Controlling Aquatic Invasive Species with new Technology

A first-of-its-kind machine in the country is in Alberta to help seek out in controlling Aquatic Invasive Species

In the fall of 2019, while walking the shoreline of Lake McGregor, a diligent Albertan reported coming across some unusual looking shells. Lake McGregor, located within the Lake McGregor Provincial Recreation Area, is situated 100km southeast of Calgary in the Vulcan County. Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) staff investigated the report and discovered these shells meant a presence of the Chinese Mystery Snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis). To date, this is the first and only documented location of the snail in the province.

The Chinese Mystery Snail, discovered for the first time in the province in the fall of 2019.

Native to Eastern Asia and known to alter water quality and disrupt food chains, the Chinese Mystery Snail is one of the 52 prohibited species under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act. As a prohibited species, it is illegal to possess, import, sell or transport the snail into our province.

 “Research shows the Chinese Mystery Snail can pose both an economic and ecological threat to freshwater ecosystems. The snail is known to have the ability to host multiple human parasites and diseases, and pollute beaches with shells that can injure beach users, outcompete native species, and clog infrastructure,” said Nicole Kimmel, Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist with AEP.

Populations of the snail abound across the country. They are typically found in British Columbia, Quebec, southern Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.

With limited information on effective eradication methods, AEP has focused on helping people identify these snails to stop further spread of this invasive species to other water bodies in the province. To do this, the government helped install a CD3 machine at Lake McGregor last September, which made Alberta the first jurisdiction in Canada to have a machine of this kind.

“We’re proud that Alberta is leading the way in the use of modern technology to control invasive species in Canada. These machines have previously been used in a number of US states and have had very successful results,” added Kimmel.

CD3 machine at Lake McGregor.

The CD3 machine is used as a tool to help boaters clean, drain and dry their watercraft and equipment at the Lake McGregor Recreational Area boat launch.  In addition to being powered by solar energy, the unit is a waterless, free-of-charge cleaning equipment that includes an array of tools to clean, drain and dry watercraft as they exit Lake McGregor. The machine is equipped with a wet/dry vacuum, blower system, tethered hands tools and lights.

“The machine is easy to use by boat users with instructions displayed on the unit that walk them through on how to use all the various tools provided. The state-of-the art CD3 machine is also equipped with technology that logs tool use, provides automatic reports, and maintenance alerts,” said Kimmel.  

A person using the CD3 machine to clean their boat.

Getting this modern machine to Alberta required many partners working together. AEP collaborated with the Invasive Species Centre and the Bow River Irrigation District to ensure this machine arrived to Alberta.

“Getting the CD3 machine here in Alberta was truly a national collaborative effort. The Invasive Species Centre initially purchased the unit, with funds from the Canada Nature Fund provided by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to be installed in the prairies region. The Bow River Irrigation District is helping us store and properly maintain the unit, while Alberta Parks provided the location for public use,” expressed Kimmel.

Preventing the spread of invasive species while protecting species at risk is a share goal for each of the partners. The machine is also monitored, well cared for and stored appropriately year-round as a collaborative effort. 

The installation of the CD3 machine is one example of how collaboration can help us maintain the health of Alberta’s lakes and continue to allow for memories to be made. But remember that we still need your help! If you spot any invasive species in an Alberta waterbody, please report them promptly, either through the AIS hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628) or on EDDMapS Alberta.

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