Zebra mussels threaten Northern Ontario lakes

Zebra mussels have been discovered in a lake connected to the Rainy River prompting concern that they could invade a number of waterways in Northern Ontario, including Lake of the Woods.

So far, zebra mussels haven’t managed to make their way into northwestern lakes, because many bodies of water along the Canadian Shield don’t have enough calcium in them, according to a report by the CBC. Currently, the problem is most serious in the Great Lakes, as well as other inland lakes in Southern Ontario, but it’s not difficult for zebra mussels to move from lake to lake. The species can survive for up to 15 days out of the water, making it easy for them to migrate by attaching to boats—that’s why this Sand Lake discovery has raised some concern. 

If zebra mussels migrate to Lake of the Woods, they could have a devastating effect on the sport fishing in that area, according to the aquatic invasive species outreach liaison with the Ontario Federation of Angers and Hunters. 

Because boats and other marine equipment are such easy forms of transportation for zebra mussels, provincial governments have attempted to create awareness among boaters to help combat the spread. The Manitoba government will even have portable boat decontamination units travelling around the province to prevent boaters from unintentionally spreading invasive species like zebra mussels. 

As for Lake of the Woods and Rainy River, the hope is that these lakes, and others in the area, have low enough calcium levels to provide a natural buffer that will protect them from zebra mussels. Still, it is up to fisherman and other boaters to ensure their boats are washed before moving between lakes. 

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