Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that the Government of Canada will not, at this time, be reclassifying the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel (RMRM) as endangered under the Species At Risk Act (SARA).
A recommendation on whether to reclassify the species will be made at a future date.
The Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel (shown right) can be found in areas overlapping with the Eurasian Water-milfoil, which is an invasive plant that can negatively impact the health of aquatic ecosystems like the Okanagan and Osoyoos Lakes. During the public comment period earlier this year on the potential listing of the RMRM as an endangered species at risk, a number of important concerns were raised from local communities with respect to the possible unintended impacts on the ability to effectively control the Eurasian Water-milfoil in the same habitat as these mussels.
Canada’s natural environment and wildlife are undeniably an integral part of our lives, and our livelihood. It is a core commitment of the Government of Canada to protect our aquatic life and environment from the impacts of a changing climate, as well as from the threat of invasive species. We must also carefully consider the health and stability of the economy and protect jobs in sustainable industries across the country. Environmental protection and economic prosperity must be prioritized together.
Stakeholder groups voiced concerns about potential impacts on the overall health of the environment in the region, as well as on the livelihood of communities in the Okanagan Valley. Further analysis will be undertaken to better understand the population of this mussel, and where it is present.
The RMRM does remain a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act.
Local stakeholders including the OBWB welcomed the move allow negotiations to continue to solve the Eurasian Milfoil problems in Okanagan Lakes.
“We are very pleased with this decision. It allows more flexibility for us to manage invasive milfoil, keep the beaches clean, and protect water quality” said Anna Warwick Sears, Executive Director for the Water Board (OBWB). “Milfoil degrades the environment for all species, as well as the public’s access to the lake. Now we just need the province to renew our permit to operate in our historical treatment areas. We understand that this is within the discretion of the B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.”