Salmon Arm  

Authorities on watch for invasive clams after their discovery in Shuswap Lake

Invasive clam lookout

Efforts are mounting to combat invasive clams in Shuswap Lake, just as the provincial government has announced $12 million to assist with the detection and removal of invasive species.

The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society recently met with local and provincial government representatives, non-profits, First Nations and community members about the discovery of the freshwater Corbicula Fluminea clams last year.

Also known as golden, pygmy, or Asian clams, a live population was found in the Salmon Arm reach of Shuswap Lake.

The society says there is potential for the species to spread throughout the lake and also to other nearby water bodies.

The clams have been present in the Lower Mainland since about 2008.

Sue Davies with CSISS says surveys were conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and the Shuswap Watershed Council last fall to assess the clams' distribution in Shuswap Lake. The surveys found the clams are currently limited to the Salmon Arm reach of the lake.

Similar efforts used to prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels, such as encouraging boaters to clean, drain and dry watercraft, and the importance of watercraft inspection stations, were suggested.

Cassandra Silverio, an aquatic invasive species specialist with the Ministry of Environment, indicated the mussels (not currently known in B.C.) pose a greater risk, but the ministry will continue surveys of Shuswap Lake to assess control options.

James Littley with the Okanagan Basin Water Board said the organization sees the clam discovery as a "dress rehearsal" for the potential discovery of invasive mussels and wants to ensure that everything is being done to prepare.

After consulting with other jurisdictions, the province has learned impacts from invasive clams vary significantly depending on site-specific conditions, and that there are relatively few effective control options.

The public can report suspected invasive species by calling 1- 877-952-7277.

Meanwhile, the province on Thursday announced $12 million to assist with the detection and removal of invasive species.

The funding is part of an economic recovery program and will provide training and skill development opportunities to support invasive species detection and control efforts by the Invasive Species Council of BC and other partners over the next 15 months.

Whether any of that money will be directed to the invasive clams remains to be seen.

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