Zebra mussels have been found in Lake Winnipeg, the province said today.
The invasive mussels were recently found on the hull of a private boat and a dock at Winnipeg Beach and on some fishing boats dry docked at Gimli.
The province says zebra mussels are an aquatic invasive species that multiply rapidly, affecting fish and other native aquatic species.
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship continues to investigate where the species has been established in Manitoba waters.
The province is also implementing a "rapid response protocol" to address the situation.
This includes ensuring staff are on site at Winnipeg Beach, Gimli and Hecla to provide information to watercraft owners and local residents to help identify zebra mussels, collect samples to determine the extent of infestation and advise on steps to follow to help prevent further spread.
Watercraft inspection teams will be in the Winnipeg Beach and Gimli areas from this weekend until lake freeze-up.
Call 1-877-867-2470 (toll-free) for up-to-date information about the exact daily location of these teams.
To avoid the spread of zebra mussels to other areas in Manitoba, boat owners are asked to implement the following steps before launching and before leaving the Red River and Lake Winnipeg:
- Clean and inspect watercraft, trailers and all water-based equipment. Remove all plants, animals or mud. Rinse with hot water, preferably 50C (120F) or hotter, for several minutes.
- Drain water from watercraft and all water-based equipment (motors, live wells, bilges, transom wells, nets, ballast tanks and bait buckets).
- Dry all equipment, boots and clothing before transporting them to another water body. Dry anything that comes into contact with water such as watercraft and gear for at least five days in the hot sun, 18 days in the spring or fall, or freeze for three days continuously if rinsing is not possible.
- Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash and dump all water from bait buckets on land away from any water body. Never release plants, fish or animals unless they came out of that water body and are free of any aquatic invasive species.
Zebra mussels are the only freshwater mollusk that can firmly attach themselves to solid objects (rocks, docks, boats, intake pipes, etc). As they spread, they can clog water treatment plant intake pipes and effluent discharge pipes, encrust in-water infrastructure, foul boat motors and may affect beaches.
They spread mostly by attaching to boat hulls and fishing equipment or by dispersal of the juvenile stage through water. Adult zebra mussels can survive out of water for days under certain conditions.
Established populations of zebra mussels have been found for several years in Ontario, Minnesota and North Dakota.
They were first found in the Great Lakes in the late 1980s. They can grow up to five centimetres long but are generally under 2.5 cm in length.