Maintaining Saskatchewan’s natural beauty is a year-long effort and it takes everyone to prevent invasive species.
That’s what the province says when it comes to aquatic invasive species that could irreversibly damage the more than 100,000 waterbodies in Saskatchewan.
Most people have heard the slogan “clean, drain, dry” when it comes to boats, but Jeri Geiger with the Ministry of Environment says there are other, lesser-known pathways for invasive species, which was the focus of this year’s aquatic invasive species awareness week from May 7-11.
Those include live food, the release of aquarium plants and pets, the release of water garden plants and pets, unused bait and the movement of sport fish, she said.
Sometimes people have the best of intentions in mind when it comes to releasing pets like goldfish, she said.
“I would say more often than not, it’s somebody who doesn’t want to go through the process of putting the fish down, they think that by releasing the fish, they’re doing it a favor by letting it live, I suppose. These species either aren’t able to survive in our environment or if they are, there’s the potential that they become established and invasive.”
Geiger says once an invasive species takes hold in a new area, it can be difficult or even impossible to eradicate, which is why prevention is the most cost-effective method.
She says Zebra mussels are one of the main concerns in jurisdictions across North America.
“They just attach to every little surface they can, and once they’ve been established, they start to attach to each other. Intake pipes for drinking water or hydro facilities that have pipes, those pipes can very quickly become clogged,” said Geiger.
Resource management officer Brad Lloyd monitors Prince Albert National Park to ensure boats are following guidelines and says people understand the importance of doing their part.
“We completely recognize that our ability to protect these beautiful ecosystems is limited, and we really need the help of the public to do that,” he said.
“So it’s really important that folks coming to visit recognize that if they come in, make sure all their equipment is drained out, there’s no water in the live well, that it’s all dry.”
Lloyd says the park doesn’t have any invasive species problems currently, but all it takes is one to throw off the balance of life.
“Whether it’s a bacteria, algae, minnow, plant, fish, or the eagle catching the fish to eat it, they’re all very important parts, and the trouble is if you have invasive species that comes in and impacts any one of those components, it can shake up that whole tree of life,” said Lloyd.
For Lloyd, seeing others getting out and enjoying nature is the reward for all his team’s hard work.
“We do work on this all year long, but it’s nice once the visitor season really ramps up, you can see people really enjoying it and it really is rewarding to see people enjoying clean, clear water, and knowing you had some small part to play in it is really nice too.”