Opinion

Editorial: Action needed now on mussels

It should be considered a shot across the bow for federal and provincial officials.

On March 12, a commercial transport truck showed up at the Osoyoos border crossing with a boat believed to be infested with zebra and quagga mussels. While the border guard didn’t have the legal authority to stop the truck from entering Canada, he or she ensured the boat didn’t head to its moorage spot on Okanagan Lake before it could be properly decontaminated.

Without the customs officer being proactive, it’s quite possible life in the Okanagan could have changed forever.

Native to Europe, quagga and zebra mussels have spread across most of North America, causing devastation whereever they go.

They clog water intake pipes, pumps and boat motors. They also deplete food sources for fish and produce toxins that kill fish and birds and contaminate drinking water. Razor-sharp shells can also spread across beaches, making them dangerous places to tread barefoot.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board has estimated it could cost $43 million a year to manage the mussels if they arrive here. Federal and provincial officials have ignored the threat up until now, but that can no longer be the case.

Ottawa needs to initiate legislation immediately that prevents boats from entering Canada from the U.S. unless they have been inspected for mussels, while the provincial government must ensure there are monitoring stations along the U.S. and Alberta borders.

And as the March 12 incident demonstrated, these invasive mussels could show up in the Okanagan at any time because there are no firm procedures in place to search for them.

By continuing to sit on their hands, the federal and provincial governments are telling Okanagan residents that their economy, lifestyle and environment aren’t a priority.

- Black Press

 

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