February 4, 2016 12:37 am
Updated: February 4, 2016 1:23 am

Experts team up to figure out how to battle invasive species in B.C.

WATCH: Experts have gathered in Richmond to figure out how best to deal with destructive invasive plants and animals. Linda Aylesworth explains why our health, environment, and economy could be at risk.

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The Invasive Species Council of B.C. (ISCBC) is holding its annual forum in Richmond this week.

Their aim is to find better solutions to the growing problem of unwanted plants and animals spreading throughout the province.

One of the most problematic plants in B.C. is hawkweed. It thrives to the point of squeezing out all native vegetation. They can impact ranchers by taking over valuable grazing land.

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“It is a plant that, if we can’t reduce the population, we are looking at a cost of $140 million a year, just from one plant,” ISCBC executive director Gail Wallin said. “Never mind other plants like knotweed in the Lower Mainland, which is a big problem. Its roots go through foundatoins and roads and millions of dollars are spent each year to take care of that.”

The problem is not exclusive to B.C. The cost of invasive species in Canada is estimated between $16.6 and $34.5 billion a year.

In B.C. wild salmon runs are increasingly being threatened by northern pike and walleye that prey on juvenile salmon.

Also a concern in B.C. freshwater environments are perch and bass that compete with native species for food. They are spreading throughout the province due in large part to uninformed anglers.

“The biggest thing is for people not to spread them,” ISCBC director Brian Heise said. “Don’t use live bait or move the fish from one place to another. And as for northern pike and walleye, don’t catch and release. Just eat them!”

The ISCBC is also concerned about the arrival of bivalves like zebra and quagga mussels that can clog up pipes at hydro electric facilities.

“We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars a year because they have to be maintained and cleaned so we all end up paying more for hydro if we allow the mussels to come in on boats. So the public can help by cleaning, draining and drying their boats before moving them,” Heise said.

There are many more invasive species threatening B.C.’s environment and economy. To find out more, check out the ISCBC website.

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