WINNIPEG — They are a small but incredibly invasive species. Zebra mussels have taken over Lake Winnipeg. Boats are being pulled from the lake completely covered in the species.
“We couldn’t hardly start the boat and we couldn’t figure out why,” Dan Van Caeyzeele said. “Then when we did start the boat it started overheating.”
Dan Van Caeyzeele pulled his boat out of the water in Gimli on Tuesday and was shocked at what he saw.
“Once we got the boat out of the water, oh my god, it was just loaded like a carpet of zebra mussels from head to toe,” he said. “The motor plugged up, intake plugged up… it’s just a nightmare.”
Last week, a Conservation and Water Stewardship news release said the province, boaters and the public have been finding significant numbers of zebra mussels on boats along beaches and on infrastructure such as swimming buoys, docks and ladders.
Now, one water quality expert is sounding the alarm and tells Global News Lake Winnipeg is a lost cause.
“The problem is irreversible and in fact it’s a catastrophe, it’s a disaster,” said Dr. Eva Pip, a professor at the University of Winnipeg who specializes in water quality and water ecosystems.
“It’s very sad because all we have to look forward to now in Lake Winnipeg is a complete and eventual collapse of our ecosystem.”
Pip said the situation is so far gone it could be as little as two years before we start to see the devastation to the lake’s ecosystem.
WATCH: Dr. Eva Pip says Lake Winnipeg is a lost cause due to zebra mussels
“The only way to deal with this is to not let the problem start in the first place and we certainly missed the boat on that now,” Pip said. “What we can do now is try to slow the spread into other lakes and rivers in Manitoba. But once you have the numbers that we already have in Lake Winnipeg, that becomes a very daunting issue.”
The province said it is turning its focus towards stopping the zebra mussels from spreading to other lakes and rivers.
“Lake Winnipeg has the infestation of zebra mussels which means the attention has to be turned to other water bodies,” said Gord Mackintosh, Acting Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship. “One lake is infested but there are 100,000 lakes in this province.”
When asked whether the province believes eradicating the zebra mussel problem in Lake Winnipeg is a lost cause Mackintosh said, “every lake has different characteristics in terms of water movement and the substrate but what we do know now is Lake Winnipeg is infested, whether that will continue… it’s likely.”