Pigeon Lake, like all water bodies in Alberta, can face threats from a variety of different angles. Aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels, are potentially threats that endanger many water bodies in Alberta.
According to Susan Ellis, president of the Pigeon Lake Watershed Association, although threats exist, there simple strategies to keep lakes healthy.
She noted the 2017 provincial AIS program ran 11 highway inspection stations and two roving crews staffed by 62 inspectors; 30,957 inspections were conducted, with 9,947 (32 per cent) considered as high risk (last boating in water bodies outside of Alberta and B.C. to be transporting AIS). Two AIS dogs inspected 734 of the boats. There were 139 “late night” inspections.
Ellis also stated the inspections resulted in 279 quarantine orders. Invasive mussels were verified on 19 boats, with 14 coming from Ontario, two from Quebec, two from Manitoba and one from Nevada. About 1,900 hot washes were completed at inspection stations due to watercraft being too dirty to inspect, found to contain standing water or were fouled with weeds. About 290 watercraft were carrying AIS weeds into Alberta including Eurasian milfoil, and one Curly Lead Pondweed.
This year the province is repeating the 2017 program.
PLWA and municipal prevention efforts In 2017 included PLWA boosting from three mornings to seven half-days the number of times the staff were at the Mulhurst boat launch. “We give out the government AIS Quick Facts cards,” said Ellis. “Last year we asked people a few questions: 38 per cent had never heard of AIS or the CLEAN – DRAIN – DRY program, 87 per cent of those who did not know about the program were seasonal or full-time residents. Of those who had heard of AIS / the program – 60 per cent appreciated the reminder, 43 per cent where interested, very interested or grateful and 100 per cent took the Quick Fact cards.
“While the PLWA only received half of the summer staff grant applied for, the PLWA board feel that it is important to carry out the summer programs, such as our AIS program especially since the government staff have not attended the Mulhurst boat launch on long weekends since the whirling disease showed up in Alberta.
“The PLWA staff takes the AIS and cyanobacteria training from the provincial limnologists along with their summer staff and the Alberta Lake Management Society Staff. They welcome questions at our booth at the farmer markets, Ma-Me-O Craft Fair and AIMs we are invited to.”
Why the concern?
Ellis stated, “Once introduced many invasive species are impossible to fully eradicate. Prevention is key.
“Invasive species can be a serious threat to the local aquatic ecosystem and native fish.
“Trying to keep invasive species in check costs all of us a lot of money. A mussel infestation can damage systems/infrastructure (water, power, irrigation) and affect revenue from recreational fishing. It would decrease property values and increase boat maintenance.”
Ellis stated some simple strategies work for prevention. Remove all mud, sand and plant material from all equipment (everything that floats), fishing gear, boots, and dispose of such before you leave the shore. If possible, use hot water at home to clean your equipment where it will not run into a storm water drain or water course/body.
Drain all standing water from buckets, boats and fishing gear before leaving the shore. Remove the drain plug while transporting your watercraft.
Allow anything that contacts the water to dry completely, including all boats that float, big or small, coming out of a water body before going to another.
Avoid using felt waders.
Never release an aquarium, fish or aquatic plants into a lake or any water system. Unwanted fish should be returned to the pet store, given to a friend, or worst-case scenario humanely euthanized and put into the garbage. It is illegal to release live fish into water bodies and some fish, such as carp, have eggs that can survive for a long time.
If you spot an invasive species in Alberta, call 1-855-336-BOAT (2628) or download the EDDMapS app for your cell phone.