January 9, 2018 11:37 am

Saskatchewan still free of invasive mussels

In a photo provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a group of zebra mussels, taken from Lake Erie, are seen in an undated photo. Saskatchewan conservation officers decontaminated 119 watercraft during 2017 for invasive mussels.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Saskatchewan continues to remain free of invasive mussels.

The government said Tuesday that no zebra or quagga mussels were found in 90 bodies of water that were tested during 2017.

READ MORE: Clean, drain and dry: preventing aquatic invasive species from entering Sask.

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Zebra mussels and quagga mussels are almost impossible to eliminate if they become established in waterways and can severely impact aquatic habitats, fisheries, recreational resources and water-related infrastructures.

As part of its invasive mussels monitoring program, 1,212 inspections were carried out by Saskatchewan conservation officers of watercraft entering the province.

Detailed inspections were carried out on 307 watercraft and 119 required decontamination.

In 2016, 25 watercraft were decontaminated during inspections.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan decontaminates two boats with visible mussels

“Prevention is of the utmost importance,” Saskatchewan Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release.

“Our government focuses on public awareness through education and targeted signage about our clean, drain, dry program, roadside boat inspections, decontaminations and regular monitoring of Saskatchewan’s busy waterbodies.”

Manitoba, North Dakota and Montana have all confirmed infestations of invasive mussels.

Zebra mussel larva have previously been found in Cedar Lake, Man., which is part of the Saskatchewan River system.

The province has partnered with non-government organizations and other agencies to detect unwanted invasive mussels.

The Saskatchewan adult invasive mussel monitoring program (AIMM) is one tool now being used by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, SaskWater, watershed groups and the public for early detection.

The University of Saskatchewan used environmental DNA as a surveillance tool in 33 water samples. Ferries on the North and South Saskatchewan rivers were also checked.

READ MORE: Sask. Resort Community Association seeking tougher zebra mussel regulations

The province has updated provincial regulations making it mandatory for people transporting boats to stop at an inspection station, with a $500 fine for those who fail to stop.

There is also a $500 fine for the illegal transportation of aquatic invasive species.

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