Invasive species cause boating restrictions in British Columbia and Alberta national parks

Parks Canada is closing all bodies of water in British Columbia’s Kootenay and Yoho national parks, and restricting boating in Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park in an effort to slow the spread of invasive species.

Lakes, streams and tributaries in eastern British Columbia will be closed until at least March next year in response to the deadly spinneret disease parasite found in fish.

At the same time, non-motorized boats from outside the park boundaries will not be allowed into Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta starting April 1 to protect against whirling disease and invasive mussels. zebra and quagga.

Jeanette Goulet of the aquatic invasive species program for mountain national parks said Tuesday that boats are the primary way species are transferred between bodies of water.

“They can pick up things like mud, sand and sediment, plant fragments,” he said.

“And if your equipment is not cleaned of all that, drained of any standing water, and dried for a certain period of time, then that poses a huge risk of transfer of aquatic organisms… between bodies of water.”

The first case of whirling disease in British Columbia was detected in Emerald Lake last year and was later found in Kicking Horse River, Wapta Lake, Finn Creek, Monarch Creek and the confluence of the Emerald River and Kicking Horse River.

Access was first restricted for five months last October, and François Masse, Parks Canada superintendent for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay, said extending the restrictions for another year will help protect fish species, including several types of trout and Kokanee.

Goulet said staff will monitor the parks and anyone who breaks the rules could face a fine of up to $25,000.

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There is no specific treatment for eddy disease, Goulet said, and removing diseased fish from the water system is not feasible.

He said officials are gathering more information before deciding what’s next.

“Other jurisdictions have decided to let the infection develop and see if a natural resistance builds up in the fish or, in some places where they have seen population declines in the United States, they have actually stocked trout that have a resistance.” that has been raised in hatcheries,” he said.

“I don’t know if we would ever go that route in the parks.”

Locke Marshall, superintendent of Waterton Lakes National Park, said that along with the ban on non-motorized boats from outside the park boundaries, fishing for all species will no longer be allowed in the park’s flowing waters, but fishing will be allowed. will be permitted under current regulations on park lakes.

He said invasive zebra and quagga mussels that are present in other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions pose a threat to Waterton Lakes and downstream infrastructure throughout southern Alberta.

He said if infestations start, controlling them can cost millions.

Marshall said a mandatory inspection station for non-motorized boats has been in operation since 2021, but only 56 percent of boat users participated last year.

“The risk of the spread of aquatic invasive species is too high to continue with this previous approach,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024.

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