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B.C. Conservation seizes thousand of moss balls due to hidden invasive species

Zebra mussels have been detected in moss/algal ball products in Saskatchewan, which are often sold as Marimo Moss Balls. Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment / Supplied

A tiny invader that can have a massive impact on the natural world, the zebra mussel is among the most feared invasive species in British Columbia.

You only need to travel three provinces to the east to see and hear about the tremendous impact the highly invasive species has had on lakes in Manitoba.

“The problem is irreversible and in fact, it’s a catastrophe — it’s a disaster,” Dr. Eva Pip, a water quality and ecosystem expert with the University of Winnipeg, told Global News in 2015.

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Invasive Zebra mussels found in B.C. aquarium – Mar 6, 2021

While B.C. has set up a boat inspection program at provincial and U.S. borders in recent years to stop vessels accidentally bringing in zebra mussels, there was huge surprise when the invasive species turned up inside residential homes.

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

“It’s very concerning,” Dave Webster, COS Alien Invasive Species lead, told Global News when minute zebra mussels were found inside moss balls, an aquarium feature.

“We’re trying to work with the industry to stop this product from being put out to the public.”

Because one zebra mussel can quickly turn into millions, B.C. Conservation officers quickly embarked on a sweep of pet stores to eliminate potential risks.

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B.C.’s zebra and quagga mussel defence program starts new season – May 31, 2019

“Suspected or lab-confirmed contaminated moss balls have been found in Terrace, Invermere, Kamloops, the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island,” a release from the B.C. Environment Ministry stated on Thursday afternoon. “Most of the moss balls seized were found on the Lower Mainland.”

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Since the first reports about the contaminated mussels in early March, Conservation officers said they collected nearly 3,000 moss balls which were suspected or confirmed to be contaminated with zebra mussels.

Read more: Zebra mussels detected in products sold in Saskatchewan

Often called “Marimo moss balls,” the popular ornamental aquarium item has been found to be contaminated with the highly invasive species across Canada, according to the Ministry.

The moss balls are sometimes used as decorative houseplants, it said.

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Winnipegger visiting Lake Winnipeg shocked by thousands of mussels found on shore – May 22, 2018

The Ministry of Environment said investigations have linked some potentially contaminated moss balls to international shipments

“Conservation officers have reached out to more than 1,100 pet and aquarium plant stores, aquatic retailers and distributors throughout the province, and have conducted hundreds of on-site inspections to prevent the sale of potentially contaminated moss balls,” according to the Ministry, which commended the industries cooperation.

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“Many retailers and distributors have voluntarily pulled the moss balls from their shelves.”

Read more: Winnipeg’s zebra mussel problem can be tackled, but comes with big price tag: U.S. researcher

For more information about proper disposal of moss balls, check out the Ministry of Environment information here.

Zebra and quagga mussels are equally devastating to the environment. More information can be found here.

Anyone who finds zebra mussels is asked to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline, toll-free, at 1 877 952-7277 to report their find.

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