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As boating season comes to end, so does search for invasive mussels

Posted on September 23, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Carlie Connolly

Boat season is coming to an end with invasive mussels stopping for the season too. To date in the last two years (2013-14), there have been 10 boats intercepted with quagga or zebra mussels by the invasive mussels team. In Idaho or Montana, they will actually detect them and let the team in Alberta know.

The team that works with invasive species washed around 20 boats with hot water that either had suspect, unidentified species or had standing water from a high-risk area.

Two boats in August were confirmed with alive mussels. One of the boats was from Ontario and the other from Lake Saratoga in New York State. The high time for risk of these mussels is in the summer months when people are moving their boats around a lot.

The only exception to these being popular in the summer is people will go down south in the winter going to Arizona, Nevada and California. Those areas are now infested with quagga mussles (the entire Colorado river system). And so, they are using these reservoirs with their boats or purchasing a boat used down there and bringing it back up to Alberta in the spring, which is also a high risk time.

Kate Wilson, the aquatic invasive species program coordinator has been busy this summer looking at boats with invasive mussels, helping to make sure Alberta is protected as much as it can be.

“The risk is really more about, we don’t want boats coming back to Alberta that have mussels on them. Even if the mussels are dead. This is because if the boat is launched in the spring and we find the shells in the lake, we’re going to assume that we have zebra mussels in Lake Wabamun when really that boat launched and the mussels were dead. But we have no way of knowing that, so really we want dead or alive, they should come off the boat.”

The program for inspecting these boats is going well. Alberta and other provinces are a little behind in terms of where the western states are at. Wilson came from Idaho and used to work there, and they implemented their boat inspection program six years ago.

“We are kind of behind the curve, but I think we typically have a little less boat traffic than they do and its not too late to really ramp up a good prevention program,” she said. 

In addition to the watercraft inspections, they have been doing monitoring of up to 70 water bodies this summer. They also have a really good education campaign that’s launched called ‘clean, drain, dry your boat,’ and are developing a really rapid response plan for what happens if they find them in the lake or river. They are also pursuing a new policy and legislative changes as necessary.

The plan for next summer is to just ramp up what they’ve been doing and improve.

“I think we’ve got a lot of great attention this summer, and the public and boaters are really on board with what’s going on and so I think we’ll just ramp up our efforts and hopefully have more inspection sites next summer.”

This was the first year they’ve actually done provincial wide inspections and really ramped up the program and before last summer was just a pilot in the southwest Alberta area, not for the whole province.

Last year, they had summer students on the weekends looking at boats in certain areas, and around 400 boats in total were inspected. This year its over 3,000.

By the end of September they will be shutting down the inspection stations and boat season will be over for this year.

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