A non-profit organization in Osoyoos is calling on the B.C. government to implement 24-hour mandatory inspections of recreational watercraft to combat the spread of invasive mussels.
The Invasive Mussel Defense Program operates 10 hours a day at the Osoyoos border crossing.
All types of watercraft are required to stop for inspection.
High-risk vessels are decontaminated. If the invasive species is located, the watercraft is quarantined for 30 days.
Birgit Arnstein, president of the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society, said the inspection station should be operational around the clock.
“I drove through early in the morning and they weren’t there and there are boaters that do travel through at other than 9 to 5 hours,” she said.
B.C. Conservation officer Josh Lockwood acknowledged the threat invasive mussels pose to fresh water in B.C.
“Just the economic impact for British Columbia would be about $42 million a year.”
He said border guards help fill the gap when the mussel hunters aren’t there.
“They have stopped boats at the border and had them re-enter Canada when the inspection station is open,” he said.
The B.C. government said the unwanted invaders have been located on three boats at the Osoyoos border crossing and 16 across B.C., so far this year.
Zebra and quagga mussels have proliferated across the continent, affecting fresh waters east of Saskatchewan and in the southwestern United States
The unwanted invaders graft onto water intake and irrigation systems, destroy fish spawning grounds and blanket beaches with their razor sharp shells.
The invasive mussels haven’t yet been detected in B.C., and the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society wants to keep it that way.
“The tourism industry would very much be damaged as well as the fishing industry,” Arnstein said.
Boat owners are also encouraged to clean, drain and dry their vessels to prevent an ecological disaster.