Inspections kept out the invaders

Alberta’s water bodies were kept safe from 19 boats transporting alien species attempting to illegally hitchhike through provincial inspection stations this year.

Those species: invasive mussels.

“Alberta is working hard to prevent and contain the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a significant threat to our province’s biodiversity and economy,” said Jason Penner, Communications Advisor with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas.

“Our watercraft inspection stations help keep invasive mussels and other aquatic invasive species out of Alberta waters and educate boaters on how they can help in prevention.”

The 2022 summary for the province’s five watercraft inspection stations indicated that of the 8,032 inspections performed, 13 per cent of the boats did not have their drain plugs removed during transit. Such failure can help harbour invasive aquatic species and diseases. It can also result in a $180 fine.

Once invasive mussels infiltrate a waterbody, they will clog up pipes and other hardware. They are very difficult to remove, making it much easier and more cost-efficient to simply keep them out of the province in the first place.

There were also 589 hot washes performed on boats to further prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which is well below the five-year high of 953 hot washes in 2020.

A hot wash is a decontamination process involving a thorough cleaning of the watercraft and/or trailer using water heated between 50°C to 60°C to kill suspect species, which is followed by a high pressure water hose to remove them.

After a decontamination, the watercraft may still be subject to quarantine according to the province’s website found at www.alberta.ca/watercraft-inspections.aspx.

People can learn more about the inspection program and why it’s so important by visiting that page or by calling 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

The province’s message is loud and clear: “clean, drain, and dry your gear.”

The inspection station just outside of the east gates of Jasper National Park has not been operational for several years, Penner said.

Inspection stations primarily operate along Alberta’s southern border with the United States or high traffic areas near the eastern border with Saskatchewan.

“During summer months, some stations are operational 20-to-24 hours per day,” he explained.

“During periods when entry into Canada was restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff and resources normally deployed at watercraft inspection stations along the southern border were instead redirected to roving stations that operated near some of Alberta’s most popular lakes.”

Stopping at a watercraft inspection station is mandatory and skipping the stop can result in a $324 fine. This year there were 21 warnings and three charges issued.

The province also promotes a message of “Don’t Let It Loose,” reminding people to never release aquarium pets, water, or plants into any waterbody.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh