Okanagan water board asks for more federal funding to fight invasive mussels
The Okanagan Basin Water Board is urging the federal government to continue helping stop the westward spread of invasive mussels.
This week, the OBWB said it sent a letter to newly appointed Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray requesting a renewal of federal funding for invasive mussel outreach and education.
The OBWB says the funding, which will expire in 2023 and also goes towards lake monitoring, was previously provided through the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk.
“We’re happy to see a fisheries minister appointed from B.C. and hope she has a good understanding of water issues in the Okanagan and around the province,” said Sue McKortoff, chair of the OBWB.
McKortoff is the mayor of Osoyoos, home to Canada’s warmest fresh-water lake. She said federal support is needed because the problem with zebra and quagga mussels extends beyond B.C.’s Interior.
The OBWB says invasive mussels can be found in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, but there have been close calls, with mussel-infested watercraft being intercepted coming into B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Last year alone, B.C.’s inspection stations intercepted 17 mussel-fouled watercraft, eight of which were headed to the Okanagan,” said the OBWB.
“Of these 17, the greatest number — seven — came from Ontario, two came from Manitoba and one from Quebec, the other seven came from various U.S. states.”
The OBWB says a study it did in 2013 found that the cost to manage mussel infestation in the Okanagan would be at least $42 million a year.
McKortoff says the OBWB has been delivering its “Don’t Move A Mussel” program since 2013.
“As a result, awareness in the Okanagan regarding these mussels is very high, but we have no authority outside our region, so provincial and federal support is absolutely necessary,” said McKortoff.
The OBWB noted that correspondence from the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans indicated that provinces may authorize the use of pesticides to help prevent, control or eradicate aquatic invasive species.
However, the OBWB says that’s not an effective tool to address invasive mussels in larger bodies of water.
“This is not a practical solution for the Okanagan and most other regions of B.C.,” said McKortoff, adding that prevention is Western Canada’s best defence.
“We recognize that we each have a role in keeping zebra and quagga mussels out as individuals, as local and regional areas, but that we need provincial and federal government support. That’s the only way we will be able to keep our waters safe.”
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