Government of Canada maintains the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel as a species of special concern
August 15, 2019
Kelowna, British Columbia — 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.
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 can be found in areas overlapping with the Eurasian Watermilfoil, 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 Watermilfoil in the same habitat as these mussels.
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.
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“Helping to maintain a balance in our aquatic environments is a difficult task. Additional consideration on a potential reclassification of the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel will be done and this will also take into account socio-economic impacts and effects on the broader Okanagan Basin ecosystem. It has been determined that at this stage, maintaining the RMRM as a species of special concern under SARA is the best way forward.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“As the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) correctly pointed out there were simply far too many unanswered questions and lack of recent data to risk the unintended impacts of the reclassification of the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel. For example, such action could have the potential to make it difficult to control Eurasian Watermilfoil; an invasive species that has the potential to wreak havoc in our beautiful local lakes. I would like to thank Dr. Anna Warwick Sears and the OBWB for their excellent work and attention to this important issue.”
Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country
In Canada, the RMRM is currently limited to the Okanagan Basin in B.C. It is exposed to habitat degradation as well as threats from Zebra and Quagga mussel infestation, and the introduction of invasive fish.
The decision not to reclassify RMRM as endangered at this time comes after a comprehensive, 30-day public comment period, which ended in April, 2019. The issues and concerns raised during that period will continue to be given further consideration.
Decisions to protect species under SARA are based on many considerations including assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and other scientific advice, consultations with Canadians, Indigenous communities, and industry, as well as, importantly, an evaluation of the potential socio-economic impacts on Canadians.
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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