Federal government bans watercraft from Manitoba lake popular with tourists

Mussels prompt boat ban

The threat of zebra mussels, the same species groups are battling to keep out of the Okanagan, has prompted the federal government to temporarily ban watercraft from a Manitoba lake popular with tourists.

Parks Canada says personal watercraft, including non-motorized items such as canoes and standup paddle boards, will not be allowed on Clear Lake.

The lake sits in Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba and is a hub of summertime activity. 

There are some exceptions to the ban, including one commercial tour boat and a vessel from a nearby First Nation community.

Live zebra mussels were found in the lake last November, and Parks Canada has said an infestation of the invasive species could cause irreversible ecological damage to the lake and downstream bodies of water.

The federal department says the ban will last until officials determine whether a population of zebra mussels has been established in Clear Lake and until any potential remediation is done.

"The goal is to confirm whether an established colony of invasive mussels is present in Clear Lake and assess whether eradication is feasible," a statement from Parks Canada said Thursday.

"Personal watercraft complicate detection efforts, increase the risk of spread within the lake and to other waterbodies, interfere with water sampling, and prolong the search."

Zebra mussels attach to boats and can spread to other bodies of water on boats that are not cleaned properly.

The Manitoba government said the federal government needs to help businesses in the region.

"We've been continuously saying that they need to consider the economic impact that their decision is going to make for those businesses," Natural Resources Minister Jamie Moses said.

Moses did not commit to any business relief from the province, but pointed to steps Manitoba has recently taken to increase testing and inspections in the area for invasive species.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said a ban could have been avoided, if the federal government continued a plan from last year that prevented boats on Clear Lake from being taken to other bodies of water and brought back.

"I see no reason why that couldn't continue this year. This is devastating for the Clear Lake economy," said Greg Nesbitt, the Tories' environment critic who also represents the region in the legislature.

While watercraft are banned, swimming and fishing from shore or wharfs are still allowed, as are beach toys.

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