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Don’t move a mussel

Don’t move a mussel

Okanagan Basin Water Board urges action

boat-propeller-mussels-okanagan-waterways

Boaters and beach-goers need to be aware of quagga and zebra mussels that potentially threaten the health and beauty of Okanagan waterways.

These species breed at prolific rates producing mass amounts of larvae that are known as veligers. These thumbnail sized mussels and their microscopic offspring travel easily to new lakes by biding their time in boat crevices and excess water left in vessels. Invasive mussels were originally found in the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since invaded Ontario, Quebec, and several US states.

zebras-mussels-okanagan-waterways

Zebra mussel colony. Photo by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Above photo by Natalie Muth: Quagga mussels foul a boat prop.

When quagga or zebra mussels infect a body of water they secrete substances that induce toxic algae blooms, develop foul rotting smells, corrode submerged objects, and leave sharp shell debris. These invasive mussels cause implications for: drinking water, marine infrastructure, fishing, lake ecology, real estate value, beach enjoyment, and tourist industries. Evidently, the cost of prevention is drastically lower than the potential price tag on our interconnected communities, economy, and ecosystems if contamination were to occur. Just managing the problem in the Okanagan could run to $43 million a year.

The best ways to protect our lakes is to raise awareness amongst residents and visitors and to implement laws at various levels of government. Federally, there is no legislation preventing infected boats from entering Canada and the necessary adjustments have been pending for over a year.

At other levels of government there are hopes to implement a program in which boaters purchase a sticker that self-certifies that their boat is not contaminated with invasive mussels. This ‘sticker program’ would off-set the costs of creating public decontamination sites for boaters and also help raise awareness.

Speak Out

You can play your part in preventing this disaster by urging the provincial and federal governments to take action now. Click on the Speak Out! button at www.DontMoveAMussel.ca.

By Nikita Gush

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