The Okanagan Basin Water Board is sounding the alarm after nine boats and a kayak infested with invasive mussels were intercepted on their way into B.C. waters over a period of about three months.

The 10 watercraft arrived in the province from Ontario, Utah, North Carolina and Michigan between April 1 and July 5, but were fortunately caught by B.C.’s invasive mussel inspection program.

Some were headed for the Lower Mainland, while others were on route to Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and the Kootenays.

Though the invasive mussels were detected in time, the board said their discovery is still concerning; an infestation could be devastating and expensive for the Okanagan, costing an estimated $42 million a year to manage.

“Until we know we are in the clear and there is no chance of invasive mussels making their way into our waters, we are going to be pushing for senior government to do all they can to protect our waters,” Sue McKortoff, OBWB chair, said in a news release.

“Our lakes are not only an important tourist destination, they are important as a source of drinking water, to our fishery and the Okanagan’s delicate ecosystem, and much more.”

Invasive zebra and quagga mussels can encrust and corrode hard surfaces, according to the board’s Don’t Move a Mussel campaign, and females can produce about a million eggs per year.

At their smallest, the mussels are about the size of a grain of sand, making them easy to transfer on anything from recreational water toys to life jackets.

The board has been pushing for B.C. to enact legislation requiring all watercraft entering the province to report for an inspection – a call it reiterated this week in an open letter to Environment Minister George Heyman.

McKortoff said owners should be compelled to have their watercraft inspected, even if they arrive in B.C. outside of inspection hours or in the off-season, and that marina operators and others in a position to notice arriving boats should be trained to perform initial inspections.

Another option would be to implement a boat sticker program, which would generate revenue to help cover the costs of inspections and washing stations, she added.

Invasive mussels