Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic Invasive Species - Zebra Mussels

What are Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)?

AIS include plant, animal, and invertebrate species threatening waterways and damaging habitats, along with power generation, irrigation, and municipal water infrastructure. Saskatchewan monitors for aquatic invasive species and takes several steps to prevent them from entering the province’s lakes and water bodies.

Zebra Mussels

Aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels pose a serious threat to lakes and waterways in western Canada. These small but destructive mussels have been discovered in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and 34 states, including Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota.

Adult Invasive Mussel Monitoring (AIMM)

We are part of Saskatchewan’s AIMM Program. It is a partnership project with non-government organizations (NGOs) and other agencies to detect aquatic invasive mussels.

Installation of a sampler

During our field season, we distribute substrate samplers around Pike Lake, Blackstrap Lake, Brightwatwer Reservoir, and Lake Diefenbaker to monitor the possible spread of Zebra and Quagga Mussels. Once a month SSRWSI employees check each sampler for evidence of Zebra Mussels and uploaded the information on the Survey123 App. Preventative monitoring is important to make quick decisive action if they are found.

Veliger sampling training

Veliger Sampling

In June 2019, we, and five other watershed stewardship groups, attended a veliger sampling training session provided by the Government of Saskatchewan’s Fish, Wildlife & Land’s Branch. Altogether, 120 waters, within 12 of the major 16 watersheds in the province (not those way up north), were sampled. For the summer 2019 and 2020 seasons, no Zebra Mussels were reported.

Veliger sampling in action

eDNA Sampling

In 2021, we utilized eDNA analysis at a few lakes for the first time. Lake water gets pumped through a micromesh filter, then sent to a lab where they sample for any presence of invasive mussel DNA. eDNA, short for environmental DNA, is the genetic material that is shed into the environment by living or dead organisms. eDNA can be shed via feces, reproductive cells, mucous, skin, and hair. eDNA is a game-changing tool for the early detection of aquatic invasive species. eDNA can detect species that are present in low numbers. For instance, it can detect a species at the edge of its known distribution and act as an early warning system. Funding for this pilot project was provided by the Invasive Species Centre. You can read more about eDNA sampling here.

SSRWSI YouTube Video

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to attend any community events in 2020. Therefore, we created a little time-lapse of our sampling process. We use a plankton tow method, in which a fine mesh net is pulled through the water to collect microscopic organisms. We also measure the pH level and turbidity of the waterbody. For best video quality set your video settings to HD.

The Ministry of Environment has established an aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention program focusing on raising public awareness to protect Saskatchewan’s waterways from the spread of harmful AIS.

Quick facts:

  • Zebra and quagga mussels are virtually impossible to eradicate.
  • Once introduced and established, they can spread rapidly – with one female producing up to a million eggs per year.
  • Invasive mussels can disrupt natural food chains, create toxic algae blooms decrease property values, and reduce recreational enjoyment of natural areas.
  • Can cause millions of dollars in damage to water-operated infrastructure and can clog water supplies to SaskPower facilities, hindering power generation.
  • These mussels also pose a risk for cottages and homes that rely on these waterways for their water supply.
  • Any freshwater mussel that is attached to your equipment is an invasive mussel and should be reported to the TIP line.
  • Washing your boat with hot water and following the CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY protocol will greatly reduce the threat of spreading these species.

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