Winnipeg (The Camping Canuck) – The spread of zebra mussels in Lake Winnipeg has extended to its north basin, with the invasive aquatic species now found near George Island.
One zebra mussel veliger, an early-stage mussel, was found in a single water sample collected southeast of the island this fall, Manitoba Conservation announced late Thursday.
Zebra mussels have been found not only in the lake, but also in the Red River in Manitoba and in Cedar Lake west of Grand Rapids.
The quick invasion, especially along the shorelines of Lake Winnipeg, has left many residents from Gimli, Man., stunned.
“They are so tiny that they are just incredibly, incredibly sharp,” Gimli resident, Cheryl Bailey told Global News.
The province is reminding Manitobans to help curb the spread of zebra mussels by cleaning off any visible plants, mud or animals from any watercraft or equipment that’s in any body of water.
There is at present no capacity to mount an effective defence against a zebra mussel invasion. The resources do not exist to mount the large-scale boat-inspection program needed unless other vital programs are cannibalized.
“I haven’t seen a washing station this summer at all,” said Mark Dann, another Gimli resident. “Last year they had a lot of information. Wash stations and pamphlets and handing stuff out and this year I haven’t seen it.”
“They have a tremendous capacity for reproduction. All you need is one or two of them and in a short time they can multiple into millions,” said Eva Pip, from the biology department at the University of Winnipeg.
“We have let it deteriorate to the point where now its shameful, its something to embarrassed about,” Pip said.
Given the rapidly diminishing resources devoted to water science and fisheries in Manitoba, it is particularly irksome the province squandered half a million dollars on its much-ballyhooed potash treatment of Gimli Harbour in June 2014. It failed, as every competent biologist knew it would. Having no material effect on the infestation of Lake Winnipeg by zebra mussels, the primary purpose was to provide the minister of conservation with a photo op.
Manitoba anglers know better than most the dangers of zebra mussels. An uncontrolled invasion will be disastrous for our pickerel, sauger, perch and whitefish. Releasing drum back into the water so they can munch on mussels would be a small cost to pay to limit far greater damage. And it wouldn’t cost Manitoba taxpayers a dime.
As reported by CtV, Inspection stations have recently been set up at Grand Rapids, Eriksdale, Swan River, The Pas and in the RM of St. Clements, the province said. There is also a decontamination unit at Selkirk Park boat launch.
More information is available online here.