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WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s conservation minister says the province is working of new zebra mussel laws that will be the toughest in the country.

Gord Mackintosh says a huge infestation has occurred in Lake Winnipeg, along with the Red River.

Dean Thorkelsson, manager of Lake Agassi Marine, says zebra mussels have grown in numbers in the province like they’ve never seen before.

Every boat taken off the lake is now driven to an offsite gravel pad to be washed thoroughly with hot water to make sure the invasive species doesn’t make it back into any other body of water.

The freshwater mussels, which are not native to western Canada, have been spreading around the world.

They clog pipes at water treatment plants and can also increase algae blooms in lakes, which can kill fish and wildlife.

They’re being found on boats along beaches and on infrastructure such as swimming buoys, docks and ladders.

They’ve also been found at the St. Andrews lock and dam.

In June 2014, Manitoba declared victory over zebra mussels after a unique experiment which doused four infested harbours with liquid potash. The harbours were initially declared mussel free, but they soon came back.

Boaters found possessing zebra mussels may be fined or prosecuted under the federal Fisheries Act.

Experts have suggested zebra mussels would devastate Manitoba’s $500-million commercial and recreational fishery if they take hold, and could have a $75 million impact in Alberta and $28 million in B.C.

A conference in Richmond, B.C., heard earlier this year suggestions that the mussels may be coming in with Canadian snowbirds towing pleasure boats back to Western provinces from winter getaways in the United States.

Mackintosh reminds boat owners of the province’s slogan and campaign: “Don’t move a mussel.”

(CTV Winnipeg)

The Canadian Press

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