Legal authority for the Province to take action on Zebra and Quagga mussels is empowered through provincial legislation. The Controlled Alien Species Regulation (CAS) under the BC Wildlife Act is the principle legislation that defines, lists and affords provisions to regulate invasive mussels in B.C.
Under the CAS Regulation, the following prohibitions apply in relation to any mussel listed in Schedule 4 (Zebra, Quagga and Conrad?s false mussel). It is illegal for a person to:
The provincial Inspectors operating the watercraft inspection stations are designated as Auxiliary Conservation Officers under the Wildlife Act. This designation provides powers to intercept/stop, inspect, search, question, obtain information and issue decontamination orders.
See the Zebra and Quagga Mussel Early Detection and Rapid Response (ZQM EDRR) Planfor more information on the CAS as it pertains to ZQM.
No invasive zebra or quagga mussel, alive or dead, is allowed to remain on boats or related equipment. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment could result in a fine of up to $100,000.
The federal Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations (effective May 29, 2015), prohibit the import, transport, possession and/or release of species listed in Part 2 of the Schedule, in specific geographic areas and under specific conditions. In British Columbia this applies to Asian Carp (4 species) and Zebra and Quagga mussels.
Part 3 of the Schedule includes 14 species which are not subject to prohibitions relating to their import, transport, possession or release in specific geographic areas, but may be subject to control and eradication activities in areas where they are not indigenous and may cause harm.
The regulations also contain a general prohibition against the unauthorized introduction of any aquatic species (i.e. listed or unlisted) where it is not indigenous.
Frequently Asked Questions on Provincial Legislation
1. Why are both live and dead mussels included in the list?
Alive or dead mussels are included under the Controlled Alien Species Regulation because at present there is no reliable method available to field test mussels for their viability. This is particularly the case for very small mussels (1 mm or less) or their free swimming aquatic larvae. Hence the inclusion of live and dead mussels is a cautious measure. Neighboring US jurisdictions have also included (or are including) dead mussels in their legislation, due to viability issues and because dead mussels can still result in a costly rapid response. There is also the possibility that a dead mussel could still harbor viable gametes (which are microscopic, but are still prohibited under the Regulation).
2. What information will be useful for the recreational boating industry in particular be to be aware of regarding the rationale for the prohibitions with respect to mussels?
A person that either owns or operates a boat (and related water equipment) that is being transported in BC must report to watercraft inspection stations to determine whether the boat and/or equipment may be contaminated with mussels. The cost to boaters of mussels being established is much greater than any cost of being inspected/decontaminated (the cost being both monetary, in cleaning boat of mussels, higher fuel consumption due to excess drag, etc. and in pleasure of the experience, due to potential injuries from mussel shells, potential algal blooms with associated bacterial growth, loss of recreational fishing opportunities, etc.).
The boats of most concern are the ones that have been in waters of contaminated states/provinces and therefore have a high likelihood of contaminating BC waters (see definition of high risk watercraft in the Watercraft Inspection program webpage).
3. Why are the decontamination orders needed for only the invasive mussel species, and what will they be?
It is expected that the majority of listed AIS species will be brought into BC intentionally, i.e. as commercial food products or aquarium species. These products may be brought in as frozen items for food sale, only live sales are prohibited. However, mussels may be brought in unintentionally through contaminated boats and so extra provisions are needed to address this issue. The gametes and larvae of mussels are also microscopic, and therefore extra precaution is required.
The aim of the decontamination orders is to ensure that cleaning and decontamination takes place with sufficient guarantee that there is no outstanding risk of contamination. The power to issue a decontamination order is flexible for the officer to assess the most appropriate course of action on a case by case basis. For example, an officer may direct someone to comply with specific directions to hot wash the boat or equipment and quarantine the boat for 30 days. To ensure the boat is free from mussels after the 30 day period, the boat may need to be checked again and if the officer who issued the ticket is unavailable, he or she may specify someone else that the individual should report to.
4. Why do boats with dead mussels attached require decontamination?
As laid out in the Watercraft Decision Flowchart, boats or equipment that have been out of the water for over 30 days need still to be decontaminated. The same rationale also applies to high risk vessels that have been found to have live mussels attached, then were decontaminated and quarantined for 30 days. The reason for the re-inspection at the end of the quarantine is that while decontamination will kill all mussels it will not remove all shells especially from through hull fittings and other protected spaces. However, after the decontamination and quarantine period these dead mussels tend to become more exposed. The reasoning for decontaminating these vessels is two-fold, first the decontamination acts as an additional insurance that all mussels, or their larvae are definitely dead. Additionally the decontamination will remove the majority of visible mussel shells which will even stay attached after the death of the organisms. If these shells would be left attached they most likely would then fall off when the boat is used the next time in a waterbody. These shells could be found by someone and trigger a costly rapid response for these invasive mussels, including potential closure of boat ramps, an intensive and costly monitoring program, and a Columbia River Basin wide alert including our US partner states in the Columbia River Basin Zebra and Quagga Mussel Rapid Response Plan. Similar dead mussels can still result in a positive environmental DNA (eDNA) reading triggering a rapid response. Given these potential consequences the extra cost and effort to request the decontamination of likely dead mussels is the much less costly approach.
5. Are watercraft inspection stations mandatory, and what is considered a watercraft?
All provincial watercraft inspection stations are mandatory and failure to stop is a ticket able offence. Watercraft includes sailboats, motorboats, car toppers, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards being transported in BC.