By Justin Seward
Invasive mussels were discovered April 18 off an Ontario sailboat at the Dunmore Wiegh Station. These freshwater bivalves are also known as the quagga and zebra mussels and are transported by boat as they can live out of water for 30 days. Alberta Environment’s watercraft inspection department members were driving along the highway and pulled over the boat at the watercraft inspection station.
“Our watercraft inspector was looking at this gentleman’s boat who pulled into our station and she discovered the invasive mussel,” said Cindy Sawchuk, Alberta Environment’s leader of water inspections. “She was able to issue a quarantine order on the boater and what we’re going to do is decontaminate the boat.”
Sawchuk added the boat will be scrubbed with hot water to prevent the spread of the mussels. If the mussels were to somehow be released into provincial waters, it would become an ‘introductory to Alberta,’ because these mussels take away from vital nutrients for the native fish in the area. “It completely upsets the ecosystem and the balance in the water,” said Sawchuk. “Economically these mussels are really bad because they reproduce really rapidly and they just start to clog everything up.”
When the mussels spread, they clog up water treatment facilities, irrigation pipes and canals. Sawchuk said these type of mussels are not found in Alberta and a prevention program has been put in place to ensure they don’t enter provincial water bodies because otherwise they will grow and thrive.
“We are encouraging boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats every time they leave a water body because that’s the only we can eliminate this risk,” she said. The water inspection department inspected 19,000 boats last year and only 17 had invasive mussels.