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Efforts in place to monitor mussels

Invasive mussels are not yet present in Okanagan lakes and efforts are being made to keep them away.

Invasive mussels are not yet present in Okanagan lakes and efforts are being made to keep them away.

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society has been working with organizations in the area to keep zebra mussels and quagga mussels out of the region.

These European mussels are not believed to occur in the province, but they could be transported here from infested lakes in the United States and the Great Lakes region in Canada.

The mussels were introduced to North America in the late 1980s.

At present, there are no mandatory checkpoint stations in the province.

Checkpoints are required in western states in the U.S.

“It would only take one boat infested with mussels to enter a lake in B.C. and there would be no turning back,” said biologist Lisa Scott, coordinator of OASISS.

“We are trying to encourage everyone to take responsibility to help prevent invasive mussels from entering our waters.”

Zebra mussels and quagga mussels are thumbnail-sized freshwater mollusks.

They colonize on hard surfaces and can clog water intake structures, affect recreation and devastate fisheries.

The direct costs are estimated at more than $45 million a year if the mussels were to be found in Okanagan Lake, Scott said.

The society is working with yacht clubs, marinas and other organizations to set up monitoring stations at area lakes.

The stations consist of a series of small sections of PVC pipe and mesh attached to the rope.

They are dropped to a depth of eight metres.

The stations provide an artificial surface for the invasive mussels.

A sensor is also attached to record temperature and light.

Members of OASISS and partner organizations will monitor the surfaces until late September.

The monitoring will then begin in May.

“We are highly optimistic that we won’t find anything, however it’s important we monitor to be sure the mussels have not arrived,” said Scott.

For more information on European mussels and other invasive species, go to www.oasiss.ca.

The aquatic invaders program is financially supported through the Canada Summer Jobs program and a $30,000 grant from the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

“We are pleased to provide funds to OASISS for this very important project. It’s been complementary to our Don’t Move a Mussel campaign, which is aimed at educating Okanagan residents and visitors to the risks these invasive mussels present,” said Anna Warwick Sears, the water board’s executive director.