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Friends of Sandy Lake has formed a committee to investigate, make recommendations, and to go forward with implementing appropriate measures to protect Sandy Lake from being invaded by Zebra Mussels. 

At its meeting of September 3, 2017, the following recommendations were approved for implementation before the boating season begins in 2018. 

  1. Work with the Municipality of Harrison Park to setup an inspection station at the main dock to be operational by the May 2018 long weekend.  Training of staff and volunteers would be done by the Province. 

  2. Close all other boat launches at Sandy Lake. 

  3. Setup a lockable gate to prevent boats from launching without being inspected. 

  4. Investigate setting up a decontamination station with the help of the Province and Municipality of Harrison Park.  (This would not be necessary if the Province sets up a decontamination station within 30 minutes of Sandy Lake.)

What Are Zebra Mussels?

Zebra mussels are an aquatic invasive species (AIS) – meaning they are not native to our lake’s ecosystem – and they are able to multiple very rapidly. 

Zebra mussels are small, clam-like aquatic animals native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. They are 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 inches) long, have triangular or “D” shaped shells, and most have light and dark brown bands on their shells. 

They have caused millions of dollars in damage in eastern Canada and will cost the North American economy billions of dollars to control. They were first confirmed in Manitoba in Lake Winnipeg in 2013 and there is a high threat of them spreading to other lakes in the province. They do not have any natural predators in Canada.

If zebra mussels establish themselves in our lake, they are here to stay.

Why Are They a Problem?

An infestation is ecologically destructive, economically devastating, and lasts forever.  If Sandy Lake were to become invaded by zebra mussels:

  • Docks, boats and boatlifts that remain in the water will become encrusted with them,

  • Cooling systems of boat motors would become clogged and require costly maintenance, 

  • Pumps and water systems that draw water from the lake would become clogged and require maintenance,

  • Food sources for fish stocks would be significantly reduced, resulting in smaller and fewer fish,

  • Toxic blue-green algae blooms will increase,

  • Property values would be reduced because Sandy Lake would be a less desirable destination for swimming, boating and fishing,

  • Businesses especially campgrounds would suffer as tourism drops and

  • Downstream waterways would also become invaded.

Resilient Out of Water

Adult zebra mussels can survive out of water up to 30 days depending on temperature and humidity. Zebra mussel veligers (larvae) are not visible to the naked eye and can survive in very little water. They are transported on boats, kayaks, canoes, diving and snorkelling gear, children’s beach toys, and anything that can hold water.

How Can I Ensure I Don’t Introduce Zebra Mussels into Sandy Lake?

Visitors to Sandy Lake

Please observe the posted signs at the boat launching areas. 

  • If your boat has been in waters that are invaded with Zebra Mussels (a control zone), you must have your boat decontaminated before you can launch it into Sandy Lake or any other body of water. 

  • If this is the first time you have launched your boat this boating season and your watercraft has been stored outside in Manitoba, the cold will have killed the zebra mussels and it is safe got you to launch it into Sandy Lake.

  • If your boat is only used at Sandy Lake and has never been launched in another body of water, it is safe for you to launch it into Sandy Lake. 

  • If you are not sure, please contact one of the individuals listed on the posted sign.

Campground owners

Please educate yourself on this serious threat and bring this to your customer’s attention if they have a boat or any water craft. 

Cottage owners

Please make sure your friends, neighbours and visitors are aware of this serious threat.  Your guests may bring canoes, kayaks or other equipment that can be launched at your beach and they would not necessarily see the signs that are posted at boat the launches.

Where have Zebra Mussels spread?

This time-lapse map, from the United States Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) online information resource, shows the spread of zebra mussels in North America.

The map to the right shows shows water bodies that have been invaded by zebra mussels as of July 7, 2016. 

In December 2017, environmental DNA evidence of zebra mussels were found in Whirlpool Lake in Riding Mountain National Park. Environmental DNA are microscopic genetic traces that an organism leaves behind as it moves through an environment. The lake and campground area are now closed until further notice as a precautionary measure.


Can we prevent zebra mussels from invading our lake?

YES, absolutely we can but we must act now and be vigilant.

There is no evidence of zebra mussels in Sandy Lake, but a substantial threat exists.  The overland movement of watercraft and water-related equipment is the primary way Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) such as zebra mussels get moved from one body of water to another.

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