Save Sickle Point group launches scuba search for rare, at-risk mussels in waters of Skaha Lake

Rare, at-risk mussels spotted

The Save Sickle Point Committee teamed up with a local Kaleden scuba operation to find rare endangered Rocky Mountain ridged mussels in Skaha Lake, a species unique to the Okanagan Valley in all of Canada.

Save Sickle Point has been fighting to acquire and conserve a 4.8-acre parcel of wetlands on the lake, which are home to many sensitive ecosystems and species.

"We know that Sickle Point is the last intact wetland on Skaha Lake and has rare plant communities like the Common Cattail Marsh and the Waterbirch/Wild Rose. These rare plants provide critical habitat for Pallid Bat, Lewis’s Woodpecker and Yellow Breasted Chat, but we have also heard from kayakers that they have seen mussels in the waters around Sickle Point," said Randy Cranston, Save Sickle Point Committee member.

“We thought we should check out the waters around Sickle Point to see if we could find this rare mussel that is only found in the Okanagan."

The freshwater bivalves individually can filter up to 40 litres of water per day, or 160 glasses of water. They are threatened by multiple factors, including invasive species like Zebra or Quagga mussels, which are the subject of aggressive education and prevention campaigns on lakes up and down the valley every year.

Oceantec Scuba in Kaleden stepped up to see if they could help locate some of the unique creatures near Sickle Point, seeing it as a way to give back to the community and live up to its commitment to the community to clean up local water systems.

"I remember as a kid going to Sickle Point and seeing so many frogs and turtles there," owner Kevin Aschoff said. “It would be a shame if it was sold and developed."

On Saturday morning, Aschoff and four volunteer divers headed out on their boat. Within 45 minutes, divers had spotted and photographed 18 molluscs, which will be sent to the Royal BC Museum for verification.

The Save Sickle Point Committee was thrilled with the success. More information about the committee, species that call Sickle Point home, and their fundraising campaign can be found here.

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