Parks Canada on guard against zebra mussels

Boaters must not have used their craft in any other body of water this year and pass an inspection before June 15 to boat in Clear Lake.

Parks Canada is implementing new boating regulations to strengthen its aquatic invasive species program and protect the long-term health of Clear Lake.

Coinciding with the start of boating season, on June 1, operators must not have used their craft in any other body of water this year and must pass an initial inspection before June 15 to receive a permit to use a trailered vessel in Clear Lake.

The new guidelines are essential to prevent an invasion of zebra mussels, said Dameon Wall, Riding Mountain National Park’s external relations manager.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that this lake stays healthy for as long as possible,” Wall told the Sun on Friday.

The changes come after a test for zebra mussel environmental DNA came back positive in January. As the Sun previously reported, park workers began increased monitoring and testing for zebra mussels, an invasive species found throughout many Manitoba lakes, in February.

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At the time, Parks Canada stressed that the positive test result didn’t mean there were zebra mussels in Clear Lake — the DNA could have come to the lake on a boat, water toy or other source, without the transfer of any living mussels.

Subsequent tests for zebra mussels have come back negative, including samples taken from different locations across the lake.

“Over the winter, we undertook an unprecedented amount of quality water monitoring. It was not something we’ve done in past years.”

It’s far better to focus on preventing zebra mussels than in trying to fix the problem once they’re already in the lake, Wall added.

As Trevor Maguire, part of the Healthy Lakes Committee for Pelican Lake, told the Sun, once zebra mussels enter a lake, it’s virtually impossible to eradicate them.

Zebra mussels reproduce quickly and can impact a habitat’s food chain, clog water intake systems and damage watercraft, according to the Manitoba government’s website.

Maguire said the best way to prevent zebra mussels from infecting untouched lakes in Manitoba is to restrict a boat to one body of water, as Parks Canada’s Clear Lake strategy permits.

“At the end of the day, if people really value the lakes, just don’t move your boats from lake to lake,” Maguire previously told the Sun.

Parks Canada will enforce the new rules by installing tags to attach boats to trailers, which will inform park staff the vessel has not been in another water body and poses no risk of bringing aquatic invasive species into Clear Lake. If the tag is removed, cut or tampered with, the boat will not be allowed to launch in the lake for the remainder of the season.

In addition to those regulations, Parks Canada will also beef up its inspection and decontamination program for self-propelled watercraft, beach toys and other items used in lakes. All canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, inflatables, beach toys and other items that will be used in the waters of the national park will be required to undergo an inspection and, if needed, decontaminated before being permitted inside the park.

While the new rules will affect many boaters, Wall said it’s the best decision Parks Canada could have made that will still allow visitors to enjoy the lake while safeguarding its long-term health.

“We looked at all of our options and decided that we still want to see a trailer watercraft be able to use this lake. We just needed to do it in a way that protects it,” Wall said.

This story was originally published in The Brandon SunIt is republished under a Creative Commons license as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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