Invasive aquatic species pose a significant threat to all water bodies from small streams to the Great Lakes. Most invasive aquatic species dramatically alter food web structures, decreasing the food available for native species. This direct competition leads to population decline and loss of biodiversity. The loss of native fish species also dramatically impacts the fishing industry, both commercial and recreational. Aquatic invasives pose a serious threat to the use of water bodies, making it difficult and even dangerous to swim and boat. Human activity is a primary reason why invasive aquatic species spread; improper equipment cleaning and illegal transportation of fish has made it possible for the invasion of isolated water systems. All water sport equipment, clothing, and pets must be cleaned thoroughly after they come out of the water. Also, it is illegal to transport fish between water bodies and to possess live invasive species.
The B.C. Invasive Mussel Defence program’s goal is to prevent the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels into B.C. The program’s prevention efforts are focused on inspecting boats, monitoring lakes, educating the public and coordinating actions with neighbouring jurisdictions.
Aquatic Plants and Animals
Some plants and animals prefer aquatic environments; we call these aquatic invasive species because they are monitored and managed differently than their terrestrial neighbours.
Aquatic invasive species can proliferate, impact drinking water quality and disrupt commercial and industrial processes. The key to preventing these types of species from infesting our region is education, monitoring, and early detection. Once established, infestations can become extremely difficult and costly, or impossible to eradicate.
Keep an eye open and report these Aquatic Invasive Species:
Zebra & Quagga Mussels
Alternating dark and light coloured stripes
Measures 1 - 3 cm
Found in freshwater
Black to brownish with a D-shaped shell
Zebra and Quagga mussels do not presently exist in British Columbia
Watch this video to see the destruction caused by Zebra and Quagga mussels
Number and Distribution of Aquatic Invasive Species in B.C.
Aquatic invasive species have been detected in almost all ecological drainage units in the province. Aquatic invasive plants are the most widespread and numerous group, with 101 species occurring in 27 of 36 ecological drainage units.
There are only two aquatic invasive reptile species in the province, and both are turtles: the red-eared (pond) slider, a popular pet turtle that is often released into the wild; and the eastern snapping turtle.
Invasive freshwater fish species have expanded in number and geographic range since the early 1900s. They have been found in 25 of 36 ecological drainage units, with 30 different invasive freshwater fish species detected in the province.
As with many long-term observational data, some of the observed increases in invasive freshwater fish may be due to increased survey effort over time.
Image: BC Ministry of Environment
What you can do:
Water-based recreation activities, like angling and boating can spread aquatic invasive species to new locations. Plants, animals, and microscopic creatures can cling to clothing, equipment, and boats. If our gear, clothing, and boats are not cleaned before entering or leaving an area, these species can be introduced into new bodies of water. In addition, the intentional or accidental release of these species from garden ponds and aquariums is a primary pathway of introduction.
Think ahead when planning an outing on the water. Ask yourself:
When entering and departing the water, is my boat, trailer, and other equipment clean of aquatic debris?
What are the local aquatic invasive plants I should be aware of?
If I spot an aquatic invasive plant, do I know who to alert?