Friday, July 1, 2011


Zebra mussel infestation on the walls of Arthu...Image via Wikipedia
Boaters reminded of threat and prevention steps before holiday weekend
EMPORIA – On Wednesday, June 29, 2011, officials with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that zebra mussels have been found in Council Grove Reservoir in Morris County and Melvern Reservoir in Osage County. Adding the twelfth and thirteenth Kansas reservoirs to the infested list disappoints KDWPT aquatic nuisance species biologist Jason Goeckler because he knows the spread can be prevented.

“We expected Council Grove Reservoir because zebra mussels naturally move downstream, and they were found in Council Grove City Lake last July,” Goeckler explained. “The Melvern infestation is a different story because it could have been prevented. I still think we can prevent further spread of aquatic nuisance species if lake users will follow a few basic precautions.”

All un-infested Kansas waters are under continual zebra mussel surveillance by KDWPT staff. A day after biologists found zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, while sampling Council Grove Reservoir, a lake user found a rock with a single adult zebra mussel attached. Within days, both veligers and adult mussels were found at Melvern Reservoir. Veligers are too small to see with the naked eye and suspend for several weeks in the water before sinking to the bottom and attaching to a hard surface. While they are suspended in the larval stage, zebra mussels can be easily transported in flowing water or water in boats, bait buckets and through other recreational activities.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas in Europe. They are believed to have been transported to the Great Lakes in the ballasts of transoceanic ships. Since first being discovered in 1988, zebra mussels have spread quickly to other waters in the Midwest. Control is expensive and there is no way to eradicate them once they become established.

While an adult zebra mussel is only about the size of a dime, the species poses a threat to our native fish and aquatic animals. One adult female can produce up to 1 million eggs per year, and zebra mussel colonies quickly become quite dense, attaching to any hard surface, including native mussels, crayfish, turtles, boats, docks, as well as water intake structures. They even attach to other zebra mussels, creating layered colonies up to 6 inches thick. Densities of more than 1 million zebra mussels per square meter have been documented in Lake Erie. In addition to the threat they pose to our environment, native species and water recreation, zebra mussels will cost water suppliers, power plants and other water-related businesses $1 billion each year -- costs we all help pay.

Adult zebra mussels are filter feeders, and an infestation can dramatically disrupt a lake’s food chain by removing plankton native fish rely on. KDWPT biologists have documented decreases in body condition and abundance in several game fish species after zebra mussel infestations. Zebra mussel feeding habits may also increase the potential for blue-green algae blooms, which can be toxic to humans and animals. Dense colonies of zebra mussels make wading and swimming along shorelines dangerous because of their sharp shells. When zebra mussels die, the odor and shell fragments that wash up make any shoreline activities unpleasant.

With these latest discoveries, KDWPT will increase local outreach efforts through signage and information materials in an attempt to educate lake users about the dangers of spreading zebra mussels. All lake users are asked to help stop the spread of zebra mussels to another water body. Goeckler reminds all anglers and boaters to remember three simple rules: CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY. Inspect your vessel for any zebra mussels before you leave the boat ramp area. (Zebra mussels are on the prohibited species list, which means they can’t be possessed alive. Having a live zebra mussel attached to your boat is a violation.). Drain all water from the boat’s livewell, baitwell and sump area (Drain any bait buckets, as well – never pour live bait into the lake, dispose of it on land.) Dry the boat and trailer for at least five days before putting them in another lake, or wash the boat and trailer with 140-degree water.

“It’s important that lake users take the threat of aquatic nuisance species seriously,” Goeckler added. “If their spread is allowed to continue, our water-based recreation opportunities may be changed forever.”
Zebra mussels are just one of several invasive species that threaten our waters. Prevent their spread by following the CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY procedures and never move water or fish from one body of water to another. For more information about aquatic nuisance species, go and click on the “STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS” window on the lower left of the Homepage.

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