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|Health and Fitness|
Aquatic invasive species are much like a chemical stressor such as an oil spill. Once they spread they are extremely expensive to eradicate and leave a devastating path of destruction along the way. Canada is vulnerable to marine invaders as a result of abundant freshwater resources and extensive coastline. The problem with aquatic invasive species is that they have the ability to spread drastically, leaving native habitat inhospitable.
(ZebraMussels, photo credit: Randy Westbrooks, US Geological Survey, Bugwood.org)
Some of the most prolific invasive aquatic species that are causing havoc throughout North America are Zebra/Quagga Mussels, Rock Snot, and the Water Hyacinth. Currently, these species are not found within the Cariboo Regional District however, by taking precautionary measures and learning about these species, perhaps we will be able to keep them out of our waterways. If you are boating, swimming, fishing or participating in other recreational water activities it is important to ensure you are not bringing back unwanted species and introducing them to the Cariboo Chilcotin.
The best control for aquatic invaders is prevention. Here are some tips to remember when you are out enjoying water recreation in your community:
Remember to check fishing equipment, hip & chest waders, boats, and other water recreation equipment before leaving any water source. It is important to properly clean, drain, and dry boats as well as other water equipment before entering another water system. Do not dump your aquarium plants or fish into a pond or lake. Be sure to do research before purchasing an ornamental aquatic for your water garden.
Aquatic invasives are most commonly introduced by commercial shipping boats. Many species hitchhike in ballast water or sediment and in water intake cavities of the boats. However, other means of introduction to Canadian waters include aquariums, water gardens, and live food fish.
(Rock snot, photo credit: Biosecurity New Zealand)
These invaders can cost millions of dollars to eradicate and control. For example, in the areas surrounding Ontario’s Great Lakes system, approximately $3 to $7.5 billion has been spent on the control of Zebra/Quagga Mussels. Females can produce up to one million offspring in a spawning system and are able to survive on a boat out of water for 30 days. Zebra Mussels attach themselves to water intake pipes, boat propellers, boat hulls, docks, rocks, and even other aquatic animals. Currently these Mussels are found in Ontario and Quebec and in twenty-two of the United States.
Invasive aquatics such as Rock Snot, a microscopic alga can go undetected until it’s too late! Rock Snot hitchhikes on boats, fishing equipment, and just about anything else that it comes into contact with. A single cell of this alga can live up to 30 days on hip or chest waders and start a new colony on its own. It forms dense mats that can be eight inches thick that smother stream beds. It has a harmful effect on fish by clogging or irritating their gills by restricting water flow, putting eggs and fry at risk, and affecting the oxygen levels in the water.
One of the most damaging aquatic invasives in the world is the Water Hyacinth which was first introduced to North America as a water garden ornamental that has now escaped cultivation. The Water Hyacinth spreads mainly by vegetation but does produce seed that can remain viable for 20 years. This invasive aquatic forms dense floating mats that reduce light, oxygen, and water flow making it easy to out-compete native plants. It can tolerate drastic environmental changes such as water fluctuations, nutrient availability, temperature variations, and toxic substances.
(Water Hyacinth, photo credit: John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org)
Between 1980 and 1991, the United States spent approximately $43 million dollars on the control of this aggressive aquatic. This aquatic nuisance can be found in lakes, rivers, ponds, wetlands, marshes, and reservoirs.
These are just a few of the many aquatic invasive species waiting to take over lakes, rivers, oceans, and any other water courses they come across. If you have any questions or concerns about aquatic invasive species, please contact the CRD’s Invasive Plant Management department at 250-392-3351, or 1-800-665-1636. Further information is available on the Cariboo Regional District website at cariboord.bc.ca.