Invasive zebra mussels found on boat entering Sask.
The province says it intervened before the boat made its way to Sask. waters
Officials at an inspection station near the Manitoba and Saskatchewan border found zebra mussels, an invasive aquatic species, on a boat that was coming into Saskatchewan after being bought out of province.
Matt Tyree, manager of fisheries for the Ministry of Environment, said the discovery was made on July 3 as part of the ongoing aquatic invasive species program. He said the mussels were found before the boat made its way to Saskatchewan waters.
"That watercraft was effectively decontaminated right there at the inspection station and that threat of the zebra mussel was eliminated," Tyree said.
The province said this is the third time the invasive species was found on a boat or trailer so far this year, with the other two vehicles having come from Ontario and the United States.
"There are a number of infected jurisdictions in relative close proximity to Saskatchewan." Tyree said. "[In] Manitoba, Ontario, North Dakota, Montana, so although we don't yet have zebra mussels in Saskatchewan they certainly pose a significant threat."
Tyree said that if zebra mussels were to get into our waterways they could have a significant environmental impact to the aquatic ecosystem.
"From a fisheries perspective as well as to other species of invertebrates that are living there, they can out-compete them." Tyree said. "[They] can reduce game fish populations that are important to recreational anglers."
Tyree said there is also an economic component, which includes impacts to irrigation, hydropower and municipal water supplies, that is often overlooked.
"What inevitably can happen is these zebra mussels end up plugging water intakes, hydroelectric dams," Tyree said. "There's a substantial cost associated with operating that sort of infrastructure and water bodies where zebra mussels are present."
Tyree said people taking watercraft outside the province should take special care.
One key step is to pull the drain plug from a boat before transporting it.
"A lot of these invasive species [...] really rely on there being water sitting within that watercraft that allows them to survive that period of transportation," he said.
"By pulling the drain plug in and allowing water to drain on your watercraft really goes a long way to help eliminate that."