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Posted: September 25, 2015

B.C. flexes its mussels

By Todd Larsen

East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council

Anyone who has been following the news in B.C. this summer is well aware that many organizations are taking a proactive stance to prevent the introduction of invasive mussels into our province.

There is new provincial and federal legislation that prohibit the transportation of non-native mussels into B.C., and roving crews are thoroughly inspecting watercraft for any sign of the tiny molluscs.

Zebra and quagga mussels are threatening our pristine waterways with the potential to encrust all hard substrates – rocks, docks, boats, water intakes- to alter the aquatic ecosystem, degrade our beautiful lakes, and cost a lot of money to manage if they become introduced.

Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg

With mussels firmly established in the southern U.S. and eastern North America, the threat gets closer every year. Mussels were confirmed in Lake Winnipeg last summer, and are transported towards B.C. on boats that pick them up in contaminated lakes.

Fortunately, British Columbian lakes have several lines of defence and surveillance with our neighbouring jurisdictions that regularly patrol for rogue boats and their unwanted passengers.

A contaminated boat was stopped in Kelowna in July, and a there have been a few other near misses in the past.

What you may not have heard about recently was a very close call in our region.

On August 18, a boat was spotted in Montana that was travelling from Wisconsin (a “dirty” jurisdiction) to Koocanusa Reservoir for a wakesurf event. The US inspectors quickly alerted their counterparts in B.C.: the Conservation Officer Service (COS) and Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA).

When the driver arrived at the Eureka/Roosville border, he was denied entry into Canada. Inspector Caravetta with the BC Conservation Officer Service advised, “it is that serious!”

A Montana crew seized the boat and decontaminated it with hot water under high pressure to kill and remove the tenacious mussels. Conservation Officers in B.C. also have the authority to seize boats for the decontamination and quarantine process.

Let this close call be a reminder to us about how diligent we must be when travelling between bodies of water. It only takes one contaminated boat to infest a lake, and there is no effective solution to remove the mussels once introduced. Measures would be taken to quarantine a lake and prevent further spread, which would have huge implications on recreation, tourism, and the economy.

If you move your boat, ensure that you Clean, Drain, and Dry the watercraft before launching in another waterway. For more information about aquatic invasive species in the East Kootenay region, visit or call 1-888-55 EKIPC.

Above photo: A section of PVC pipe left in a mussel-infested lake for six weeks, now encrusted with quagga mussels.

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