Zebra Mussels are a real problem. The zebra mussel is an invasive water dweller that is quickly taking over the water world…so to speak. With a beautiful shell, this barnacle like shellfish appears harmless…a fine specimen for the collector of sea shells. Dead…yes, something any kid would pick up and take home to put on the shelf in her room. Alive…what a problem is ahead for all of us.
It is considered a growing billion dollar problem for industrial, agricultural, and municipal water supplies across North America.
Zebra mussels are small, fingernail-sized mussels that were accidentally introduced from Asia in 1988 and are spreading rapidly through many lakes and waterways in many states. They love fast water and are about 1 inch in size, grow in clusters, and firmly attach themselves to underwater rocks, pilings, docks, boat hulls, and water intake pipes . Zebra mussel larvae are carried in live wells and bilges in boats with the adults attaching to boat bottoms or other such floating equipment.
Therefore you must and are legally required in some state
to clean your hull, and empty bilge pumps and live wells
when you remove your boat from the water.
- SWIMMING DANGERS: As zebra mussels become more abundant the problems begin as they will harm you when you are swimming and wading because they will completely cover the bottom and the sharp shells will cut you.
- EXPENSIVE BOAT ISSUES: The Zebra mussels will attach themselves to the hull and you will have to clean the hull very often or store the boat out of the water regularly.
- FISHING QUALITY WILL DECLINE: Zebra mussels excrement will drop to the bottom in significant quantity to change the balances of all of the organisms and fish that feed there. Zebra mussels also eat the plankton in the water and that will make it clearer (but not cleaner) which will drive many fish to live much deeper due to increased natural light. That also means that more sunlight will encourage the growth of the bottom rooting plants and they will grow larger and appear in places never seen before. Because the thicker plant growth will hide small fish stocks better, the larger fish will have less to eat and that means fewer fish fishermen to enjoy.
- WATER INTAKE BLOCKAGES: Zebra mussels block the intake screens on municipal water intake grills causing expensive maintenance routines. They also affect private and commercial water intake sources causing millions of dollars in repair and cleaning that was never required with such frequency.
- HIGH LEVELS OF CONTAMINANTS: Zebra mussel acquire high levels of contaminants in their systems as a result of their feeding routines and should not be eaten even though they are edible. Likewise because of these same reasons, it is not advisable to use the crushed shells in gardens as a source of calcium. It follows then, if you cut yourself badly on a shell, medical attention should be considered.
How to kill them
The only natural predators are diving ducks and drum, carp, gobie, and some sunfish eat zebra mussels, but not in any quantities that will stop their catastrophic growth in numbers and territory.
There is no chemical treatment to control them.