The 2018 interim report on the Provincial Mussel Defence Program was recently published on the program’s website. It revealed that out of the 38,000 watercraft inspected during the 2018 operating season twenty-five boats were confirmed to have highly invasive zebra and/or quagga mussels (ZQM). The stations were open from April until October 2018 and luckily they stopped mussel-fouled boats that were destined for the Lower Mainland (11), Okanagan (3), Thompson-Nicola (5), Vancouver Island (4), and the Kootenays (2).
To date, B.C. is still free of invasive mussels, which have caused millions in damage per year to hydropower stations, and municipal water supplies in other parts of North America that have already been invaded by ZQM. In addition to economic impacts, ZQM can negatively impact biodiversity, species at risk, fisheries productivity, water quality, and recreation opportunities.
In an effort to prevent the introduction of ZQM, the province of B.C. launched a pilot watercraft inspection station program in 2015. During the pilot season, 4,300 watercraft were inspected and provincial inspectors interacted with approximately 10,000 people to promote Clean, Drain, Dry. On March 30, 2017, the B.C. government announced new measures to address the threat of invasive mussels. The province added two new inspection stations, increased inspection hours, and included a mussel-sniffing dog to inspect watercraft as part of their Mussel Defence Program. During the 2018 operations season 78,000 people were reached to promote the Clean, Drain, Dry message, 450 decontamination were performed and 82 violation tickets were issued to people who failed to stop at the mandatory inspection stations. The majority of non-compliant vehicles were carrying non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks, paddleboards and canoes.
Lake monitoring is another aspect of the Provincial Mussel Defence Program. Next to prevention, the next best tool in our toolbox is early detection and this is why sampling frequency increased in 2018. The Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS) coordinated weekly plankton sampling for invasive mussels in the West and Central Kootenay region from June through October 2018. The CKISS collected 350 samples at 34 sites within nine different high priority waterbodies. All of the samples sent to a provincial lab to be analyzed came back negative for free-swimming microscopic mussel larvae called veligers. To date, the province has analyzed 812 samples from across B.C. and all have come back negative for invasive mussels. The complete results from the 2018 Lake Monitoring season will be released in the final report in spring 2019.
Program staff are now planning for the 2019 operation season by reviewing data and feedback from staff, partners, and stakeholders. The province will be meeting with neighbouring states and provinces in order to coordinate inspection stations across Western Canada.
CKISS would like to remind the public that suspected invasive mussels should be reported immediately to the Conservation Officer Services Report All Poachers and Polluters: 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).
How is the Mussel Defence Program Funded?
The Invasive Mussel Defence Program (IMDP) is a shared delivery between staff from the B.C. Conservation Office Service (COS) and the Environmental Sustainability & Strategic Policy Division (ESSPD) within the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ENV). The Program would like to recognize the ongoing funding provided by BC Hydro, Fortis BC, Columbia Power Corporation, and Columbia Basin Trust to support the delivery of the program. For more information about the Program please visit www.gov.bc.ca/invasivemussels.
CKISS acknowledges the support of its funders who supported the CKISS mussel-monitoring program including Columbia Power Corporation, FortisBC, and Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy/Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.