Conservation officers use dogs trained to detect invasive zebra mussels on boats, and the skill comes in handy to check decorative aquarium moss balls that may be contaminated. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

Conservation officers use dogs trained to detect invasive zebra mussels on boats, and the skill comes in handy to check decorative aquarium moss balls that may be contaminated. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

B.C. collects thousands of contaminated aquarium moss balls

Boat checks next in battle to stop invasive zebra mussels

A public warning about aquarium moss balls has led to the collection of nearly 3,000 “confirmed or suspected” to be contaminated with invasive zebra mussels.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service first warned in early March of the contaminated items, sold as “Marimo moss balls” for house plants or aquarium plants. Lab-confirmed or suspected contaminated moss balls have since been found mostly in the Lower Mainland, as well as Invermere, Terrace, Kamloops and on Vancouver Island.

Conservation officers contacted more than 1,100 pet stores, garden centres and other retailers, and the suspected items were either surrendered or seized. It’s the latest effort to stop the invasive species from entering lakes and rivers, where they can affect fish populations as well as hydro power stations and other infrastructure. There have been no reports of live zebra mussels being introduced into B.C. waterways as a result.

“Several people have reported finding what they believed were zebra mussels in their home aquariums,” the service said in a statement April 1. “Investigations have linked some potentially contaminated moss balls to international shipments.”

The annual battle against zebra mussels moves to its usual target next, with inspection of out-of-province boats that may be bringing them into B.C. on their hulls and bilges. Checkpoints are set up each summer at popular boat launches to inspect and clean boats that may be contaminated.

RELATED: Aquarium users warned after mussels found at pet store

RELATED: 10 zebra mussel-fouled boats found in B.C. in 2020


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