‘Biggest decontamination ever’: British Columbia teams track barge infested with eastern Canadian mussels

An Ontario godwit was arrested last month when it threatened to infest British Columbia waters with invasive mussels.

On Saturday, the Ministry of the Environment said the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service (COS) carried out its biggest decontamination of invasive mussels after learning that an infested godwit was heading west.

According to the ministry, the Lake Ontario barge was heading to a Lower Mainland waterway for industrial purposes. Join BC’s Invasive Mussel Advocacy Program.

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“They knew the consequences of allowing the godwit into B.C. waters could have significant impacts on local ecosystems and infrastructure, as the invasive mussel could become established and overtake native species,” said said the ministry.

“Inspectors located the trucking company and its load, a huge barge being transported in two 40-foot-long (12-meter) sections, each 10 feet (three meters) high and 10 feet wide.”

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A close view of the infested Lake Ontario godwit.

BC Conservation Officer Service

The ministry said the barge was redirected to a warehouse in Richmond for full decontamination, “which was the largest of its kind for invasive zebra mussels since the program began in 2015.”

Inspectors from the Okanagan and Lower Mainland were brought together, with the department saying it used specialized equipment to remove thousands of invasive mussels in about 10 hours of work over two days.

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“Many of the mussels were viable, meaning they could multiply in BC waters if given the opportunity. This has yet to happen in the province,” the ministry said.

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“This was the largest and most significant discovery of zebra mussels on a watercraft that our teams have ever experienced,” Inspector COS said. Dave Webster. “To decontaminate the ship, we needed a specialized operational plan and space due to its size.”

Webster said he was proud of how quickly everyone mobilized to prevent the infested barge from reaching British Columbia waters.

“This speaks to the success of the Invasive Mussel Defense Program and its coordinated approach with our neighboring provinces to address the threat of this invasive species,” Webster said.

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The ministry said the barge also received a mandatory 30-day quarantine period, which ended this week.

“This incredible work shows the value of our program and the dedication of staff to making it effective,” said Environment Minister George Heyman.

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“The fact that British Columbia has received notification from several western provinces shows how effective this approach is with multiple layers of protection through collective and collaborative prevention efforts in Western Canada and the United States. United.

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The ministry says some of the mold samples will be used to train two detection dogs, Kilo and Major, who are both German Shepherds.

The ministry said that in 2021, the Invasive Mussel Defense Program carried out 33,000 inspections, with 244 identified as high risk. He also said 100 decontamination orders had been issued and 18 boats had been put through quarantine periods to meet the required drying time.

He also said that COS inspectors carried out 153 decontaminations in 2021.

To learn more about British Columbia’s Invasive Mussel Defense Program or cleaning, draining and drying, visit the province’s website.

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