Keeping Shuswap Lake free of invasive mussels
The Shuswap is at risk of being invaded by aquatic invasive mussels. It sounds like a science fiction flick, doesn’t it? It’s not – it’s a very real threat, and we all need to do our part to prevent it. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor to the Shuswap, whether you’re a boater, paddler, or fisher – you need to be part of the prevention!
You are required to stop at the watercraft inspection stations that are on your travel route into British Columbia
It’s critically important that everyone eliminates the chance that adult or juvenile mussels are being moved from one body of water to another. Anyone moving a watercraft of any kind into British Columbia is required to stop at watercraft inspection stations.
Staff will inspect and decontaminate your watercraft, free of charge. Stopping is required by law, and failing to stop could cost a traveller a hefty fine.
If you’ve arrived in the Shuswap from outside of BC and did not stop at an inspection station, please phone the provincial hotline 1-877-952-7277 before you launch your watercraft.
You can learn more about watercraft inspection and bringing a boat to BC by visiting the BC government website.
Travellers with watercraft of any kind are required to stop at watercraft inspection stations. Photo: East Kootenay News
Within BC, you must also clean, drain and dry watercraft and gear before moving to another lake or river. This helps prevent the transmission of other invasive species, such as Eurasian water milfoil and whirling disease.
Thank you for your cooperation to keep BC waters free of invasive Zebra and Quagga Mussels.
Zebra and quagga mussels don’t belong in the Shuswap, in BC, or even in Canada. They were unintentionally brought to North America in the 1980’s on ships coming from Europe, where the mussels originate. Since then, they have established in many lakes and rivers in Eastern and central North America, and as far west as California.
Zebra and quagga mussels are different species (Dreissena spp.) but similar in size and appearance:
Invasive zebra and quagga mussels are quite small – less than an inch – and sometimes have distinguishable stripes. Photo: Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society
Invasive zebra and quagga mussels often grow in clusters. This is one characteristic that makes them so destructive. Photo: Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society
The good news is the mussels are not known to be present in Shuswap Lake, or anywhere in BC. Nor are they established in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington, Idaho or Oregon. Let’s keep it that way!
By comparison, native freshwater mussels in BC:
This is an example of a native freshwater mussel. This particular specimen was found on the shore of Little Shuswap Lake near Chase.
Native mussels versus zebra and quagga mussels. Photo: BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. See larger view.
Zebra and quagga mussels would create enormous problems for the Shuswap because they cling to, colonize and encrust hard surfaces underwater: boats, pilings, water supply and irrigation systems, docks — you name it. Additionally, they litter beaches with their small razor-sharp shells, they produce foul odours and they pollute water quality, putting the lake ecosystem and drinking water at risk. They can substantially alter aquatic food webs, which could contribute to the collapse of important native fish populations such as Pacific salmon.
The cost to property owners, tax-payers and rate-payers for dealing with these impacts in BC is conservatively estimated to be $43M per year.
This boat spends its time in mussel-infested waters. Consequently, adult mussels have colonized on the hull. Photo: Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society
One of the most common ways that zebra and quagga mussels move from one waterbody to another is on watercraft and fishing gear, which can become contaminated with mussels if they’ve been used in a lake or river where the mussels are present.
Adult mussels can attach themselves directly, and juvenile mussels float freely in trapped water. There are many places they could be: the bilge, ballast, bait bucket, anchor, hull, trailer, prop, engine coolant system – and that’s just for boats. They could also be “hiding” on kayaks, canoes, stand up paddleboards, waders or water toys. They’re not easy to spot – fully grown adult mussels are the size of your thumbnail, newly established adult mussels are only a millimetre or two, and juvenile mussels are smaller than a grain of sand.
SWC's Bringing a Watercraft to BC poster. See larger view.
There’s more. If the mussels become established in the Shuswap – and it would only take one contaminated watercraft to enable that – they are virtually impossible to get rid of. If they’re introduced to the Shuswap, they’d be here to stay. And, worse yet, they reproduce at alarmingly high rates. A few mussels could become millions in a year.
Prevention is key. Don’t move a mussel! Clean, drain and dry your watercraft and gear, and stop at watercraft inspection stations.
Suspected sightings of zebra and quagga mussels – or other aquatic invasive species, such as Asian clams – should be reported to the BC government using one of the following methods:
The IAS Reporting Invasives app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.