The Okangan Basin Water Board (OBWB) is educating the public regarding the potential threat of invasive quagga and zebra mussels that could infest valley waters and how monitoring and other efforts should occur to keep them out of our lakes.
The OBWB indicates that this is is the most important issue that has faced Okanagan Lake since the arrival of Eurasian Watermilfoil.
Quagga and zebra mussels originate from Europe and were first introduced to the Great Lakes of Ontario in the 1980s in a container ship’s ballast water. Since then they have been spreading quickly through Ontario and Quebec and through several U.S. states, sometimes unknowingly, but mostly by recreational boaters. Today the mussels are as far west as Lake Mead, Nevada and the Red River just south of Manitoba, fouling beaches with sharp shells, encrusting boats, ruining sport fisheries, and more.
Potential Eradication Costs
Aquatic Biologist Heather Larratt recently conducted research for the OBWB and conservatively estimated the impact-management costs of an infestation of Okanagan waters at $43 million annually.
Most at risk would be fisheries, tourism, real estate values and water infrastructure (including public and private water intakes).
Knowing the potential impact to B.C. communities, the Province of British Columbia recently brought in fines for moving the mussels, dead or alive. If the mussels do end up in Okanagan waters, it will be illegal to move boats to uncontaminated lakes without full decontamination.
OBWB believes educating people on how to spot the mussels and prevent them from entering Okanagan waters is key to avoiding contamination.