Outaouais boaters must now wash hulls or face hefty fine

Boaters who want to glide along lakes near Maniwaki, Que. will have to wash their vessels in hot water — or face a $300 fine.

New regulation aims to keep invasive mussel species at bay

Washing stations for boats will be available in Blue Sea and Messines. (Jean-Marc Belzile/Radio-Canada)

Boaters who want to glide along the lakes near Maniwaki, Que. will have to wash their vessels in hot water — or face a $300 fine. 

The municipalities of Blue Sea and Messines are making it mandatory to clean any boats entering 50 lakes in the area to keep an invasive species of mussels at bay. This is the first time two Quebec municipalities have worked together to pass legislation, according to the Blue Sea Watershed Association. 

Zebra mussels have razor sharp shells, making swimming barefoot a potentially dangerous activity. The mollusks began appearing in Lac Leamy in Gatineau a few years ago, but they have yet to appear in the lakes about an hour north of Ottawa.

The residents who live on those lakes want to keep it that way. 

"All these invasive species can be carried or transmitted by dirty boats," said Sally Southey, an Ottawa resident who has a cottage in the area and is a member of the Blue Sea Watershed Association. "The lakes up here are absolutely beautiful and we want it to stay that way."

Zebra mussel spores can live on boat hulls and be transported from lake to lake. (Submitted by Dean Thorkelsson)

Watercraft include speedboats, canoes, paddleboards

Southey explained that the spores of the mussels can live on boats and survive the transfer from lake to lake. 

Washing stations will be available in Messines and Blue Sea, equipped with hot water and pressure washers. Every boater — no matter if they're piloting a speedboat or a paddleboard — will have to get a certificate of cleanliness before they're allowed on the lake. 

Inspectors will be patrolling the waterways and handing out hefty fines to people who haven't sprayed their vessels. 

The spores "often aren't visible," said Southey, adding that the fully developed mussels are voracious eaters of the naturally occurring species of lakes. 

Both municipalities are taking the potential zebra mussel invasion seriously. 

"They will be out enforcing this regulation," she said.