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Okanagan boaters urged to take extra care to avoid risk of invasive mussel infestation

Boating season is well underway and the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) and the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) are reminding people to take extra care and do their part in keeping invasive mussels out of local waters.

The two organizations are urging everyone to clean, drain and dry all watercraft including boats, kayaks and paddle boards to make sure invasive mussels are not spread.

For 11 years, OASISS has been helping deliver the OBWB Don't Move a Mussel campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the impacts of invasive mussels and how everyone can help to protect Okanagan lakes from invasive zebra and quagga mussels.

<who> Photo Credit: Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society

To date, there have been no reported introductions of live zebra or quagga mussels into any BC lakes and the organizations are hoping it stays that way.

“Each year the valley attracts thousands of boaters from outside the province,” says Lisa Scott, executive director of OASISS.

“It would only take one contaminated boat to start an infestation. Invasive mussels could have lasting negative impacts to our lakes, as we have seen in other parts of Canada.”

Once introduced to a body of water, the invasive mussels can rapidly multiply and form dense colonies, leading to significant ecological and economic consequences, explains a release.

In regions where they have already established, invasive mussels damage sensitive ecosystems, clog water intake pipes and water infrastructure, ruin beaches, reduce water quality and impact tourism.

<who> Photo Credit: Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society

The cost of a mussel invasion would be staggering. A recent provincial report said that a zebra and/or quagga mussel infestation would cost BC between $64 million and $129 million annually.

“This threat is very real,” says Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of OBWB.

“Invasive mussels could devastate our beloved lakes, which are not only a source of recreation, but also our drinking water and critical to fish and the larger ecosystem.”

Staff with OASISS will once again be present at boat launches, community events, youth camps and more throughout the region educating people about the dangers of these invasive mussels.

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