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B.C.’s invasive mussel defence program launches new season

B.C. government adds a second canine to help sniff out boats carrying an invasive species of mussels

B.C.’s invasive mussel defence program is launching its fifth season of protecting provincial waterways from invasive zebra and quagga mussels.

According to the Ministry of Environment, zebra and quagga mussels attach to hard surfaces, allowing them to move between waterbodies by boats and equipment.

The mussels then multiply rapidly and are extremely difficult to eradicate once they become established in the area.

READ MORE: New detection dog joins B.C.’s search for invasive mussels

Starting now and carrying on until late October, inspectors with the B.C. Conservation Officer service will be hosting 12 inspection stations throughout the province.

Anyone with a watercraft — such as sailboats, motorboats, car toppers, kayaks, canoes and paddle boats — travelling through or into B.C. is required to stop at an inspection station. Failing to stop can result in a $345 fine.

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The goal of these stations is to educate the public about these invasive mussels and checking boats travelling into and through B.C. before they enter the water.

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Protect our precious waters from invasive mussels: Okanagan Basin Water Board to province
Protect our precious waters from invasive mussels: Okanagan Basin Water Board to province

“British Columbians depend on our clean waterways for fishing, recreation and tourism,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman.

“Zebra and quagga mussels pose a serious threat to these activities, as well as to our fish populations and sensitive ecosystems.”

The invasive mussel defence program began in 2015 with six inspection stations and 12 inspectors. The program has since grown to include 64 inspectors and two detection dogs, Kilo and Major, who will be primarily on the road searching for invasive mussels at inspection stations.

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B.C. Minister of Environment George Heyman, Major the dog and Sgt. Cynthia Mann pose for a photo in front of a boat.
B.C. Minister of Environment George Heyman, Major the dog and Sgt. Cynthia Mann pose for a photo in front of a boat. Global News

Kilo is in her second season after conducting more than 900 inspections.

This will be the first season for Major and his handler, Sgt. Cynthia Mann.

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“With the addition of a second detection dog, we will be able to conduct more inspections to prevent these destructive species from entering our province,” said Heyman.

The dogs are also trained to detect firearms, shell casings, human scent and bear parts.

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Winnipegger visiting Lake Winnipeg shocked by thousands of mussels found on shore
Winnipegger visiting Lake Winnipeg shocked by thousands of mussels found on shore

Last year, the province ensured annual funding dedicated to the program, allowing for more inspections and more opportunities for public awareness.

Funding for the 2019 program includes B.C. Hydro ($1.25 million), Columbia Basin Trust ($250,000), Columbia Power ($250, 000) and Fortis B.C. ($250,000).

“Invasive mussels not only pose a significant risk to British Columbia’s rivers and lakes, but also to B.C. Hydro’s operations,” said B.C. Hydro director of environment Karen Popoff.

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“They can interfere with our ability to produce power by blocking equipment in our generating facilities, which can lead to costly repairs. We are pleased to continue to partner on the province’s invasive mussel defence program.”

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Province issues first fines for zebra mussel contaminated boats in Manitoba
Province issues first fines for zebra mussel contaminated boats in Manitoba

According to the ministry, in 2018, officers conducted more than 40,000 inspections and found 25 contaminated boats destined for the Lower Mainland, Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola, Vancouver Island and the Kootenays.

Of those 25 boats, 20 of them had advanced notification from partner jurisdictions in Ontario, Arizona, Manitoba, Michigan, Utah and Nevada.

The public is encouraged to report watercraft suspected of transporting invasive mussels to the Report All Poachers and Polluters line at 1-877-952-7277.

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To determine if a boat is high-risk and should be decontaminated, contact: COS.Aquatic.Invasive.Species@gov.bc.ca.