Zebra & Quagga Mussels Pt.2

This is the second article to be posted in the Pendozi regarding the invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels threatening the Okanagan Valley. Awareness is one of the first elements in  addressing this potential hazard to our Valley and more specifically Lake Okanagan.

The Zebra and Quagga mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980’s via discharge of ships ballast water previously picked up from the Black and Caspian seas. Over the past 30 years they have migrated from the east across Canada and the United States to as far as Manitoba in Canada and to every US state except for Idaho, Oregon and Washington. A lot has been done to combat the species over the past 30 years and the west is now building momentum to deal with the defence against the infestation. This article will deal with the little critters themselves.

These mussels are really small ranging in size from very tiny to just plain small (15mm at maturity) and so can be very difficult to detect. At maturity they about the size of a sunflower seed and in fact you could easily fit 25 to 30 on a single sunflower seed when they are at the early stage of growth. As difficult as detection can be researchers are finding new ways of detecting these invaders but some boaters are finding ways of avoiding inspection stations. Inspections and the law will be the subject of future articles.

British Columbia, as far as we know, is currently invasive mussel free but Manitoba is not. Once the mussels get established they reproduce rapidly. They crowd out other native mussel species to become the singular species in a water body such as in Lake Manitoba. Although unable to show it here, there ia a picture of a research assistant standing in her rubber
boots on the shoreline of Lake Manitoba. The mussels are half way up her rubber boots. The picture was taken in 2016 but had it been taken in 2015 it would ave shown her to be standing on a sandy beach not unlike our beaches in Kelowna or Penticton.

Not only do these mussels multiple rapidly they are also very sharp edged and would cut bare feet if walked on. As if that were not enough, they also really stink once established in large quantities. Just imagine the impact of such a shoreline on Lake Okanagan and the impact to local residence, lakefront homes and tourism. These little creatures can also find their way into and clog up irrigation pipes, water treatment facilities, boat engines and props and any other solid body that may be in contact the water. To date nothing good can be said about these mussels that were introduced to North America and to those few areas not yet infested we need to make every
effort to hold the species at bay.

In upcoming articles I will talk to the organizations that have been established to deal with this invasive species, what is being done about watercraft inspections, what some of the current and potential future costs could be and laws that are being established to enforce detection. If you spot zebra/quagga mussels on a boat you can call the RAPP Hotline @ 1 877-952-7277 (RAPP – Report all Poachers and Polluters).

[Sources of information are from the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society, Alberta Conservation and the Montana Invasive Species Council]

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