Invasive mussels discovered on boat at Sunbreaker Cove

Sylvan Lake has had a close call with unwanted mussels.

Sylvan Lake has had a close call with unwanted mussels.

A roving provincial inspection team discovered mussels on a boat at Sylvan Lake’s Sunbreaker Cove boat launch on the long weekend. The boat had been hauled from Ontario, where lakes have been hit hard by the mussels.

It was the first mussel-infested boat found this season.

The boat was chained to its trailer as a precaution but the owner was allowed to take it away to be thoroughly cleaned before it is next launched.

The province is analyzing the mussels to determine if they are quagga or zebra.

All stops have been pulled this year to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from being introduced into Alberta’s lakes. Once they gain a foothold, the mussels cause millions of dollars in damage, clogging water intake pipes and upsetting lake’s ecosystems.

Also on the province’s hit list is Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive plant.

Chara Goodings, an Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development spokesperson, said 11 inspection stations and roving teams will be used this summer to guard against the mussels.

About 50 Environment Department staff, plus a dozen specially trained Transportation Department officers and three mussel-sniffing dogs have been put on the job.

For the first time this year, inspections are mandatory for boat owners passing by inspection points.

However, only about half of passing boat owners are pulling into the stations as required.

“It’s really scary to think that only 50 per cent are actually stopping,” said Goodings.

While the province has been focusing on public education to get the word out on mandatory inspections, those who break the rules could face judge-imposed penalties, Maximum punishments under the Fisheries Act include fines up to $100,000 or a year in jail.

Inspections are straightforward and don’t take long. If inspectors find something amiss, boats will get a free wash.

As soon as the legislation was passed in March making inspections mandatory, inspectors were in action, especially at border points such as Coutts, a popular crossing point for returning snowbirds.

In Central Alberta, lake-area municipalities have been very supportive of the province’s efforts, said Goodings. Around Sylvan Lake, the summer villages of Norglenwold, Jarvis Bay and Birchcliff were singled out by the province for praise for their efforts in helping organize last weekend’s inspections.

The Town of Sylvan Lake and Central Alberta counties have also had zebra mussels high on their priority lists.

Lacombe County is co-operating with an inspection awareness event at Aspen Beach boat launch on May 30.

Boaters are reminded to inspect, clean, drain and dry their boats before putting them into the water.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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