Joint effort targets invasive species

The four western provinces and Yukon have signed a joint agreement to fight invasive species, especially aquatic species like zebra and quagga mussels.

In a June 6 news release, Alberta Environment and Parks said the deal would allow the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the territory to co-ordinate their efforts and share resources to keep invasive species out of their waters.

“Aquatic invasive species are a real threat to Alberta’s environment and infrastructure,” said Environment and Parks minister Shannon Phillips in the release.

“This partnership between western Canadian jurisdictions will help ensure our waterways are protected and our irrigation systems continue to work properly.”

Herb Cox, Saskatchewan’s environment minister said the agreement was announced during Environment Week as a way to help the environment and encourage collaboration among various sectors and agencies.

The collaboration will involve such things as pre-planning watercraft inspection, co-ordinating inspections of watercraft at shared borders and combining resources to mount a rapid response if invasive species are found.

Zebra and quagga mussels have caused havoc with waterways and systems in parts of the United States and in Eastern Canada. They have been found in Manitoba but so far none have invaded provinces further west, even though the mussels have been found on watercraft during inspections.

The mussels can multiply quickly, clogging equipment, pipes and pumps, and they also filter nutrients from water, thus damaging ecosystems and harming native aquatic species.

Once they invade, the mussels are almost impossible to eradicate. Concern over that potential caused the Alberta government to impose mandatory boat inspections at various border crossings. Some of those involve specially trained mussel-sniffing dogs.

The government estimates mussel invasion could cost Alberta more than $75 million annually in infrastructure damage and loss of recreational opportunities.

More information on the Alberta program is available at 855-336-BOAT.

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