Protecting Saskatchewan's waters from invasive species is the focus from May 8th to 12th. This week is an opportunity to provide education on the potential harm caused by introducing non-native plants, fish, and invertebrates into our waterbodies.
Jeri Geiger, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the Ministry of Environment, said that, "A big part of our prevention efforts to stop invasive species from arriving and spreading into Saskatchewan and across Western Canada, is our 'Clean, Drain, Dry' campaign."
The idea behind the campaign, Geiger said, is that every single time you use your watercraft or any water-related equipment such as anchors, ropes, life jackets, angling gear, fishing, nets, or anything that touches the water, you want to ensure it's completely cleaned.
"You need to remove any aquatic plants, any organisms you might find attached. Nails can attach to equipment. Of course, invasive mussels if we were in infected waters. You want to make sure that there's nothing attached and hitchhiking on your boat."
Invasive mussels. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Environment).
"Drain, which of course involves draining any onboard water. This can include water in your bilge area of your watercraft, your livewells, and your engine as well. We want you to lower your engine to make sure that it can drain fully after each use."
"The dry piece and the idea behind that is we want to ensure that there is no standing water and that any equipment and any areas within the boat that hold moisture are dried completely. So that if an invasive species like zebra mussels, did happen to make it into your boat or onto your equipment somehow, that it's not in an environment that is really humid, that allows it to survive."
Some of the biggest or most talked about invasive species, especially in western Canada, Geiger said, are zebra and quagga mussels.
"This is just because they have a huge impact to our environment and to the economy. They really are very, very expensive to manage and control once established, and they're very, very easily transported."
Prussian carp also get a lot of discussion in Saskatchewan, Geiger said. They are present in the South Saskatchewan River system, and they're suspected to have come down the river system from Alberta.
"Goldfish is another common one. Releasing aquarium pets or aquarium plants into the environment is another common way that some of the most invasive species across the world have become established and goldfish is one of those species that is very resilient and can survive in some pretty terrible conditions."
Flowering Rush is an invasive aquatic plant, Geiger said, that is present in Saskatchewan, but not in the Estevan area. "It's present in the South Saskatchewan River system as well and a second population over by Esterhazy."
Geiger said the way they monitor their watercraft inspection program, is that they have a bit of a perimeter along the United States (U.S.) border.
"We work with the Canada Border Services Agency to monitor traffic coming from the U.S. Then we also have stations on our Manitoba border to monitor traffic coming from the east. In order to monitor some of the traffic coming through the U.S. border, we do have a watercraft inspection station in Estevan at the weigh scale just outside of Estevan on Highway 39."
"In Regina, we have a roving inspection station, which kind of has a combination of roles. It's there to intercept watercraft coming from the U.S., but it's also there to work some of the local boat launches around Regina and the southeast areas to educate boaters about 'Clean, Drain, Dry' and about the importance of taking those preventative measures to prevent the spread of invasive species and also to educate folks that it is mandatory to stop at inspection stations in Saskatchewan."
Gieger said that they do monitor annually for aquatic invasive species, and they have not detected invasive mussels or spiny water fleas, which is an invasive invertebrate, in Saskatchewan.
They also have a citizen science program called the Adult Invasive Mussel Monitoring Program (AIMM). It's a program, Geisler said, where anyone with a cabin, cottage, or dock on the water, has the ability to deploy a substrate sampler. It's an instrument that attaches to the end of a person's dock and hangs into the water.
They check it a couple of times a year to see if there's anything that they can find that has attached to the substrate sampler, like zebra mussels, for example.
"Once the veligers or the larvae settle out, they'll start to develop shells, and then you'll eventually see adult mussels. This is another way where the public can participate and support our monitoring efforts for early detection. We do have substrate samplers available if people want to participate. There's also information on our website on how to get involved with the citizen science monitoring aspect of our program."
Any suspected sightings or any sightings of aquatic invasive species can be reported to the Saskatchewan Turn in Poachers and Polluters line (TIPP) at 1-800-667-7561.