Zebra Mussel Alert

The spreading of unwelcome invaders to this part of Pennsylvania threatens a ‘way of life’. We all enjoy fishing, swimming, and camping in the summer. But are we aware of how invaders, such as zebra mussels, have changed the place we live?

Zebra mussels have ecological effects. In our natural world, everything is connected to everything else. When one aspect of an ecosystem is affected, it creates a domino effect resulting in unforeseen changes. Zebra mussels have changed Lake Erie, the only Great Lake shoreline within Pennsylvania. Zebra mussels filter so much ‘feed’ (phytoplankton, or tiny plants) out of the water that little is left for other native mussels or small fishes to eat. This is called a disruption to the food chain for native fish. Phytoplankton are food for small fish which, in turn, become food for the larger fish caught in recreational or commercial fisheries. Fishing suffers when zebra mussels disrupt the food chain.

Zebra mussels multiply rapidly and are able to float downstream to invade new areas. Although only a thumb-nail size mussel, they live in colonies so large they can bury working machinery (such as for dams) by clustering around the machinery. The machinery then becomes difficult to operate. Municipal water treatment plants, industrial plants, and power plants lose significant pumping capabilities and occasionally suffer shutdowns. Water users spend millions of dollars a year on zebra mussel control.

Fisherman may have to clean their props when their boats have been sitting in a lake for several days because the mussels colonize that quickly. This colonization can affect the performance of the engine and actually jam steering equipment in a large boat. Swimmers have discovered that the sharp-edged shells of zebra mussels can be a hazard to unprotected feet.

Zebra mussels are a difficult problem, but the solution to help prevent spread is simple. The following actions by boaters and anglers will stop aquatic hitchhikers, such as the zebra mussel:
· 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, clothing, dogs, etc.);
· Never release plants, fish, or animals into a body of water unless they came from that water.

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