zebra mussels now present in north basin of Lake Winnipeg: report

The Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship  have discovered zebra muscles in Lake Winnipeg’s north basin.

The invasive species is being investigated to see if it is the primary culprit in the numerous algae blooms affecting countless lakes across North America.

Zebra mussels are now present in Lake Winnipeg, the Manitoba portion of the Red River, and Cedar Lake immediately west of Grand Rapids.

 According to reports, biologists have discovered that the zebra mussel, which is tiny compared to other types of mussel, can tell the difference between toxic and non-toxic algae. Preferring to eat the non-toxic algae the good algae is quickly consumed by the invasive zebra mussels. “It’s beyond the point now of being able to do anything at all about it,” said Eva Pip, a University of Winnipeg biologist who studies water quality and Manitoba’s lakes and rivers.
Zebra mussels are also a problem because they filter water, up to a liter per day, to eat the plankton. Since the zebra mussels eat a lot of plankton, they compete with fish for food.
“Even last year, we were already beyond that point when we were dumping those chemicals into an already polluted lake.”

This leaves little for native animals to live off. This over-consumption of non-toxic algae also greatly contributes to the toxic algae becoming overgrown. When the toxic algae blooms across a lake, people and animals can become very sick from contact with the water. If left untreated, the effects of contact can be severe enough that it leads to the death of some individuals.

Natural predators have not been able to make a dent in the population of these tiny mussels, and the efforts made by cleaning crews have reached to around half a million dollars annually.

This is in addition to the financial losses experienced by the fishing industry caused by the mussel’s invasion of fishing areas. When the beneficial algae disappears the food chain is broken, and the larger fish cease to flourish.

Help Avoid The Spread Of Zebra Mussels

To avoid the spread of zebra mussels to other areas in Manitoba, boat owners are asked to implement the following steps before launching and before leaving the Red River and Lake Winnipeg:

  • Clean and inspect watercraft, trailers and all water-based equipment. Remove all plants, animals or mud. Rinse with hot water, preferably 50C (120F) or hotter, for several minutes.
  • Drain water from watercraft and all water-based equipment (motors, live wells, bilges, transom wells, nets, ballast tanks and bait buckets).
  • Dry all equipment, boots and clothing before transporting them to another water body. Dry anything that comes into contact with water such as watercraft and gear for at least five days in the hot sun, 18 days in the spring or fall, or freeze for three days continuously if rinsing is not possible.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash and dump all water from bait buckets on land away from any water body. Never release plants, fish or animals unless they came out of that water body and are free of any aquatic invasive species.

To report a zebra mussel or any other AIS from a location, take pictures and visit the website at www.manitoba.ca/stopais or call 1-87-STOP AIS-0 (1-877-867-2470).


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