MEDICINE HAT, AB — The Alberta government is once again inspecting boats to ensure lakes and rivers in the province remain free of invasive mussels.
Sunday night, boat inspectors at the Dunmore station intercepted a traveller coming from Lake Winnipeg, where invasive mussels were found attached to the boat’s hull. The boat was on its way to Ghost Reservoir.
“Mussels like to hide in locations that are damp and dark, and they love 90 degree angles,” said Cindy Sawchuk with Alberta Environment and Parks, over the phone from Lethbridge. “The zebra mussels were all over it. It was a really good catch for us to kick off our season.”
Sawchuk says the boat has been sent for decontamination.
Inspectors have been in place at important entry points in Alberta since March, and will be open until November. They’re looking for zebra and quagga mussels, which are considered invasive species.
The two species of mussels, originally native to Russia and Ukraine, were first detected in the Great Lakes in 1988, and have since spread to Manitoba and parts of the United States. Once they’re found in a water body, they can spread quickly. The mussels can also impact water treatment facilities and irrigation in waterbodies, leading to millions in repairs.
To date, no mussels have been discovered in Alberta waters.
Last year, 19 boats carrying mussels were intercepted in Alberta, and 30,000 boats were inspected.
Sawchuk is reminding boat owners to ensure they do their part to prevent the spread of invasive mussels.
“What we ask is anyone travelling with any type of water craft to do is clean, drain and dry your boat, every time you leave a water body,” she said. “This includes kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, complicated sailboats or houseboats, that’s the only way that we can effectively eliminate the risk of transporting invasive mussels.”
Anyone carrying a boat through Alberta is required by law to stop at inspection stations. Failure to do so is a violation of the Fisheries Act, and could result in fines of up to $100,000, and up to 12 months in prison.
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