Okanagan chambers of commerce call for ban on out-of-province boats

File photo of inspectors checking out a boat from Ontario for invasive mussels. B.C. Conservation Officer Service

The chamber of commerce in Kelowna, B.C., is leading a regional push to have out-of-province boats temporarily banned from entering the province.

In a statement posted on Tuesday, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce says it’s asking for spending levels on invasive mussel detection to rise significantly, including around-the-clock monitoring of pleasure boats brought into the province.

“Invasive mussels have been detected in Idaho, raising the alarm over the threat posed to B.C. waters and tourism,” reads the statement. “The moratorium would last at least until results of water treatment in Idaho are assessed.”

Click to play video: 'Okanagan lakes free of invasive mussels: Report'
Okanagan lakes free of invasive mussels: Report

Chamber chairperson Dan Price says invasive mussels have “already ruined many freshwater lakes and rivers in Canada, and is currently irreversible. We have a good chance to stop it before it becomes established in our beautiful province.”

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In the South Okanagan, Penticton and Wine Country Chamber president Nicole Clark agreed with her Central Okanagan counterpart.

“Tourists and locals love our beaches and our lakes,” said Clark. “We can’t stand by and lose these irreplaceable resources.”

Joining the resolution was the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB), which has long advocated for stronger border controls.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba Hydro discusses nature, impacts of rapidly multiplying zebra mussels'
Manitoba Hydro discusses nature, impacts of rapidly multiplying zebra mussels

“We are thankful for the support of Thompson Okanagan chambers, and the many other voices that have joined us, in our call to the federal and B.C. governments to commit to funding and legislation that will properly protect B.C. from invasive mussels,” said chair Blair Ireland.

“We’ve been calling for stronger support for more than a decade, recognizing the gaps in current prevention efforts. But now, with the threat closer than ever of an infestation reaching our shores, this issue has become critical.”

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Also from the OBWB, James Littley said “Right now, there are inspection stations that are seasonal and not dawn till dusk or 24 hours at some of the border crossings, and they’re missing at least one in four boats.”

Littley continued, saying “So we’re very concerned that without increased funding and increased staffing, they’re gonna let boats slip through. And unfortunately, there’s no legislation in place right now in B.C. requiring you to get an inspection unless you’re passing an open inspection station.

“So if you come in on a different route, or when the inspection stations are closed, there’s no law that says you can’t just go and launch your boat into our waters.”

Littley also touched on the discovery of invasive mussels in Idaho.

“Their response was to dump copper pesticide into the river, which essentially poisoned a 26-kilometre stretch of the Snake River, killing everything, including up to six to seven tons of fish and the entire population of sturgeon in that stretch of river,” he said.

“Some of those were 35-year-old, eight-foot-long sturgeon. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that worked. The mussels are in their larval stage when they’re babies; they just float along with the current. And, so, they could have already escaped downstream.”

And this from Dan Rogers, the Kelowna chamber’s CEO: “Just stop it at the border until we can see what is transpiring in the U.S.,” adding “we believe that a temporary moratorium is the right direction.”

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The chamber’s letter, addressed to Canada’s Minister of Transport and B.C.’s Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, is available online.

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