As another busy boating season is about to get underway in the Vernon area, the B.C. government is once again adding to its arsenal in the fight to help keep B.C. invasive mussel free.
It is adding two new inspection stations, expanding inspection hours, more than doubling the number of inspectors, increasing public education, expanding scientific lake monitoring and unveiling Canada’s first multi-purpose mussel-sniffing dog.
Two brand new border inspection stations will open at Yahk and Midway, bringing the total number of inspections stations in B.C. to 10 locations. The province’s busiest station at Golden will be open 24 hours a day, while the remaining nine stations will have their hours extended from dawn to dusk.
To support the new extended hours, the Province is also adding 35 inspection officers to the program, bringing the total to 68 auxiliary conservation officers.
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.
The Province is also unleashing a new and unique tool to fight invasive mussels, Canada’s first multi-purpose mussel-detection dog. Kilo, a German Shepherd Dog, is currently undergoing training to sniff out mussels as well as firearms, bear parts, and will also be used in evidence recovery cases. Beginning on July 1st, Kilo will be working at high-volume stations on a rotating basis to help detect invasive mussels.
Funding announced today is valued at approximately $3 million. It includes:
- $2.45 million, primarily for the increased staffing.
- $450,000 over three years to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for the lake monitoring program.
- $170,000 for equipment for the enhanced program.
This brings the total program funding to $4.5 million annually, with partner funding from BC Hydro, Columbia Power, Fortis BC, and Columbia Basin Trust.
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’ve 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.
Through the Province’s expanded Invasive Mussel Defence Program, crews in 2016 inspected a record 24,500 watercraft for invasive quagga and zebra mussels, helping B.C. to remain free of invasive mussels.
Zebra and quagga mussels can significantly alter the food web resulting in the collapse of native fish populations, including sockeye salmon. They can clog pipes and water systems and can ultimately affect municipal and industrial water supplies. The economic impact of invasive mussels to hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreational boating has been estimated to be $43 million annually. They also have a reputation of decreasing the quality of the recreational experience, impacting tourism.
Eric Foster, MLA for Vernon-Monashee –
“With the new detection dog and additional 35 inspection officers on site, we are more than doubling our operational work force. As boating and tourism increases during the warmer months, the additional officers will be an important part in safeguarding B.C.’s waterways.”
- A mobile trailer featuring visuals of the Clean, Drain, Dry program is travelling throughout B.C. providing public awareness about invasive mussels.
- The Provincial Invasive Mussel Defence Program launched in March 2016 with annual funding including:
- Support from BC Hydro $1.25 million, Columbia Basin Trust $250,000, Columbia Power $250.000, and Fortis BC $250,000, and Ministry of Agriculture $200,000. Ministry of Environment provides significant in-kind scientific, program administration, and Conservation Officer Services (COS) support.
- During the 2016 boating season, the program inspected 24,500 boats and interacted with 50,000 people at the inspection stations.
- Boats were identified as traveling into B.C. from 58 different provinces, territories and states.
- The program intercepted 685 boats from high risk provinces or states and intercepted 17 mussel fouled boats.
For more information about The BC Invasive Mussel Program: www.gov.bc.ca/invasivemussels
To learn about invasive species visit: www.gov.bc.ca/invasive-species