Invasive mussels found at Shuswap Lake

Officials discovered quagga mussels on a power boat that was transported to B.C. from Arizona

  • Jul. 26, 2012 3:00 p.m.

An invasive species has “musseled” its way in to Shuswap waters.

Officials discovered the presence of quagga mussels on a power boat that was transported to B.C. from Arizona.

The province worked with the Invasive Species Council of B.C., provincial and federal agencies and international partners to respond to the threat of invasive zebra and quagga mussels on the lake this month.

Officials from the  Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans removed the boat from Shuswap Lake on July 3.

This action was taken to limit the likelihood of mussels becoming established in the lake and was done with the co-operation of the boat owner and the marina operator, says a B.C. government press release.

The boat was thoroughly inspected and decontaminated after it was pulled from the lake.

It’s now been confirmed that sample mussels taken from the vessel were dead at the time they were removed.

There is still a small risk that viable mussels were on the hull or in internal water sources at the time the boat was launched and docked in Shuswap Lake.

As an extra precaution, water samples from the boat’s bilge and pump systems are being analyzed for the presence of mussel larvae.

Divers are also scheduled to complete a thorough inspection of the marina’s moorage area, piers and lake bed.

“Our government works collaboratively with the Invasive Species Council of B.C. and communities throughout B.C. to respond to invasive species risks,” says Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

“Staff are committed to delivering an effective early detection and rapid-response program to address any new invasive species that are found in B.C. The Shuswap Lake situation is an excellent example of how a quick and proactive response can minimize such threats,” he adds.

The introduction and establishment of zebra mussels or quagga mussels into British Columbia would change the biodiversity of our water systems, threaten native species and fisheries, and increase maintenance costs related to the operation of hydroelectric, industrial, agricultural and recreational facilities.

In 2009, B.C. signed on as a partner in the Columbia Basin Rapid Response Plan, along with Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

The system provides early detection, rapid response and notification about zebra and quagga mussels.

These mussels and other aquatic invasive species can be transferred from one body of water to another on boats, trailers and boating and fishing equipment.

“Education and prevention are crucial for preventing the spread of invasive species, which is why we’re working to increase public awareness of their potentially negative impacts. The Invasive Species Strategy for B.C. provides a solid framework for dealing with these concerns,” notes Terry Lake, Minister of Environment.

The Invasive Species Council of B.C. is currently working with local invasive species committees and regional districts to deliver the “Clean, Drain, Dry” program.

Trained staff are at boat-launch sites throughout the summer to talk to recreational boaters about the importance of cleaning their boats and equipment to halt the spread of invasive species.

Quick Facts:

• Zebra and Quagga mussels originated in Europe and were introduced to Canada and the United States in the 1980s. They have been found in the Great Lakes in Ontario and Quebec, and in at least 24 American states, as far west as California and Colorado.

• The mussels are fingernail-sized, freshwater mollusks that can easily attach themselves to objects and other organisms. They are not native to B.C. and are and are difficult to eradicate.

• Live mussels that become attached to recreational vehicles, boats, boating equipment and fishing gear can be easily transferred from one body of water to another.

• The “Clean, Drain, Dry” information campaign program is running at boat launches this summer in Dawson Creek, Burns Lake, Williams Lake, Kamloops, the Shuswap, Vernon, Penticton, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Abbotsford, Duncan and Courtenay.

– Salmon Arm Observer