British Columbia

Invasive mussels discovered in B.C. lake

Officials are hoping a quick response has stopped the aggressive spread of invasive mussels in a lake in the B.C. Interior.

Officials hope spread of quagga mussels averted

Zebra mussels can cause significant damage to the environment. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Associated Press/Canadian Press)

Officials are hoping a quick response has stopped the aggressive spread of invasive mussels in a lake in the B.C. Interior.

The province says mussels found on a U.S. power boat in Shuswap Lake earlier this month were confirmed to be quagga mussels.

"The introduction and establishment of zebra mussels or quagga mussels into British Columbia would change the biodiversity of our water systems [and] threaten native species and fisheries," the province said in a written release.

Quagga mussels were introduced to Canada and the United States from Europe in the 1980s. Along with the closely related species zebra mussels, they now cost governments in eastern Canada and about 24 U.S. states millions of dollars every year.

Once established, the fingernail-sized freshwater mussels choke out native species, and clog water intake pipes and machinery.

They are not native to B.C. and are difficult to eradicate. Live mussels can easily attach themselves to recreational vehicles, boats, boating equipment and fishing gear, and can be easily transferred from one body of water to another.

The quagga mussels found on the boat in Shuswap Lake were dead but as a precautionary measure the boat was pulled from the lake, inspected and decontaminated by provincial officials.

"There is still a small risk that viable mussels were on the hull or in internal water sources at the time the boat was launched and docked in Shuswap Lake," said the release.

"As an extra precaution, water samples from the boat’s bilge and pump systems are being analyzed for the presence of mussel larvae. Divers are also scheduled to complete a thorough inspection of the marina’s moorage area, piers and lake bed."

The results of those tests are expected to be available later this week.