Officials fighting to keep invasive mussels out of Alberta

  • Jul. 30, 2014 4:44 p.m.

Lacombe County is doing its part to prevent the spread of an invasive aquatic species out of Alberta.

On Aug. 1st, Lacombe County is teaming up with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) to hold an event to promote awareness and keep two species of mussels from invading Alberta’s waterways.

Quagga and zebra mussels are two species of Dreissena mussels that could do serious harm to the ecosystem should they enter the province.

Luckily, neither of these species have been recorded in Alberta and the County wants to keep it that way.

In an effort to do so, council recently voted unanimously in favour of holding an information and prevention event on Aug. 1st at the Sunbreaker Cove Boat Launch on Sylvan Lake where people can learn more about these mussels.

For concerned boaters, an inspection station will be set up nearby as well so boats can be examined.

An ‘education blitz’ regarding the invasive species will be part of it, including specimens of quagga and zebra mussels. Pamphlets and other informational materials will also be available.

Sharina Kennedy of AESRD gave a brief presentation about these Dreissena species of mussel at the council meeting earlier this month.

In her presentation, she stressed how keeping these invasive species out of Alberta is imperative.

“I don’t think it can be overstated or repeated enough why we really don’t want them in Alberta,” said Kennedy.

Quagga and zebra mussels have a number of ways of spreading across land to find new bodies of water.

Most commonly, they hitch rides by attaching themselves onto the hulls of boats.

Boats carrying quagga and zebra mussels bound for Alberta have been stopped in the past, said Kennedy.

She added that some of these were heading for Central Alberta lakes even, like Gull Lake and Sylvan Lake.

These mussels can survive for 30 days outside of water, so even after boats have been removed from a lake or river, invasive mussels can still pose a threat.

Once a boat enters water again, the mussels come out of a dormant state and resume trying to spread.

Once they have established in a new body of water, the mussels have further methods to quickly populate, survive and even thrive.

In their larval form, the mussels are free-floating and microscopic, making them impossible to detect. They start producing within a month and a half of being established, so they can quickly get out of control.

Quagga and zebra mussels have negative impacts on the ecosystems of lakes and rivers in a number of ways.

First of all, as they have no natural predators and they compete with other organisms for food.

They also are very adaptable and can attach themselves almost anywhere, even on top of other organisms like crayfish, hindering them.

It is possible for quagga and zebra mussels to completely destroy bodies of water.

They will deplete the populations of fish and other aquatic animals and even waterfowl. Quagga and zebra mussels also ruin waterways for recreational use by humans, making them impossible to swim in because of their numbers covering every surface in the water.

Kennedy reiterated that there are currently no cases of quagga or zebra mussels within Alberta, however, Alberta Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are working on developing procedures on what to do if they are ever found within the province as well as developing a protocol for how to decontaminate fouled boats.