COVID-19 restrictions may aid B.C.'s ongoing battle against invasive mussels
British Columbia is opening its mussel inspection stations but hopes travel restrictions due to COVID-19 will assist in lowering the threat of the mussels' arrival in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-US Geological Survey via The Daily Press
VICTORIA -- Travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic might help British Columbia defend against invasive mussels, but the province is taking no chances as it works to keep the creatures out of B.C. waterways.
A statement from the Environment Ministry says boat inspection stations are opening across B.C. to check for zebra and quagga mussels.
The invaders or their larvae can be carried on improperly cleaned, drained and dried watercraft coming from mussel-fouled waters outside the province.
Inspection stations are to operate until October, and while most provincial boat launches are now open, the statement says the ongoing pandemic means now is not the time for non-essential travel.
It says those travel restrictions are expected to lower the risk for arrival of invasive mussels, which reproduce so prolifically that they overwhelm beaches or infrastructure such as water intakes or docks.
The ministry says that of 52,000 inspections last year, 22 mussel-fouled boats were stopped from entering local waters and, so far, no mussel infestations have been reported in B.C.
Dave Bennett, chairman of the Invasive Species Council of BC, says users of all types of watercraft must be extra vigilant.
“Whether you are a paddler, boater or a fisher, let's continue to work together and make sure all of our equipment and vehicles are clean, drained and dry before going to a new waterbody,” he says in the statement.
Anyone transporting watercraft - including sailboats, motorboats, car toppers, kayaks, canoes or paddle boats - must stop at an open inspection station or risk a $345 fine.
Last year, 116 violation tickets were issued to motorists failing to stop at inspection stations, the ministry says.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020