Photo Supplied by James Littley, Okanagan Basin Water Board

Why is the BCWF helping fund B.C.’s Invasive Mussel Defence Program?

In the province’s announcement that BC Hydro has committed to a $900,000 annual contribution the Invasive Mussel Defence Program, and that the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation are collectively contributing $150,000, BCWF Executive Director Jesse Zeman is quoted saying: ““It is vital to the health of our freshwater ecosystems and fish that we keep invasive mussels out of B.C. The impacts of invasive mussel infiltration could be devastating. We’re very supportive of IMDP’s work and we’re pleased to team up with Pacific Salmon Foundation and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation to fund some of the program’s preventive activities this year.”

The Invasive Mussel Defence Program funds inspections, enforcement, monitoring, and public education to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from infesting B.C.’s freshwater ecosystems.

The BCWF has been advocating for more protection against invasive zebra and quagga mussels, calling them, “the single biggest invasive threat to our freshwater ecosystems, hydroelectric facilities, irrigation systems, and municipal water infrastructure.”

Once they are established, you can forget walking on the beach in your bare feet. Their shells can be razor sharp. Infestations may also lead to declines in lake trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon. Invasive mussels retain water-borne toxins in their flesh, which exposes the waterfowl and fish that eat to them to illnesses such as botulism. When mussels die in the millions, as they did on the shore of Lake Winnipeg, the stench from their decay renders beaches unusable. 

Lake Winnipeg; photo credit Timm Bruch, Global News

The threat posed by invasive mussels is not hypothetical. We have had dozens of close calls in B.C. in the past few years with mussel-infested boats crossing our border with the United States. Surveillance programs that monitor incoming watercraft and gear are the most effective means of preventing invasives from entering freshwater systems. With limited support, inspectors in B.C. ordered 51 vessels decontaminated and 28 quarantined last summer alone. 

Invasive mussels could lead to the collapse of any number of our fisheries. Their impacts on the environment are catastrophic. This illustration from James Littley of the Okanagan Basin Water Board illustrates how damaging zebra and quagga mussels are to aquatic ecosystems:

How can you help?

Follow the Invasive Species Council of BC’s Clean Drain Dry protocols every single time you move a boat, fishing equipment, or any other gear between two bodies of water.

Comply with all inspections through the Province’s Invasive Mussel Defence Program:

Contact your Member of Parliament and demand that they resume federal funding for mussel defence.



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