Boat inspections proving effective in preventing invasive species spread

Efforts to keep invasive species out of Sylvan Lake continued with a successful boat inspection at the Sunbreaker Cove boat launch.

  • Aug. 6, 2015 8:00 p.m.

Invasive species dog handler Cindy Sawchuk guides Hilo around a boat during an inspection at the Sunbreaker Cove boat launch on Saturday.

Efforts to keep invasive species out of Sylvan Lake continued with a successful boat inspection at the Sunbreaker Cove boat launch over the weekend.

Inspectors and a search dog pored over 170 boats and found no aquatic invasive species, said Cindy Sawchuk, the search’s operations lead and dog handler.

Such mandatory inspections are part of the Alberta Environment and Parks Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program — in place to help eliminate the risk of invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels being transported into Alberta waters.

“Every time a boater leaves a waterbody, if they clean and dry the drains on their boat, they are doing a great job of eliminating the risk of transporting the species,” said Sawchuk. “We talk to boaters about the issue of aquatic invasive species, specifically invasive mussels, that can attach to boats and be transported from waterbody to waterbody.”

Around 11,000 boats have been inspected throughout the province since the May long weekend, with 10 of those inspected found to have been carrying invasive mussels. The affected boats were subsequently cleaned thoroughly before being allowed to enter the water.

So far, the program has proven effective, and resulted in a heightened awareness of the invasive species threat, said Sawchuk.

“We’ve noticed a huge increase in the amount of awareness that people have through TV and media,” she said. “We’ve spoken to 11,000 boaters this year already, and I would say people are (becoming) aware of the issue more and more.”

The majority of boat owners have been fully co-operative with the program, she added, and haven’t minded spending the extra time ensuring they’re not putting Alberta waters in danger.

“They appreciate how we are being proactive to keep invasive species out of the province, because once we get them, we are in reaction mode, and that would be a different story.”

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