An update on invasive species

Boaters urged to be vigilant

Not all visitors are welcome in Lillooet.

The Lillooet Regional Invasive Species Society (LRISS) is joining forces with other organizations and government agencies to stop the invasion of destructive Zebra and Quagga mussels.

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The mussels are making their way across western Canada after causing damage in the Great Lakes system, infesting Lake Winnipeg and infiltrating lakes in 24 American states as far west as California.

The mussels were the subject of a presentation at the LRISS’s Apr. 30 AGM at the REC Centre.

Matthias Herborg, aquatic invasive species co-ordinator with Ministry of Environment, warned that the musselspose a serious threat to the biodiversity and fisheries of any water system, since they reduce the amount of food available for native fish (including salmon) and other organisms. Species that are dependent on plankton — such as sockeye salmon and kokanee — or species that feed on these plankton feeders (such as large-bodied strains of rainbow trout and bull trout) could be severely depleted if these mussels become established in B.C.’s lakes.

The mussels can upset the balance of algae in an area, resulting in a higher concentration of blue-green algae. High levels of blue-green algae can become toxic to aquatic life, can cause taste and odour problems in drinking water supplies, and can be very unpleasant for recreational users.

Herborg said Zebra and Quagga mussels create massive colonies that can block water intakes and interfere with municipal water supplies, agricultural irrigation and hydro-electric power plant operations.

According to the provincial government, British Columbia power producers could end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars to protect and maintain hydro generation stations if these mussels become established in our province.

To combat the threat, Herborg said governments are training Conservation Officers, DFO personnel and officials with Canadian Border Services to look for the mussels.

Boat dealers, marine repair shops and pet shop owners will also be targeted in an awareness campaign.

Public co-operation will also be necessary to try to prevent the mussels from establishing themselves in B.C. Anglers and recreational boaters who are transporting boats by trailer into B.C. from other provinces and states should ensure they have thoroughly cleaned, drained and dried their boats and equipment to remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals.

If the boat (or other water-based recreational equipment) has come from a known or suspected mussel-infested area, it must be totally drained (including components such as bilges, pumps, intakes, etc.) and must not be put into any body of water for 30 days.

Within B.C., it is important for all boaters and anglers to completely clean, drain and dry their boat and equipment before putting the boat into a new body of water.

The second presentation at last week’s AGM was given by Susan Turner, abiological control specialist with the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

She outlined how natural enemies such as insects, plants and other pathogens are used to control or destroy invasive alien plants. She said that every dollar invested in biological controls creates a $17 benefit.

According to Turner, diffuse knapweed has been “crushed right of the list of plants to be worried about” because of the insects used as a biological control. Spotted knapweed has also been “hammered” because of the biological control used against it, and yellow toadflax has been reduced in the Yalakom.

However, invasive species such as blueweed, Japanese knotweed, orange hawkweed, hoary cress and sulphur cinquefoil still pose problems in the Lillooet area.

LRISS co-ordinator Jacquie Rasmussen updated the meeting on the progress of the society’s recent efforts and its 2014 work plan.

The LRISS is involved in co-ordination, fieldwork, outreach and education, data management and funding over a broad area west to the Bridge River Glacier, north to West Pavilion and east to Pavilion and south halfway to Lytton and to Joffre Pass in the Duffey Lake area.

Last year, the society  surveyed 358 kilometres of road and 287 hectares of land, while five MoT gravel pits were inventoried, and 285 sites were added to the invasive alien plant program inventory.

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