Efforts to keep invasive mussels out of Alberta have been successful so far, but the threat is unending.
“Inspectors at the Coutts inspection station near the Montana boarder have already intercepted one mussel-fouled boat since opening for the season in March, and it is expected that this will be only one of many such incidents during this summer’s boating season,” Alberta Environment and Parks said in a release earlier this month.
Along with watercraft inspections, a team of dogs is employed to sniff boats in order to detect zebra and quagga mussels, which are very tiny in the larval stage and hard to spot. The Conservation K-9 Program was created by the Eastern, Bow River, Taber, Lethbridge, Northern, Raymond and United irrigation districts.
“Invasive mussels will have devastating effects if introduced into Alberta’s waterbodies,” said Bob Chrumka, chairman, of the Eastern Irrigation District. “We realize that only by working together can we protect our water, and we are very proud to be able to help bring the Conservation K-9 Program to fruition.”
The dogs and their handlers have completed more than 600 inspections across the province, with the owner of every inspected watercraft receiving a “You’ve Been Sniffed” card, which includes a picture of the dog. In 2015, 11 boats harbouring invasive mussels were intercepted.
Adult zebra and quagga mussels attach to water infrastructure — including irrigation pipes, intakes, and pivots — and are virtually impossible to eradicate once in a body of water. It’s estimated that the mussels would cause $75 million in damage annually if they got into Alberta waterways.
For Aquatic Invasive Species inquiries and reports call 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).