Canada’s Fisheries, Oceans and Coast Guard Minister Bernadette Jordan highlighted efforts being made at the federal level against aquatic invasive species in her response to the CSRD for additional funding for B.C.’s efforts to combat the spread of invasive mussels. (File photo)

No additional federal funding for invasive mussels fight in Shuswap-Okanagan

Fisheries minister responds to request from Columbia Shuswap Regional District

While committed to fighting the spread of invasive mussels, Fisheries and Oceans Canada was unwilling to commit additional funds to B.C.’s prevention efforts as requested by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

In February, CSRD Chair Kevin Flynn submitted a letter to federal Fisheries, Oceans and Coast Guard Minister Bernadette Jordan, stressing the board’s concerns regarding aquatic invasive species – specifically zebra and quagga mussels – and the damaging impact an infestation would have on local tourism and infrastructure.

Flynn and the board echoed a request to the minister from the Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC), asking that funding be increased to prevent the spread of invasive mussels in the province.

In its Dec. 17, 2019 letter to Jordan, the SWC argued the federal government had not yet taken sufficient action on the challenge of aquatic invasives, stating additional investment is needed that could go towards expansion of B.C.’s watercraft inspection program as well as early detection monitoring and education and outreach programs.

In a May 29 letter to Flynn and the CSRD, Jordan does not respond directly to the request for additional funding. However, the minister does highlight various efforts being made at the federal level to address aquatic invasive species (AIS), and refers to the related management action plan on her ministry’s website.

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Jordan wrote threat of AIS is a shared priority and responsibility across federal, provincial and territorial governments, and that DFO works with provincial and territorial partners through the National Aquatic Invasive Species Committee, under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquatic Ministers (CCFAM). In 2012, Jordan continued, CCFAM agreed provinces and territories with delegated fisheries management authority would be responsible for enforcing AIS regulations in their respective jurisdictions. She added B.C. has this delegated authority and operates a watercraft inspection program to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive mussels into provincial waters.

Jordan noted DFO recently increased fishery officers enforcing AIS regulations in Central and Arctic regions, including the prairie provinces “where a number of watercrafts cross to gain access” to B.C.

Regarding education and outreach, Jordan said the department supports initiatives such as “Clean, Drain, Dry,” and AIS prevention education is included in Transport Canada’s boating safety course. In addition, Fisheries and the Canada Border Service Agency support the development of training materials for fishery and border service officers.

“Rest assured, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to deliver on its mandate during these times,” concludes Jordan. “The unpredictability of this situation continues to be a challenge, and our response will continue to evolve.”

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