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Invasive mussel species enters Alberta through moss balls

Alberta Environment and Parks is working to identify a species of invasive mussel that has entered Western Canada through moss balls. Facebook: My Wild Alberta

Alberta Environment and Parks is alerting the public to an invasive mussel that may put the ecosystem at risk, after finding the species in moss balls.

Nicole Kimmel, an aquatic invasive species specialist for Alberta Environment and Parks, says the issue was brought to their attention on Wednesday following similar findings in the United States.

“We were actually alerted from a detection down in Seattle, that they had detected invasive mussels in these small, pet store aquarium plants called moss balls,” Kimmel explained.

“We started looking into whether that was a possibility here in Canada as well.”

Read more: Invasive mussels found in B.C. woman’s aquarium

Kimmel says they discovered the mussels at a major distributor in Calgary late last week, and put out a warning on their Facebook page: My Wild Alberta.

The distribution centre could not be named, but Kimmel says the moss balls have been distributed to retailers such as pet stores, and could be in the hands of the public.

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While mainly used in aquariums, moss balls can also be used for decorations.

Kimmel said the distributor also ships to British Columbia and Saskatchewan, and they are working closely with officials in neighboring provinces.

Read more: Invasive mussels: 10 boats, 5 bound for Okanagan, stopped by B.C. conservation officers

“We’re still in the preliminary efforts to actually identify what specific species, but we believe them to be either zebra or quagga mussels. They are the invasive mussels that we put a ton of effort on trying to prevent from coming out to Western Canada,” she said.

AEP is currently working to get all moss balls off the shelves, and asks the public to call the aquatic invasive species hotline at 1-855-336-2628 if they come across product in stores.

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s zebra and quagga mussel defence program starts new season' B.C.’s zebra and quagga mussel defence program starts new season
B.C.’s zebra and quagga mussel defence program starts new season – May 31, 2019

For those who have recently purchased moss balls — don’t get rid of them.

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While seemingly tiny and unthreatening, they are potentially detrimental to Alberta’s aquatic ecosystems, fisheries, and water infrastructure.

Read more: Inspectors intercept boat with invasive mussels being brought into Saskatchewan

Do not flush moss balls down the toilet or dispose of them in the compost, and never dump aquarium tank pets, plants or water into any residential water system or Alberta waterway.

“We’re working on messaging right now on how we want folks to handle all of the things that moss balls might be in.”

Kimmel says Alberta Environment and Parks typically sees mussels invade the ecosystem by the transportation of watercraft, where they’ll enter through standing water or latch onto hard surfaces.

“This is definitely a new pathway that we hadn’t anticipated intercepting any mussels,” Kimmel admitted.

Further information on the situation is expected in the near future, with Kimmel advising the public to follow their Facebook page for immediate access to updates.

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