The provincial government has taken another step to help keep Alberta free from mussels and other invasive species.

Back in May, they created the Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, which would increase the amount of inspection stations and inspectors on Alberta's waterways.

At a media conference on Wednesday, June 12, the provincial government stated they are taking an additional step to help keep invasive species out of the province.

Currently, Alberta is free from the Zebra and Quagga mussels, but they are tiny invaders that can easily spread due to boats and other watercraft travelling across borders.

If they get established in the province's waterways and infrastructure, these invasive species can rapidly spread, clog waterways, harm ecosystems, and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Because of the damage these species can cause, the provincial government has decided to increase the fines around invasive species.

Starting June 20, the fines for failing to stop with a trailered boat at an open inspection station are going up from $324 to $4,200, while the fines for failing to remove a bilge plug when transporting a watercraft on a roadway will increase from $180 to $600.

The goal of the increased fines is to help make sure watercraft are properly drained, inspected, and free of invasive species before they cross the border into the province.

"Zebra mussels and other invasive species can devastate Alberta’s rivers, lakes and waterways. We are setting the highest fines in North America because we want everyone to take inspection and detection seriously. Alberta is currently zebra and quagga mussel free so let’s keep ’em out," explained the Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz.

There have been increasing reports of aquatic invasive species across Canada and the United States, so the Provincial government is using every tool possible to prevent damage from aquatic invasive species, which could cost millions annually to lakes, waterways, and irrigation infrastructure.

For example, a recent study estimated that introducing invasive mussels into Lake McGregor alone could cost $284 million a year in damages because Lake McGregor is part of a larger interconnected system that includes irrigation infrastructure and reservoirs in Southern Alberta.

These increased fines are a part of Alberta's increased border defence.

Watercraft inspections have been mandatory in Alberta since 2015.

To learn more about watercraft inspections and invasive species, click here.