To date, invasive zebra and quagga mussels have never been detected in B.C. waterways – and the Province is taking steps to keep it that way.
General information about quagga and zebra mussels:
- Quagga mussels and zebra mussels are not native to North America. They were introduced from Europe into Canada (the Great Lakes region) and the United States in the 1980s.
- Since their introduction, these mussels have spread in Ontario and Quebec. In October 2013, zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- They have also spread to at least 24 American states as far west as California. In November 2016, Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced invasive mussels had been detected for the first time in two reservoirs.
- To date, there has been no reported introduction of live quagga or zebra mussels into B.C. lakes or waterways.
- These small, freshwater mussels can easily attach themselves to boat hulls, trailers, motors, equipment, vegetation and other organisms. They multiply rapidly and are extremely difficult to eradicate once they become established in an area. In larger water bodies and complex ecosystems, they may be impossible to eradicate unless they can be detected and contained before becoming established.
- Zebra and quagga mussels can survive for several weeks without being immersed in water if they are left in a cool and moist environment. That means mussels attached to boats or equipment can be transferred from one body of water to another.
- Mussel larvae are extremely small and can float undetected in live wells, pumps, bilges, bait buckets and other fishing gear, where they can survive for several weeks.
- Quagga and zebra mussels pose a serious threat to B.C.’s aquatic ecosystems, salmon populations, hydro power stations and other infrastructure facilities. They can clog pipes (increasing maintenance costs for hydroelectric, industrial, agricultural and recreational facilities), cause ecological and economic damage, displace native aquatic plants and wildlife, degrade the environment, and affect drinking water quality.
- The economic impact of these invasive mussels to hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreational boating has been estimated to be $43 million per year. This estimate does not include additional impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries.
What the B.C. government is doing about invasive mussels:
- Prevention and education are the top priorities.
- March 30, 2017: government representatives, alongside mussel program staff and conservation officers, announced enhancements to the invasive mussel defence program.
- New funding is supporting:
- Two new inspection stations, at Yahk and Midway, bringing the total number to 10.
- Nine stations operating from to dawn to dusk; extended from the current 10 hours/day.
- One station operating 24hrs/day at Golden near AB border (B.C.’s busiest station).
- Funding for additional auxiliary conservation officers; will more than double from 33 to 68 officers. This means an extra 35 officers have been added since last year.
- Unveiling Canada’s first multi-purpose mussel-sniffing dog.
- Providing the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation with threeyears of support to expand government’s ongoing invasive mussel lake monitoring to detect potential invasive mussel larvae.
- Funding for the ongoing mussel defence program announced is valued at approximately $3 million. It includes:
- $2.45 million, mostly for increased staffing;
- $450,000 over three years to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for the lake monitoring program; and
- $170,000 for equipment for the enhanced program.
- This brings total funding to $4.5 million annually, with partner funding from BC Hydro, Columbia Power, Fortis BC, and Columbia Basin Trust.
- In March 2016, the Invasive Mussel Defence Program announced a $2-million annual program to fund eight inspection stations along B.C.’s borders. The funding is being provided by BC Hydro, Columbia Power, FortisBC and the Columbia Basin Trust. BC Hydro committed $1.25 million to the program, while the remaining partners contributed $250,000 each.
- Five inspection stations are located along the B.C. - Alberta border, and three along the B.C.-United States border.
- In addition to the eight stations, the expanded program includes 33 trained mussel inspectors – an increase of 21 crew members from the 2015 pilot program.
- Teams at these stations perform boat and boat trailer inspections and, as necessary, decontaminate boats entering British Columbia. Additionally, teams respond to boats identified as a concern by the Canada Border Services Agency, as well as Canadian and U.S. partner agencies.
- In March 2015, $1.3 million was committed by the Province and BC Hydro, initiating B.C.’s mussel defence program and boosting early detection and rapid response.
- In July 2015, the Columbia Basin Trust, in collaboration with the Columbia Power and Fortis BC, contributed another $360,000 to the program.
- The 2015 pilot program included six roving decontamination units, 12 trained mussel inspectors, expanded monitoring for zebra and quagga mussels and increased “Clean, Drain, Dry” education and outreach activities.
- Since 2012, the Province has provided the Invasive Species Council of B.C. with $2.1 million for actions to raise awareness of the threats represented by aquatic invasive species and to train recreationists on how to prevent the spread of unwanted species, including freshwater mussels, between different lakes through the “Clean, Drain, Dry” program.
- In December 2012, the Province amended the Controlled Alien Species Regulation to further restrict non-native species. No invasive zebra or quagga mussel, alive or dead, are allowed to be transported on boats or related equipment into or within B.C. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment could result in a fine of up to $100,000.
- The public can submit reports of mussel-infested boats or equipment to the provincial Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at toll-free 1 877 952-7277.
- In addition, the Province is providing the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation with three years of support to expand government’s ongoing invasive mussel lake monitoring to detect potential invasive mussel larvae. This will help build capacity for local stewardship groups to become involved in early detection; a critical first step in preventing invasive mussels from becoming established.
- As well this season will see a new unique tool in the arsenal against invasive mussels - a multi-purpose mussel sniffing dog.
“Clean, Drain, Dry” program:
- The Clean, Drain, Dry outreach program is operated by the Invasive Species Council of B.C. in partnership with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., the B.C. Wildlife Federation, lakeside stewardship groups and regional invasive species committees.
- Anyone who transports a boat into or within B.C. needs to clean the boat, trailer and other equipment by completely removing aquatic animals, plants and mud that are present, drain all water out of bilges, ballast tanks, engines or live wells, and ensure the boat is dry.
- During the summer, trained staff with the Clean, Drain, Dry program are stationed in high-risk areas and at selected boat launches to provide advice and answer questions.
Collaboration and Communication:
- As a partner in the Columbia Basin Rapid Response Plan, B.C. has access to the latest scientific and operational expertise to deal effectively with aquatic invasive species.
- Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona and Alberta all run inspection programs and those jurisdictions immediately notify the B.C. government if they intercept a suspect boat that is bound for British Columbia.
- B.C. is working with the Canadian Border Services Agency to intercept high risk boats entering at U.S. border crossings.
Fines for transporting invasive mussels:
- It is illegal to transport invasive mussels anywhere in B.C. and it is mandatory for motorists with watercraft to report to an inspection station during operating hours.
- Motorists who fail to stop at an inspection station can be fined $345. Outside of operating hours, signage will direct motorists to report information about where they are arriving from, their destination in B.C. and to what extent they have taken steps to ensure they are not transporting invasive mussels.
- Conservation officers will be increasing enforcement of existing penalties, which can include fines up to $50,000 for a first offense for illegally transporting mussels anywhere in B.C.
- The Province will also continue to work with the Canada Border Services Agency to strengthen the screening of all watercraft entering from the United States, and intercept high risk watercraft at border crossings.
Media RelationsMinistry of Environment