Boaters educated about dangers posed by mussels; how to clean watercraft

As the province ramps up its campaign to keep Alberta free of zebra and quagga mussels, local agencies were involved

Don’t let invasive mussels catch a ride was just one of the messages Cajun Paradis

As the province ramps up its campaign to keep Alberta free of zebra and quagga mussels, local agencies were involved in an education campaign Aug. 1.

Organized by Cajun Paradis, Lacombe County’s acting environmental coordinator, a four hour blitz took place at Sunbreaker Cove boat launch where about 20 boat owners and more than 40 people on foot received information about the pesky culprits that are destroying aquatic habitat in Eastern Canada and throughout the United States.

She indicated they weren’t just trying to educate boat owners about what the invasive species are, but also how to prevent them getting a ride into Alberta lakes through proper cleaning techniques — clean, drain and dry.

Joining Lacombe County were representatives of the summer villages around the lake, the Town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta Environment staff, conservation officers from Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, community peace officers and members of the province’s commercial vehicle enforcement department.

“We got lots of great feedback,” said Paradis. “There was a lot of shock value from the (mussel) specimen on the table.”

Besides posters which read: Wanted Dead Not Alive For Devastating Aquatic Habitat; Invasive Mussels Pose Threats; and Don’t Let Invasive Mussels Catch A Ride, the group handed out information pamphlets, boat shammies, dry wallets and floating key chains.

Zebra and quagga mussels, non-native species, are currently doing damage in the Great Lakes and arrived in Manitoba last year. There have been no reports of the mussels in Alberta yet, but boats stopped at the U.S. border, headed to Sylvan and other Central Alberta lakes have been found carrying the creatures.

Voluntary boat inspections were offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the overflow parking lot at Sunbreaker Cove as part of the awareness campaign.

Zebra and quagga mussels are virtually impossible to eradicate. One female can produce up to a million eggs in a year and they will cost the province $75 million annually if they sneak across the border.

The best thing boaters can do to prevent the spread of mussels is clean, drain and dry their watercraft, Paradis emphasized.

Remove all mud, plants and animals at the access area or dock and soak gear in a mixture of bleach and water for at least one minute as mussels can also travel on hip waders, paddles, life-jackets and other aquatic equipment. Boats and gear should be cleaned with hot water and all excess water should be drained from bait buckets, ballasts, bilges, coolers and internal compartments. Remove seals and let everything completely air dry.

See another photo in this week’s paper.

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