Manitoba family spots 'dark clumps' of zebra mussels at Grand Beach
Teresa Newton says the invasive species was everywhere
When Teresa Newton and her sons were walking along Grand Beach, on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, something caught their gaze — blobs of black along the water's edge.
The channel between the west and east beaches was covered in zebra mussels.
"My son had noticed a dark spot in the water because the water was really clean there and you could see dark clumps everywhere and we picked them up," Newton said.
"It was just a clump of probably about 50 of them just in my hand."
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The small, filter-feeding mussels, which reproduce aggressively, were first spotted in Lake Winnipeg's algae-ridden waters in October 2013.
A spokesperson for the province said zebra mussels were noticed in Grand Beach last year, and urged beachgoers to be cautious around them.
Newton said her family heads to the beach multiple times a year and had heard about the invasive species, but this was the first time they had seen it.
"There were clumps everywhere," she said. "We probably walked maybe half a kilometre down towards the east beach and they were everywhere."
The family figures they saw up to 1,000 of the tiny, sharp mussels. The species is not native to Manitoba but has been brought in by boaters moving their vessels between bodies of water.
They're often found encrusted along the hulls of boats or submerged surfaces.
Newton said her five sons asked about the mussels and she recalled seeing pictures of them at a boat show.
"I was talking to my younger son about what they do and how they take over and how people are supposed to wash all their boats coming into our waters and how two years ago we never saw any anywhere," she said.
Zebra mussels can clog drinking water supply pipes, clog engines on boats and they threaten fish and wildlife, according to the province's website on aquatic invasive species.
While the presence of the species won't stop the Newton family from heading to the beach, they are worried about fishing.
"It's just we just worry about the fish because we do a lot of fishing," Newton said.
To stop the spread of the mussels, people should clean, drain and dry watercraft and equipment when leaving a lake or river. People also need to drain or empty any standing water away from storm sewers, lakes and rivers.
with files from Sabrina Carnevale