Zebra mussels have continued their expansion in Manitoba waterways, with adult mussels having been found for the first time as far north as Sipiwesk Lake in the Nelson River system.
Sipiwesk Lake falls between Cross and Split lakes in the river system south of Thompson.
The progression has been anticipated since zebra mussels appeared in the southern basin of Lake Winnipeg in 2013, and it will, in all likelihood, continue to move further north with time, officials said.
“The significance of the adults being found in the Nelson River system really has to do with how it might affect the communities along the Nelson River, and then a greater chance of (mussels) being moved out of that water system through human movement. We can’t really do anything about the natural movement downstream, but what we would be concerned about is any human movement out of there,” said Kayla Peterniak, an aquatic invasive species specialist with the province.
As the invasive species progresses through waterways, officials with Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development are working with communities to prevent the mussels from clogging drinking water infrastructure and other supports. The mussels could also hurt commercial fishers, lodge operators and local tourism.
Provincial workers are focusing on education regarding decontamination protocols in the invasive species control zone. Within the designated area all watercraft are not only expected to be cleaned, drained and dried — but also decontaminated with boiling hot water.
“That kills all stages of zebra mussels,” Peterniak said.
She said there is nothing to stop the mussels from expanding their range northward all the way into the estuary where the Nelson River flows into Hudson Bay.
Salinity and colder temperatures are the only things that slow the natural spread once they’re introduced into a water system, she said.