Water Board releases position statement refusing responsibility for mussel control

Kelowna, B.C. – With the Province of B.C.’s declaration of June as “Invasive Species Action Month,” to bring awareness to invasives including zebra and quagga mussels, the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has released its own declaration – a Position Statement on the mussels.

“Awareness is great, but action is better,” said OBWB Chair Doug Findlater following a lengthy discussion of the issue at this week’s board meeting. “The Water Board is doing all it can within its mandate to prevent the spread of these species into the Okanagan,” he added, noting the launch of the Don’t Move a Mussel campaign (www.DontMoveAMussel.ca), efforts to help local communities prepare, and an ongoing push on those with greater authority to do more. “Ultimately, it is up to senior levels of government to bring in the appropriate laws and enforce them,” Findlater said.

In response, the OBWB has issued a seven-point Position Statement on invasive zebra and quagga mussels.  Among the seven points, “the OBWB will not accept responsibility for the long-term treatment, mitigation or control of zebra or quagga mussels if the province fails to enact appropriate prevention measures, and consequently the species are introduced.”

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BACKGROUNDER

A study conducted for the OBWB pegged a mussel infestation in the Okanagan at more than $43 million a year to just manage.

The mussels, which originate from Europe, spread quickly with a single female able to produce a million eggs per year.

At their youngest stage, the mussels are the size of a grain of sand, and at their largest the size of a thumbnail (1.5 to 2 cm).

The mussels are known to stimulate toxic algae blooms, litter beaches with sharp shells, clog boat motors, foul water intakes and outfalls, put fish and the ecology of lakes at risk, and more.

There is no proven method to eradicate the mussels once they arrive that doesn’t also cause significant environmental impacts.

For more information on zebra and quagga mussels, the risk to the Okanagan and how to protect our waters, visit www.DontMoveAMussel.ca.

Between 2013 and 2014, the OBWB’s Okanagan WaterWise program has spent just over $85,000 for its Don’t Move A Mussel (DMM) initiative, and thanks to in-kind support from several business partners has delivered a program worth over $359,000. Phone survey results from October 2014 indicate great success in the campaign’s effort to raise awareness in the Okanagan.

According to survey results, three out of four (74%) of Okanagan residents have heard about invasive zebra and quagga mussels – this rises to 83% of boat owners. Of those surveyed, 47% (and 64% of boat owners) had specifically heard the “Don’t Move a Mussel” message.

Once again, the WaterWise program has launched its DMM campaign for 2015 and anticipates strong in-kind support again, recognizing the importance of prevention measures.

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