February 1, 2018
This is the 4th and final article on invasive zebra and quagga mussels.
Past articles have dealt with the very small size of these mussels from larvae to a mere 15mm at maturity making early detection difficult. What they lack in size they make for in reproductive capability with a single adult reproducing up to one million offspring each year. These mussels force out native mussel species and have a significant negative impact on water quality, fish, boat engines and hauls, water intake and irrigation pipes and beaches where they can accumulate to depths of over a foot. They are sharp making barefoot walking impossible and they smell very bad when they accumulate.
British Columbia has been moving rapidly in recent years to defend against the potential invasion to the Columbia Valley through financial aid and support in establishment of manned
inspection stations. They are also coordinating and cooperating with other private, federal, provincial and civic government organizations in Canada and the United States. The cost of
guarding against a mussel invasion is currently 2 to 3 million dollars a year and will grow but the alternative management cost if they get established in the Columbia River basin is in
excess of $500 million per year.
Inspection stations in BC are staffed with trained inspectors but Alberta and Montana also incorporate specially trained dogs that have a 100% success rate in mussel detection
verses 75% for human inspectors. The dogs can also do an inspection in half the time it takes a human to do it. Once mussels are detected a boat or vehicle must be pressure washed using
120 degree Fahrenheit water for 2 minutes.
There are consequences for not stopping at an inspection station if you are hauling a boat. In BC the fine is $340. Currently in Alberta you get a summons to appear in court where a fine
of between zero and one million dollars or 12 months in jail can be levied. Alberta currently has legislation regarding fines ready to go to cabinet for 2018.
So approximately how many boats are we concerned about. In 2016 Alberta saw over 19000 boats from almost every province and state enter or pass through their province of which 17 were found to be contaminated with either zebra or quagga mussels and 8 were destined for British Columbia waters. Only time will tell if we can intercept all of them.