Not enough border officials able to spot invasive zebra mussels: audit

April 2, 2019 – Winnipeg Free Press

OTTAWA — Canada’s main line of defence against an invasive species plaguing Lake Winnipeg has little actual muscle, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

Boats at risk of transmitting zebra mussels have crossed into Manitoba without making waves, because not enough border officials know how to spot those containing invasive species, nor how to respond when they do.

“I was kind of surprised at the breadth of the lack of information and knowledge that the government has, in order to manage this file,” environment commissioner Julie Gelfand said in an interview.

Since 2013, zebra mussels have been found along the southern basin of Lake Winnipeg.

In infant form, the mussels are undetectable to the human eye, and they feed off particles in the water other species rely on, while releasing nitrogen and phosphorus.

In adult form, the mussels can be the shape of a fingernail, and form clusters consisting of tens of thousands, clogging drinking-water infrastructure and even hydroelectric dams.

Ottawa and Manitoba have both made it a top priority to contain the spread. Yet officials with the Canada Border Services Agency at Emerson told auditors “they sometimes sent uncleaned boats back to American car washes before allowing the boats to re-enter Canada. But car washes are not an effective way to decontaminate boats, since the water temperatures are often not hot enough to kill the mussel.” READ MORE.