When you think of Water Week, does the image of man and his best friend inspecting boats pop into mind? Probably not – however, celebrating Water Week isn’t just about conserving water; it’s also about keeping our water sources safe from invasive species.
The Alberta Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program staff here at Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) is hard at work keeping Alberta’s waterways free of zebra and quagga mussels and they aren’t afraid to bring in extra bodies to help get the job done, even if those bodies have four legs and are covered in fur.
In 2014, ESRD partnered with Montana’s Department of Natural Resource Conservation, Alberta Irrigation Projects Association and Working Dogs for Conservation to pilot an innovative inspection technique.
The Alberta-Montana Canine Mussel Detection Pilot is the first of its kind in Canada. The partnership brings in highly trained, specialized dogs to sniff out mussels at inspection stations. The dogs will be back for another season in early 2015, when boat traffic is considerably higher, as snowbirds return to Alberta from the United States – many transporting high risk watercraft.
Due to the success of the pilot, sniffer dogs will be permanent members of the AIS team. In fact, “interviews” have already started to find dogs with just the right mix of unique qualities.
Over the past two years, the AIS Program has demonstrated the importance of partnerships to the sustainability and growth of government programs. The level of collaboration involved in the AIS program has been unprecedented, within government departments, among external stakeholders and through international partners.
While there are only two dedicated full time staff to the AIS program currently, many individuals passionate about the issue have committed substantial time and support. In this sense the program benefits from a phenomenal amount of “in kind” support, both from government staff cross-Ministry as well as essential non-government stakeholders.
But that’s not all! The watercraft inspection stations utilize existing infrastructure where possible by partnering with Justice and Solicitor General’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch. In 2014, all four watercraft inspection sites were housed at weigh scales, providing a safe place for the inspections, saving costs on facilities, and capitalizing on the enthusiasm and interest of Transport Officers.
Remember to always “Clean, Drain, Dry Your Boat” to protect it, and Alberta’s ecosystems, from invasive species.
For more information or report something suspicious on your boat or equipment call 1-855-336-2628 (BOAT)