British Columbia

Water advocates say feds need to do more to prevent invasive mussels from moving into B.C.

So far this summer, B.C. conservation officers have flagged 1,100 boats coming into the province as high risk for carrying invasive mussels.

1,100 boats entering the province have been flagged as high risk for mussel infestation this summer

Once established, invasive zebra mussels can cover beaches, choke out native species and clog water pipes. (CBC)

So far this summer, B.C. conservation officers have flagged 1,100 boats coming into the province as high risk for carrying invasive mussels.

And that has Tracy Gray, chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, worried. 

"Down in the U.S., where literally they have piles and mounds of these dead shells on their beaches that they have to shovel out," she said.

"And they smell. You can't walk on the beach with your bare feet." 

Gray and other water advocates are asking the federal minister of Oceans and Fisheries to step in to help keep B.C. waters free of the aggressive quagga and zebra mussels, which once established, can choke out native species, take over beaches and shorelines and clog water pipes.

In Alberta, dogs have been trained to help sniff out invasive mussels on boats driven into the province. (Brian Burnett/CBC)

So far B.C. is free of invasive mussels, but of the 1,100 boats identified at B.C. border entry points, 200 have been quarantined, with 15 confirmed to have adult mussels attached.

"It's very concerning that there are mussel infested boats making their way all across Canada from Ontario, places like New York or Texas," said Gray. 

She says further education about boat cleaning, and even more inspection stations are needed to keep B.C. waters mussel free.

With files from Brady Strachan