Fisheries officials concerned mud snails may threaten Vancouver Island native fish

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PORT ALBERNI, B.C. New Zealand mud snails have appeared on Vancouver Island and fisheries officials are concerned the tiny creatures that breed quickly will threaten the food supply of native fish.

PORT ALBERNI, B.C. New Zealand mud snails have appeared on Vancouver Island and fisheries officials are concerned the tiny creatures that breed quickly will threaten the food supply of native fish.

Graham Gillespie, invertebrate research biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said anglers, swimmers and boaters may spread the invasive species that showed up in the Somass River Estuary to other lakes and rivers.

We wouldnt want someone to go home, leave their waders for a couple of days, then go fishing in another watershed, Gillespie said from Nanaimo, B.C.

He urged waders and boaters to clean their gear before leaving the area, then freeze the attire when they get home to kill the pests.

The New Zealand natives are spreading rapidly throughout North America, where they have no natural enemies.

The snails have appeared in the Great Lakes, in Idaho and near Yellowstone Park, in the San Francisco Bay area, along with Oregon and Washington.

A graduate student from Oregon first identified Potamopyrgus antipodarum in the Somass River Estuary in July 2007.

Weve been back a few times to collect some snails and confirm thats what they are, Gillespie said.

Penny Cote, director of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, said shes concerned the snails may invade other waterways.

Im extremely worried about it, said Cote. If they get into the lake they could cause problems with water intakes. Theyre new to B.C. and I really dont want to see them spread.

Gillespie said the snails may have been brought to Port Alberni by a boater who had been in the mouth of the Columbia River or the Snake River in Washington.

The tiny snails are prolific and compete with native snails, stone flies and caddisflies for food.

They eat dead vegetable matter or film on rocks, Gillespie said.

They could affect food webs because they can displace a lot of the animals that the fish feed on or if the fish start to feed only on snails, which dont have many nutrients, the condition of the fish could be reduced.



Organizations: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Geographic location: Vancouver Island, PORT ALBERNI, New Zealand Somass River Estuary Oregon Washington Nanaimo North America Great Lakes Idaho Yellowstone Park San Francisco Bay Clayoquot Columbia River Snake River

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