

The evening of March 12 at the Osoyoos border crossing a Canada Border Services Agency guard inspected a commercially hauled boat and found visible mussels on the hull. The 44-foot long boat was being transported from Arizona to Okanagan Lake.

A call to the BC RAPP line raised the alert with BC Conservation Officer Services and to the BC Aquatic Specialist led to boat detainment, further inspection and decontamination.

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 U.S. in the 1980s. Currently they are confirmed in over 24 states and three provinces.

These small, fingernail-sized 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.

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.

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 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 Controlled Alien Species Regulation, introduced in 2012, prohibits the transfer of any mussels in B.C. and enables boat detention and fines of 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.

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.