Boat inspections could become mandatory in Alberta if proposed new legislation is passed.
Bill 13, the Fisheries Amendment Act, passed first reading yesterday. The bill would invoke mandatory inspections of boats and watercraft entering the province along major highways.
According to a government news release, the goal is to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from entering Alberta and infesting lakes, rivers and other waterways.
The invasive mollusks were discovered on four boats last year during a pilot program that saw boat inspection at several busy Alberta border entry points.
However, inspection last year was voluntary and only about 50 percent of vehicles with watercraft entering Alberta stopped at the inspection stations, the news release said.
Zebra and quagga mussels have invaded many areas of the eastern United States and Canada, where they have rapidly multiplied, clogged waterways and infrastructure and affected native species and ecosystems.
Once they gain a foothold, the mussels are almost impossible to eradicate.
Alberta environment minister Kyle Fawcett said the proposed changes to the fisheries act “will allow our province to mount a stringent defense against these environmentally and economically destructive aquatic invasive species.”
A list of prohibited species would also become part of the act, said Fawcett. It would include the invasive mussels as well as invasive fish and plants of concern.
The government news release said law enforcement officers would be given greater authority when dealing with contaminated watercraft. Section 22 of the proposed act would allow officers to stop and detain vehicles and enter and inspect any vehicle or boat if there are reasonable grounds for believing “subject organisms” might be on board.
They can take samples and dispose of sample material, open any containers suspected of having invasive species, conduct “relevant tests” and take photos.
The government’s goal is to make the changes in time for the 2015 boating season.
A toll-free line to report potential boat contamination and get more information is available at 855-336-2628 (BOAT).