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B.C. bound barge with ‘largest ever’ zebra mussel contamination intercepted by conservation

Thousands of mussels were removed from the vessel over a two-day period
B.C. has been actively defending provincial waterways from zebra mussels since 2015. (Dave Britton/USFWS)

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service successfully intercepted an Ontario barge covered in invasive Zebra mussels before it set sail in B.C. waters.

In a news release, the province said it was the largest invasive mussel decontamination ever conducted in B.C.

“This was the largest, most significant discovery of zebra mussels on a watercraft our teams had ever experienced. To decontaminate the vessel, we required a specialized operational plan and space due to the sheer size,” said Insp. Dave Webster. “I am proud of how quickly our teams mobilized to stop invasive mussels from reaching B.C. waters. This is a testament to the success of the Invasive Mussel Defence Program and its co-ordinated approach with our neighbouring provinces to tackle the threat of this invasive species.”

READ MORE: Boat infested with invasive mussels stopped at B.C. border

After receiving a tip about the barge, investigators were able to track down the trucking company and the massive barge, which was being transported in two 40-foot-long sections, each 10 feet high and 10 feet wide. The barge had travelled from Lake Ontario and was destined for industrial use in a Lower Mainland waterway.

The barge was redirected to a Richmond warehouse for a full decontamination. The decontamination required specialized equipment to remove thousands of invasive mussels during approximately 10 hours of work in two days. Many of the mussels were viable, which means they could multiply in B.C. waters if given the chance. That has yet to happen in the province.

The decontaminated barge was issued a mandatory 30-day quarantine period, which ended this week.

B.C. enacted the invasive mussel defence program in 2015 to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from becoming established in the province. In 2013, the economic impacts of invasive mussels to hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreational boating were estimated to be $43 million per year if introduced into B.C.


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