Inspectors determined to keep mussels out

The dogs are on duty at active Alberta border crossings and various lakes.

They are looking for invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which cling to boats and other watercraft. The goal is to prevent contamination of Alberta waters.

One mussel-fouled boat has already been intercepted at the border crossing near Coutts, Alta., according to Alberta government data.

“It is expected that this will be only one of many such incidents during this summer’s boating season,” said an April 6 news release.

Inspections intercepted 11 boats with invasive mussels last year.

Provincial law requires that any vehicle carrying “water-based vessels” must report to on-site inspectors if highway signs indicate the inspection station is open.

Bypassing the station can result in fines of up to $100,000 or 12 months in prison.

Dogs and inspectors examine the watercraft as part of the Aquatic Invasive Species Conservation K-9 team.

The program was developed by the province and six southern Alberta irrigation districts.

Zebra and quagga mussels have infested large areas of the United States and Eastern Canada.

They are small and multiply quickly, blocking pipes, pumps and water-related infrastructure. They also destroy native aquatic species.

Mussels can survive out of water for up to 30 days and are nearly impossible to eradicate once in a water body.

“The province estimates that an infestation of invasive mussels in Alberta could cost the province more than $75 million annually, including damage to infrastructure and recreational opportunities,” the release said.

Owners and users of watercraft are advised to clean, drain and dry their equipment to prevent mussel contamination and speed up the inspection process.

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