April 16th, 2024

Invasive mussels an ongoing concern as weather warms

By ANNA SMITH on April 2, 2024.

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

On Thursday the province of Alberta announced measures being taken to prevent the invasion of non-native zebra and quagga mussels.

However, some have concerns that these proposed measures may not be enough.

The province put forward intent to increase the number of inspection stations, adding more dedicated watercraft inspectors and setting up a new task force on aquatic invasive species.

“These invasive species pose a real and costly threat to other species living in our lakes and rivers, as well as to the water and irrigation infrastructure that we depend on for our economy and for drought and flood protection. We are stepping up to defend Alberta’s borders from these dangerous invasive species,” said Rebecca Schulz, minister of Environment and Protected Areas.

The task force will be headed by Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, and will work with partners to discuss critical topics like how to improve border protections, ways to strengthen the province’s rules and programs, and whether stronger penalties, restrictions or other approaches are needed, said the province.

“Alberta cannot let down its guard. With invasive mussels and other species rising in nearby provinces and states, we must increase our inspection and detection programs,” said Hunter. “By improving protections today, we can protect Alberta from the massive impacts that these invasive species can have on our province.”

Zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic invasive species can be easily introduced by boats and other watercraft moving across borders, said the province.

It is for this exact reason that Todd Beasley, a concerned citizen, is convinced that anything short of a moratorium on out-of-province pleasure-craft will be insufficient to combat the threat.

“We have what I consider an existential threat, which is at our borders to our southern Alberta waterways and our irrigation infrastructure,” said Beasley. He added that as he has been advocating for this cause, taking a page from Okanagan chambers of commerce, many have been unaware of how dire the issue is.

“I would encourage anyone to google Winnipeg beach,” said Beasley. “They had a vibrant tourist industry up to a number of years ago. The species made their way inland from the Great Lake infestation, and there is no tourism industry there any more, because they have three feet of rotting shellfish along the shores.”

Beasley explained that he believes the current level of inspection is inadequate, as would anything less than near-full compliance, as it will only take one craft harbouring these mussels to infect the entire watershed, with no known eradication method once this happens.

“Alberta’s government is investing $2.5 million to increase watercraft inspection and decontamination,” a government release states. “We will increase the number of fixed watercraft inspection stations from five to seven this year, with a goal of four additional stations in 2025.”

Beasley encourages anyone concerned about the invasive mussels to do their research, and to make contact with all levels of government to encourage them to continue to advocate for a moratorium until the necessary levels of training and infrastructure can be reached to prevent infestation.

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