Monitoring is an important tool in the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS), including the spread of zebra and quagga mussels into Saskatchewan.
Aquatic invasive mussels pose a serious threat to our lakes and waterways and have been discovered in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and 34 states, including Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota. These species can be impossible to eliminate if they become established in a waterbody, and have the potential to severely impact aquatic habitats, fisheries, valuable recreational resources and water-related infrastructure.
Recently, the Government of Saskatchewan concluded its 2017 monitoring program and confirmed no findings of aquatic invasive mussels in the 90 waterbodies sampled throughout the province.
This was accomplished with help from other ministries, corporations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and public participation.
Monitoring is done by one of three ways in the province.
The ministry’s Fish, Wildlife and Lands Branch, along with SaskPower, monitor for the larvae (veligers) of aquatic invasive mussels twice during the open water season when temperatures reach 12°C. More than 60 waters were sampled in 2017.
Another method is using environmental DNA to test for the presence of zebra mussels. This process, developed in partnership with the ministry, is a University of Saskatchewan-led surveillance program that sampled 33 waterbodies in 2017.
In addition, ferries on the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers are checked for aquatic invasive mussels.
The main monitoring tool is the Saskatchewan Adult Invasive Mussel Monitoring (AIMM) Program, which relies heavily on partner and stakeholder participation.
“Monitoring for adult aquatic invasive mussels, including zebra and quagga mussels, is extremely important for early detection in the province,” explained Ron Hlasny, an aquatic research specialist with the Ministry of Environment. “We all need to do our part to stop the spread of these aquatic invasive mussels. AIMM is an easy to use, cost-effective monitoring program that is a valuable tool in the fight against these aquatic invasive species.”
By establishing new partnerships with municipalities, community organizations, business groups, NGOs and even local residents, the province can greatly expand this early detection program.
“Knowing that there are no aquatic invasive mussels within a waterbody is just as important as notifying the TIP program if adult aquatic invasive mussels were found in a waterbody,” Hlasny stated. “This provides us with better information of where and how to respond should a positive finding occur.”
Currently, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, SaskWater and a number of watershed groups and other volunteers participate in the AIMM Program.
This program includes three types of monitoring. The first is to look for aquatic invasive mussels attached to human-built structures such as docks, buoys, water intake pipes or anchors.
The second type of monitoring is a shoreline survey which would examine driftwood, rocks and other natural shoreline features for aquatic invasive mussels.
The final method is the use of AIS substrate samplers. These simple-to-make devices are placed in the water in June and checked monthly to see if aquatic invasive mussels are present.
A new reporting form has been developed to provide an easy-to-use tool that the public, NGOs and other agencies can use to record their monitoring efforts in Saskatchewan waterbodies.
The ministry is encouraging residents, cottage owners and municipalities to participate in the 2018 AIMM Program.
In 2017, conservation officers completed 1,212 watercraft inspections and provided aquatic invasive species information to 872 watercraft owners who entered Saskatchewan from the United States. Of those 2,084 watercraft, 307 received a detailed inspection and 119 required decontamination. The ministry also purchased four decontamination trailers to bring its complement to six decontamination units for the province.
Information on aquatic invasive species can also be found in the Saskatchewan Anglers’ Guide and at saskatchewan.ca/fishing.
Quagga mussels cover a boat’s propeller. (Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/3434754/zebra-mussels-quagga-mussels-aquatic-invasive-species-scott-moe/)