Last week Council members of Killarney-Turtle Mountain participated in an informational seminar and workshop at Pelican Lake to learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species.  And community members and stakeholders at Oak Lake will be listening to provincial representatives share on AIS this evening.  All, in the efforts to thwart the spread of aquatic invasive species in our waterways.

It's important to note that travelers and boaters will be seeing much more signage to share the CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY and DECONTAMINATE message throughout the province.

A sample test that confirmed the presence of zebra mussels last November in Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) has got all of Westman concerned simply because much of the southwest landscape is dotted with lakes, rivers and marsh.

In the summer of 2022, a water sample in Clear Lake tested positive for the mussel environmental DNA (eDNA), and in mid-November of 2023 Parks Canada confirmed the presence of live zebra mussels at Boat Cove, this being the first time that zebra mussels had been found in RMNP, despite the draconian efforts to stop this aquatic invasive species from entering the Park.

In February of this year, the first set of water samples collected from Clear Lake between January 8th and February 2nd have all tested negative for zebra mussel eDNA, states the Government of Canada's website.  'Zebra mussels may be present despite negative eDNA results. Water samples are being tested at the University of Manitoba Freshwater Institute operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.'

A second set of water samples were collected and has also tested negative for zebra mussel eDNA, so states their March 2024 report:

'The second set of water samples collected from Clear Lake between February 2 and February 20, 2024, have all tested negative for zebra mussel environmental DNA (eDNA). Zebra Mussels may be present despite negative eDNA results. Water samples have now been taken from 34 percent of Clear Lake's area, and all high-priority sections have been tested. Winter sampling will continue until all sections have been tested or as long as weather and ice conditions permit.'

'Due to the complexity of the situation and ongoing research efforts, no decision has been made regarding the use of Clear Lake for 2024. Parks Canada remains committed to making the best decision based on available scientific evidence in combination with input received from stakeholders. Parks Canada also understands the importance of Clear Lake to Indigenous Peoples, visitors, and the local community.'

The Federal government recognizes how the potential infestation of zebra mussels in Clear Lake presents a real threat of significant and irreversible ecological damage to the lake and downstream waterbodies.

'Full consideration will be given to all aspects of this situation before any decision is made about lake use for the summer of 2024,' states the release.

In the meantime, Parks Canada staff at RMNP are working with AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) specialists from other Parks Canada locations, as well as the Manitoba Aquatic Invasive Species Unit, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to minimize the impact of the recent discovery of zebra mussels in Clear Lake.

An invasive species is an organism that is not native to a region that has a high reproductive rate, and outcompetes native species for food and space, and there is the absence of native predators and diseases to keep their populations in check.  As with any invasive species, success for eradication or control of zebra mussels in Clear Lake will depend on whether an intervention can take place before the increase in population due to its high rate of reproduction.  A single female zebra mussel can produce up to 1 million eggs each year.

Manitoba's Aquatic Invasive Species include the zebra mussel, the rusty crayfish, and the spiny water flea.

Councillor for the RM of Sifton, Scott Phillips, says the positive test result of zebra mussels at Clear Lake was certainly an issue under deep discussion at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Spring Session earlier this month.

"it's still up in the air what the Federal Government is going to do with Clear Lake," says Phillips. "There's rumblings and rumors but nothing official.  But what's going to happen is that if Clear Lake doesn't allow boats, then those boats will go to neighboring lakes, like Minnedosa, Sandy Lake, Ditch Lake, Oak Lake. So, we've got to have our ducks in a row for clean, drain, dry, and decontaminate.  We've just got to be prepared for it."

"It's a scary subject and we'll definitely do our best to keep them out of our lakes.  It can be done," he adds. "With a collaborative effort we can learn from our mistakes and keep them out of Oak Lake and the others."

The AMM heard from their members the threat zebra mussels pose to not only our lakes, but to the disastrous effect on the economy.  "It's up to the Province but we're definitely telling them that this would crush tourism, so we need to work together with the municipalities, work together with the resort communities, and keep informing them."

Zebra mussels have been detected in these waterways in Manitoba:

  • Lake Winnipeg in 2013
  • the Manitoban portion of the Red River in 2015
  • Cedar Lake in 2015 and confirmed in 2021
  • Assean Lake, northwest of Split Lake in 2019
  • Lake of the Woods (U.S. portion) in 2019 
  • the upper reaches of the Nelson River in 2019
  • the lower reaches of the Nelson River to Hudson Bay in 2021
  • Echimamish River (downstream of Hairy Lake) in 2021
  • Lake Manitoba in 2021

What are Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)?

Water samples from Clear Lake are being tested for zebra mussel environmental DNA (eDNA) at the University of Manitoba Freshwater Institute operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The map below shows Clear Lake broken into 219 sections. 'Water samples are taken from each section based on priority. High-priority sections are closest to boat launches, beaches, and other areas of human use. Zebra mussels are most likely to first become established at these locations. Most high-priority sections (in green) were included in the first round of samples that were tested. The remaining high-priority sections (in red) have now been sampled and will be included in the samples shipped earlier this week.

Currently, samples are being collected from the bright yellow sections. These yellow sections are up to ten metres deep and zebra mussels could become established in these locations. Winter sampling will continue until all sections have been tested or as long as ice conditions permit,' states the Government of Canada website.

To learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species and the efforts to stop the spread of AIS, visit the Province of Manitoba website HERE!

For the full details of the Government of Canada's statement regarding zebra mussels found at Riding Mountain National Park's Clear Lake visit their website HERE!