River Ambassadors distributing information material to a boater about zebra and quagga mussels

Shuswap River Ambassadors Take on Mussels

In addition to educating recreational users of the Shuswap River about how to enjoy the river in a safe and respectful way, the Shuswap River Ambassadors are now lending their muscle to prevent an invasive species.

Don't Move a Mussel posterThe “Don’t Move a Mussel” campaign (www.DontMoveAMussel.ca) was launched to educate the public about the threat of zebra and quagga mussels.  These non-native mussels attach themselves to boats, piers, and other organisms and can damage beaches and boat motors while permanently harming water quality and ecosystems.

“Seeing the River Ambassador program expand to include education on invasive species in our waters is a great addition,” said Shuswap River Ambassadors Manager, Courtney Boucher.  “The Ambassadors not only work to protect the users of the river but also the river itself.”

The River Ambassadors are partnering with the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) to educate boat operators about how to prevent the spread of invasive mussel species using the Clean, Drain, Dry method.  Prevention involves cleaning plants, animals, and mud from vessels and related equipment, draining any item that can hold water, and drying all items before launching into another body of water. The River Ambassadors are also promoting the “Don’t Move a Mussel” message in conjunction with the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB)’s Okanagan WaterWise program.

The idea for the partnership initially came from Enderby Mayor Howie Cyr.  “I was in the audience for a powerful presentation about the potential impacts and costs to the North Okanagan-Shuswap ecosystem and economy.  As the River Ambassadors already provide information about river safety and respect at many boat launch locations, connecting this initiative to the ‘Don’t Move a Mussel’ campaign creates a natural synergy.  We are leveraging a successful, well-established local program to take on this environmental and economic threat proactively,” said Mayor Cyr.

Mayor Cyr, who is the Municipal Director for Enderby on the Board of the Regional District of the North Okanagan, noted that the Board will be communicating with the Provincial Government and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities about the proactive role that the Province needs to take in prevention and education.

The partnership is a natural fit, as it builds upon the local presence for the “Don’t Move a Mussel” campaign and compliments the River Ambassadors’ existing message of safety and respect that they deliver at hand launches and boat launches throughout the Lower Shuswap River.  “Partnerships are key when it comes to preventing the spread of aquatic invaders,” said OASISS Coordinator Lisa Scott.  “There is a huge environmental and economic impact if these invasive mussel species take hold.  Preventative action now will result in significant savings to the taxpayer in comparison with the costs of reacting to the problem later.  I see the partnership with the River Ambassadors program as a great opportunity to put more boots on the ground to raise awareness.”

Enderby & District Chamber of Commerce General Manager Corinne Peard agreed: “The new partnership between the OASISS and the River Ambassador program is a valuable opportunity to spread the message on invasive species and educate river users on the damage these species can cause in our water ways.”

“As far as we know, we don’t have zebra or quagga mussels in our waters, and we want to keep it that way,” added Corinne Jackson, Communications Director with the OBWB.  “There is a lot of shared boat traffic between the waters of the Okanagan, the Shuswap and beyond.  The more people who know the risks to our waters, the better. And if we can share the messaging, and be consistent with it, I think our chances of keeping our waters invasive mussel-free are also better. We are very happy to be working with OASISS and the Shuswap River Ambassadors to help spread the message – not the mussels.”

About

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) has been actively participating in prevention, detection and management of invasive plants in the Okanagan-Similkameen since 1996.  OASISS invasive mussel outreach is funded by the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the Canada Summer Jobs Program.  For further information, contact Lisa Scott, Coordinator, at 250-404-0115 or visit www.oasiss.ca.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) was established in 1970 as a collaboration of the three Okanagan regional districts – North, Central and Okanagan-Similkameen – to provideleadership for sustainable water management in the valley. Okanagan WaterWise is a public outreach initiative of the OBWB. For more information, contact Corinne Jackson at 250-469-6271 or visit www.obwb.ca or www.okwaterwise.ca.

The Shuswap River Ambassador program was established by the Enderby & District Chamber of Commerce in 2010 to promote the sustainability of the Shuswap River by providing river users with high quality and accurate information in a friendly and professional manner.  The Shuswap River Ambassadors are funded by the Enderby & District Chamber of Commerce, the City of Enderby, Regional District of the North Okanagan, Fortis BC, and BC Hydro.  For further information, contact Corinne Peard, Chamber General Manager, at 250-838-6727 or visit www.enderbychamber.com.