BC environment minister says mandatory boat inspections for invasive mussels ‘not being continued’ – Vernon News
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BC’s Minister of Environment has responded to concerns about invasive mussels raised by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
The water board sent a letter to the minister earlier this month, offering a list of calls to action to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from infesting BC waterways.
In his response, George Heyman says the province is “working hard” to maintain funding at $3.5 million for the Invasive Mussel Defense Program.
He says a requirement to inspect all watercraft entering the province “is not being actively pursued by the province.”
Heyman says such measures are “very difficult to enforce” and he wants to prioritize outreach and education, and optimize the perimeter defense approach.
However, he is prepared to investigate the potential for ‘pull the plug’ legislation for ships.
He adds that $100,000 has been committed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the 2022 season and $250,000 through the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
Current federal funding for mussel monitoring by regional invasive species groups expires in March 2023.
“The Government of British Columbia is working hard to maintain 2021 IMDP funding at $3.5 million for the upcoming season and is working with partners on our shared commitment to this effort. Negotiations are underway to renew agreements with funding partners that expire this year,” Heyman said. wrote.
“We are pleased to recognize that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has joined us as a funding partner with a commitment of $100,000 for the 2022 season. I would also like to thank the Department of Agriculture, Food and British Columbia Fisheries for its own commitment of $250,000 for the upcoming season in recognition of the seriousness of a potential infestation to British Columbia’s agricultural and fishing interests.
Several inspection stations along BC’s eastern border are expected to be operational in early April. Program operations for the peak navigation season are still being confirmed.
Meanwhile, federal authorities are working with the Prairie provinces to develop a response management program following the discovery of mussels in Lake Manitoba last year.
This is the most westerly point where mussels have been detected, and Manitoba has now established a program whereby boats leaving an infested lake must be decontaminated before being launched in other waters.
A report to directors of the Water Board states, “As the province continues to be reluctant to implement mandatory inspections for out-of-province watercraft, it may be possible for local governments in the Okanagan to restrict local lake access sites to in-province watercraft and in-province watercraft that have proof of inspection under the provincial IMPD program.
Directors should discuss this possibility at their next meeting.