Invasive species/Zebra Mussels
Invasive species are harmful, non-native animals, plants, and microscopic organisms. They destroy ecosystems, outcompete native species for food and habitat, spread disease, and cost our economy billions of dollars annually for control, management, and restoration.
Burmese pythons in the Everglades have made most of the headlines, but aquatic invasive species are among the most harmful, especially zebra and quagga mussels. These exotic shellfish smother fish-spawning habitat, crowd out native mussels, and block water intakes with their prolific colonies.
Likely they were introduced into the Great Lakes via the ballast water of ocean-going freighters. Since the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway more than 50 years ago, dozens of invasives, including round gobies and spiny water fleas, have been brought in this way.
From the Great Lakes, they have moved out across the country. Once in rivers, they spread on their own, their larva stages pushed along by current. But to get to those rivers and inland lakes, they had to hitchhike on the boat hulls and in livewells and bilges.
Recently, quagga mussels crossed the Rockies, where they now inhabit Lake Mead and other impoundments. Resource managers in the West fear they will be a billion-dollar problem, blocking intakes, in a region where water transport is vital for public supply and agriculture.
Mussels aren’t the only ones that hitchhike either. Eurasian milfoil, hydrilla, and other troublesome plants cling to trailers and props. Didymo, an invasive alga, likely is moved from stream to stream on the felt soles of waders.
To help stop the spread of invasives and the damage they cause, here is what you can do:
* Remove any visible mud, plants, fish, or animals before transporting equipment.
* Eliminate water from equipment before transporting.
* Clean and dry anything that came in contact with water. (Boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, etc.)
* Never release plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.
A great link for more information on invasive species, including lots of photos: http://www.protectyourwaters.net/
Have you taken the Recycled Fish Sportsman’s Stewardship Pledge? If not, it’s an easy way to advance the Stewardship Ethic. Catch and Release best practices and Selective Harvest are important, but conservation and stewardship of our waters means preventing the spread of invasive species, SAFE Angling or “green fishing,” and other angler ethics. The truth is, the stuff we do every day – even off the water – matters just as much, because our lifestyle runs downstream.
Stewardship Tips are available here.