Invasive mussels found on Sylvan Lake-bound boat

A close call along the shores of Sylvan Lake saw a mussel-infested boat barred from entering the water over the May long weekend.

A close call along the shores of Sylvan Lake saw a mussel-infested boat barred from entering the water over the May long weekend.

The boat was intercepted during a mandatory inspection at the Sunbreaker Cove boat launch, just as the trained inspectors manning the site were getting ready to end their shift.

“They determined through the protocols that we train them in that the boat was high risk, and so they did a high risk inspection — a very detailed inspection — and they discovered mussels on the watercraft,” said Cindy Sawchuk, a strategic advisor with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

The incident proved both the effectiveness of the province’s mandatory boat inspections and the reality of the threat posed by invasive species, Sawchuk added. Invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels have no known control measure, and their presence can cause irreparable harm to aquatic systems and vital underwater infrastructure.

For that reason, prevention is key.

“Clean, drain, dry — that’s the message that we want to get across,” said Sawchuk. “ We can inspect boats, but it’s really up to the boaters, because if they start to clean, drain and dry their boat every time they leave a water body, and boaters in Alberta start to change their behaviour, we’re effectively eliminating the risk of transporting any of these species.”

The mussels found on the Sylvan Lake-bound boat were believed to have originated in Ontario, where the boat was purchased from. The boat’s owner, Sawchuk said, was “very co-operative and extremely compliant.”

“His exact words to me were, ‘I don’t want to be responsible for spreading the plague into Alberta waters,’ and so they were quite mortified,” said Sawchuk. “If mussels do get introduced … it would be very bad.”

The province last week said the boat would be decontaminated free of charge by specially trained transport officers.