The Alberta government is helping to put an end to invasive mussels from entering the province.

Both the Zebra and Quagga mussels are not native to Canada and can cause serious damage to the country's ecosystems and infrastructure.

Currently, Alberta is free of invasive mussels, but if they were to become introduced in the province, they could cause millions of dollars worth of damage to our lakes and waterways.

There has been an increase in reports of these invasive mussels across Canada and the United States, which is increasing the risk of mussels making their way into Alberta.

The Zebra and Quagga mussels, along with other invasive species, can be inadvertently brought into the province, often via boats and watercraft.

If they do become established in Alberta, they would spread quickly and clog waterways, interfere with lakes and other ecosystems, and cause more than an estimated $75 million in annual damages to irrigation infrastructure.

Because of the destruction these invasive species can cause, the provincial government has created the Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force to help curb the mussel's presence and the amount of damage they can cause.

This task force is on top of the already increased number of inspection stations, an increase in inspectors, and the call for increased federal action to stop invasive species before they get into the country.

"Boating season hasn’t even started and we’ve already intercepted two boats carrying invasive mussels into Alberta this year. Zebra mussels and other invasive species may be tiny, but they can have massive impacts on our economy and Alberta’s rivers, lakes and waterways," explained the Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz in a media release from May 15th. "We are taking decisive action by launching this new task force to identify ways to improve protection programs across the province."

The new task force will be led by Grant Hunter, who is the MLA for Taber-Warner, and will work alongside partners to discuss topics, such as how to improve border protections, and to help find ways to strengthen provincial rules and programs.

On top of that, they will assess whether or not to implement stronger penalties, restrictions, additional inspections, or any other actions that are needed to help protect Alberta.

The task force will also engage with their partner organizations and provincial programs on aquatic invasive species defense and control strategies, which include education and awareness, watercraft inspection and decontamination, monitoring, and the detection, response, and management of current and emerging threats.

Parks Canada recently announced that they are closing all bodies of water in British Columbia's Kootenay and Yoho national parks, and restricting watercraft in Waterton Lakes National Park to slow the spread of invasive species.

In 2023, of the 8,818 boats that were inspected in Alberta, 19 were confirmed to be carrying invasive mussels.

During the 2024 season, the Aquatic Invasive Species Watercraft Inspections and Decontamination Program will operate seven fixed inspection stations and one roving crew during the 2024 boating season.

There will also be an additional 15 watercraft inspectors this year, raising the number of inspectors from 35 to 50.

To learn more about invasive species and how to keep them from damaging Alberta's ecosystem, click here.