One of Alberta’s mussel-sniffing dog — yup, you read that right — will be on hand April 25 as the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) gathers in Penticton to talk about invasive mussels and the work required to keep them out of the Okanagan.
Invasive mussels are moving closer to B.C. every year,” the society says in a release. “The arrival of zebra or quagga mussels in the Okanagan would have disastrous impacts to our pocket books, the tourism industry, water supply systems, fisheries, and our overall enjoyment of boating and water-based recreation.”
“It’s important that all British Columbians truly understand what is at stake and what is required to prevent these unwanted invaders from expanding into B.C.”
The free public forum will include visits from partners in Montana and Alberta and discussions about the steps they’re taking to halt the advance of invasive mussels.
Stephanie Hester, Coordinator of the Montana Invasive Species Council, talking about the steps Montana is taking to prevent an economic and ecological disaster.
“The Continental Divide is the last line of defense against invasive mussels for the northwest. Montana has made its mussel response to detections in fall 2016 a priority at the highest level,” said Ms. Hester.
The discovery of destructive invasive mussel larvae last year triggered a natural resource emergency in Montana and led to a massive statewide campaign now underway to manage the threat of invasive mussels spreading to other areas. In order to better prevent and contain invasive mussels, Montana’s investment is increasing from $1.2 million per year to more than $5 million.
One of B.C.’s key allies is Alberta, which has employed mussel-sniffing dogs to aid their prevention efforts for the last two years.
Cindy Sawchuk, dog handler with Alberta’s Ministry of Environment and Parks, will be speaking about the importance of collaborative efforts and the Conservation K-9 Program in her province. She will be accompanied by Hilo, one of Alberta’s famous mussel-sniffing dogs.
“The Alberta government works closely with our partners in British Columbia and the entire Pacific Northwest to take an active role in mussel prevention,” explained Ms. Sawchuk.
She adds that the key pieces of Alberta’s work include mandatory watercraft inspections, introducing the first mussel-sniffing dogs nationally, actively monitoring waterbodies across the province and launching an annual educational awareness campaign targeting recreational watercraft owners.
For the past five years, OASISS has worked with private industry and local government agencies including the Okanagan Basin Water Board to educate residents and tourists about invasive mussels.
The free public forum will be held at Okanagan College in Penticton. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. with presentations beginning at 7:15.
OASISS is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to working collaboratively to prevent, monitor and control the spread of invasive species in the Okanagan-Similkameen region. OASISS has been actively participating in the education, coordination and management of invasive plants in the Okanagan-Similkameen since 1996. It delivers public education, outreach initiatives and community stewardship programs.
In April 2012, the Society broadened its constitution to include the management of invasive animals. OASISS coordinates and implements an invasive plant treatment program on behalf of its partners — representatives from local, regional, provincial and federal government; utility companies; conservation/stewardship groups; First Nations; forestry and mining companies; and cattle producer associations.