PARCS UPDATE #143 - March 9 2021
To: Saskatchewan Cottage Communities
I was sitting at my desk at 1:30 pm today waiting to join a conference call meeting of the Sask Invasive Species Committee (where I represent PARCS) when this email message popped up. It is very interesting and very concerning. We will keep you updated.
Hello everyone,
I’m sorry this is very last minute, but we have to reschedule this afternoon's meeting. If you haven’t already seen information on social media, we are in the middle of an AIS response to deal with shipments of moss balls to Canada, that were confirmed to be contaminated with zebra mussels. I am including a summary of what has unfolded since we received reports about zebra mussel contaminated products in the US. 
Last Wednesday, we received notification from US counterparts that employees at pet stores in the US were finding zebra mussels and zebra mussel shells in moss ball products being sold in their stores. When this information was received, we started tracking down information on vendors, distributers, etc. within the province and across Western Canada. The large distributers supply product to several of the large pet stores and smaller private stores across the western provinces, so at that point, the western provinces began to collaborate, to get a handle on the supply chain in western Canada.
On Friday morning, we received confirmation that many of the large Canadian distributers source their product from suppliers who get their moss balls from Ukraine, where zebra mussels are native. At that point, we reached out to the Canadian distributers to request that they suspend shipments of moss balls until further notice. The large chains such as PetSmart, Petland and PetValu all sent notices to their stores, requesting that moss ball products be removed from the shelves, and are not sold.
An inspection by Alberta conservation officers and the AIS K9 unit Friday afternoon, confirmed that the current supply of 2000 moss balls sitting with a distributer in Calgary, was positive for zebra mussels. The distributer took action and contacted all of their vendors to notify them of the findings and let them know that pending shipments would not go out.
We worked with Saskatchewan conservation officers to obtain moss balls from vendors in Saskatoon, which upon inspection, were confirmed positive for zebra mussels. On Saturday, AIS staff and CFS conservation officers worked together to inspect vendors across the province, collecting what we believe was all of the retail supply of moss balls at aquarium and pet stores in Saskatchewan. We have also been able to secure sales records from a number of the large retailers, so we are able to work backwards if need be.
We have been following the same process for plant vendors, and have found a few vendors who normally carry them, but have been out of stock for some time, or who wouldn’t normally bring them in until spring. It sounds like moss balls have been difficult to source for some time, which has probably led to what we believe is a fairly recent issue.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, The Canada Border Services Agency and the Canada Food Inspection Agency have all been notified, however the primary response so far, has been led by the western provinces. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and US states have been coordinating on a similar response in the United States. Imports of moss balls into the US has been suspended, so it is unlikely that Canadian distributers will be able to source product any time soon.
E-Commerce is a very real concern here, as these products are currently available from a number of online sources such as Amazon, EBay, Etsy, etc. This has been identified to DFO and CBSA as a considerable risk.
The western provinces are taking a coordinated approach as far as direction for what the public, aquarium owners, vendors, etc. should do with respect to checking their moss balls for AIS, disposing of moss balls and treatment of fish bowls or aquariums, and the water contained within them. At this time, we are asking anyone who has moss balls that were purchased Jan 1, 2021 or more recently, to inspect and dispose of their moss balls according to the directions outlined in the news release, set to go out before the end of the day. 
  We are meeting with the F/P/T groups this afternoon to touch base, and coordinate next steps and will share information as it comes available. Again, my apologies for the last minute cancellation and that we aren’t able to share this information in person, but I know you all can appreciate the need for us to focus on our response at this time. 
I’m moving our meeting to the same time next week, as I’m sure you will have questions or will be looking for an update asap.
Jeri Geiger
Government of Saskatchewan
Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator
Fish, Wildlife and Lands Branch
Jeri Geiger is booked to be one of our speakers at our spring webinars on environmental issues - stay tuned!