Our grandmothers taught us not to be penny wise and pound foolish; to be aware that saving a small amount of money in the present could in fact mean that we will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the future. Yet, that is exactly what the British Columbia government is doing right now.
Quagga and zebra mussel infestations have become Ontario and Manitoba’s worst nightmares. And the same thing will happen in British Columbia if we don’t take immediate and determined action.
Ministry of Environment documents state that ‘if zebra or quagga mussels become established in BC they could decimate sockeye salmon and kokanee fisheries as a result of the irreversible ecological challenges they could induce’. Rate of threat is classified by our government as high, yet they have done almost nothing to stop the transference of this invasive species into British Columbia’s lakes and rivers.
When faced with a similar threat states such as Idaho have taken action to ensure that their waterways remain mussel free. For 5 years, Idaho has been providing an excellent example of best practice, developing cost-effective protocols and gathering valuable data. Idaho has established inspection stations at entrance points to ensure that boats travelling through the state are not carrying mussels, which can survive for up to 30 days out of water.
And it only takes one contaminated boat to infect a water body. A single infected boat in Shuswap or Okanagan Lake will have devastating consequences for the ecosystem, tourism, house prices and more. Once a lake is infected, it cannot be reversed.
In the five years that the Idaho program has operated 11% of boats that were discovered to be infected were destined for BC lakes. That is a shocking statistic. If not for the diligent work of Idaho, BC lakes could already be infected.
Government members will tell you that we’ve signed agreements with neighbouring jurisdictions to combat quagga and zebra mussels, but virtually no money has been allocated to stop infected boats from entering.
It is time for British Columbia take responsibility for this very serious matter. We’ve been lucky so far. Now it’s time to spend a small amount of money to ensure that boats are inspected and decontaminated before they start an infestation that will cost this province dearly. Environment Minister Mary Polak needs to hear from you at ENV.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Norm Macdonald MLA | email@example.com | 1-866-870-4188