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Entries in zebra mussels (66)


Industry Looks at Boat Design as a Way to Combat Mussel Invasion

Zebra mussels on shopping cart

For years, resource managers focused on education, regulations, and boat inspections to help stop the spread of invasive species such a zebra mussels. But in late January, a new tactic was initiated as a first-of-its-kind boat design summit was staged here.

“If you can build a better boat, it makes it easier down the line,” said Brian Goodwin of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), which develops safety standards and is a sponsor. “There is no silver bullet that will solve the problem. But this is part of it.”

Other sponsors included the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Minnesota and Lake Minnetonka’s Tonka Bay Marina. Minnesota ranks No. 1 nationally in boat ownership per capita.

Organizers hoped that the event would stimulate recommendations for new designs for the more than 100 boat manufacturers, marina operators, conservation leaders, and biologists in attendance.

“This is a critical piece we need to look at and make sure we’re doing all we can do to reduce the risk,” said Ann Pierce of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “I think it will be extremely beneficial, and not just for Minnesota.”

In addition to attaching themselves to hulls, mussels often stow away on boats in any place that water accumulates, including motors, bilges, livewells, and transom wells. Pontoon boats, the fastest growing sector of the boating industry, and wakeboard boats, which collect water to create wakes, especially are conductive for aquatic hitchhiking. For example, lifting strakes on pontoons enable them to go faster, but they often are sealed only at one end, allowing small mussels entry at the other.

“For a lot of companies, it’s going to be a retooling,” said Bob Menne, owner of Premier Marine, the fourth-largest pontoon manufacturer in the nation, and the only one, he said, to weld strakes and keels to keep out zebra mussels.

“We take it as a very serious issue,” he said.


New York Legislation Reminds Anglers to Clean, Drain, And Dry

Giant salvinia on boat trailer in Texas. TPWD photo

New legislation in New York makes anglers and other boaters responsible for taking common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. That means that they should clean, drain, and dry their boaters and trailers to remove plant and animal matter before transport or launch.

“New York’s new law is the latest, but not the last,” said Gene Gilliland, National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “Texas and Arizona passed clean, drain, and dry laws a few years ago.

“It is said that there needs to be legislation to enforce common sense,” he continued. “Checking your boats for clinging plants or debris, cleaning it by removing materials or power washing after you’ve boated in contaminated waters, removing the plug to drain your boat’s bilge or livewell, and drying the boat thoroughly to prevent the spread of any sort of plants or critters should be automatic --- an unconscious habit --- for all boaters.

“The fact that it is not a habit results in laws that force the issue.”

Starting in November, offenders in New York waters will receive a written notice for a first violation, along with educational materials regarding invasive species. A fine of up to $150 will be issued for a second offense, up to $250 for a third offense, and no more than $1,000 for a fourth.

Additionally, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has adopted regulations that prohibit boats from launching or leaving agency access sites without taking these precautions. Also, several local municipalities and state organizations have adopted local laws to minimize the spread of invasives, including boat inspection and washing requirements.

In 2014, New York adopted its first mandatory inspection program for boat launches on Lake George.

DEC points out that invasives threatened both tourism and sport fishing by outcompeting native species for food and habitat. Additionally, they can spread diseases, and, once established, are nearly impossible to eradicate because they have few natural predators in their new environments. Nationwide, they annually cause about $120 billion in damage.

“As much as people don't like government regulation, the problem here is one of how easily a system can be contaminated,” Gilliland said.

“A single boat can be responsible for introducing invasive mussels or plants. If boaters do not police themselves, to protect water resources, states may take drastic measures, such as we've seen in California, where boats are banned altogether from some waters.”


Mussels Could Be Contributing to Toxic Algae Blooms

Proposed reductions in phosphorous runoff from agricultural lands might not be enough to counter Lake Erie’s increasing susceptibility to toxic algae blooms, according to University of Michigan researchers.

"Our results suggest that current phosphorus loading targets will be insufficient for reducing the intensity of cyanobacteria blooms to desired levels, so long as the lake remains in a heightened state of bloom susceptibility," said lead author Daniel Obenour of the university’s Water Center.

That “heightened state” led to nearly half a million Ohio and Michigan residents being deprived of drinking water for several days in early August because of a cyanobacteria bloom containing the toxin microsystin.

The problem seems to be that the blooms are becoming more sensitive to phosphorus, according to the scientists.

But what has caused this and the corresponding increase in size of cyanobacteria blooms since the mid 1990s? That’s not so easy to explain.

Computer modeling revealed that a special form of phosphorus, DRP (dissolved reactive phosphorus) is more readily absorbed by algae, but it did not explain increased bloom susceptibility. Also, late-summer surface water temperatures did not increase enough to exacerbate the problem.

Exotic quagga and zebra mussels, however, could be a factor. The filter-feeding shellfish gorge on many species of phytoplankton, but avoid those that produce toxins. In other words, the latter now have less competition for nutrients, including phosphorus.

"We tested to see if the increase in the DRP fraction could be the cause, and it did not pass the test. It also does not look like water temperature is driving the increased susceptibility,” said Don Scavia, co-author and aquatic ecologist. “We're thinking it may have been the increase in mussels.

"As long as the lake remains in this heightened state of susceptibility, this problem is likely to persist,” he added. “That means we need to better understand what is driving the increased susceptibility and whether it can be controlled, or if deeper phosphorus reductions are needed.”


How About a Nice, Cold Beer Brewed With Zebra Mussel Shells?

Slowly but surely, the public is awakening to the value of Asian carp as food.

And what possibly could go better with a carpburger than mussel beer?

More specifically, a Milfoil Lakehouse Saison Ale, brewed with zebra mussel shells and Eurasian watermilfoil by Excelsior Brewing Co. on Lake Minnetonka. The beer with the “exotic, invasive flavor” is promoted as a way to heighten public awareness about the problems caused by exotic species.

This past fall, Grumpy’s Limited Action Beer Fest challenged breweries to develop beer using only Minnesota ingredients, and Excelsior decided it wanted to push the envelope. It blended Minnesota wild rice, Minnetonka honey, and local hops with a small dollop of aquatic hitchhikers.

“We thought, ‘We’re going to take this to the extreme,’” said Paul Awad, a spokesman for the brewery. “It ended up being a really great beer.”

He explained that only tiny amounts of milfoil and mussel shells were used, and filtering prevents beer drinkers from finding a trace of the ingredients in their glasses. “Neither of them adds a lot of flavor. It’s more the novelty of it,” he said, adding that the brew tastes like many Saisons, with fruity, spicy overtones.

Ryan Anderson from wasn’t particularly surprised by the mussel/milfoil beer. “There are some breweries out there trying some crazy things,” he said.

For example, seaweed as an added ingredient is becoming more common, while other micro breweries are trying things like fish bladders and oyster shells.

“It’s definitely a kind of interesting thing,” he said of the Excelsior beer. “But stranger things have happened.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources said the exotic brew “sounds really unusual.”

Before this latest offering, Excelsior already created beers that honored its lakeside location, including Big Island Blond Ale. Additionally, 1 percent of its profits support the popular fishery via donations to organizations such as the Freshwater Society.

Meanwhile, in the Cafeteria . . . 

The University of Missouri is testing recipes and gathering reactions as it considers adding the invasive Asian carp to the menu in its dining halls.

About 40 students tried different recipes using the fish during recent taste tests at the Sabai Culinary Development Kitchen on the Missouri campus, and their reactions will help the culinary staff decide whether to serve the fish.


Zebra Mussels Benefit Lakefront Property Owners

The damage done to fisheries and water supply infrastructures by zebra mussels has been documented for decades.

But now one researcher has discovered that these exotic shellfish are benefiting a few lucky waterfront property owners, even as they wreak havoc on ecosystems.

“We find that property values generally are higher on lakes with zebra mussels,” said Martin Meder, a University of Wisconsin economics student who decided to analyze state data for 400 lakes.

With the assistance of Marianne Johnson, a College of Business economics professor, he looked at property assessments for sale of houses on lakes known to be infested with zebra mussels.

Meder added that his research doesn’t address the causation, but “with statistical certainty, I can say that zebra mussels are associated with an approximately 10 percent increase in lakefront property prices.”

He theorized that the increased water clarity that comes with a zebra mussel infestation is one reason for the increase.

And, he added, “Some research has shown that they (zebra mussels) disadvantage some unpopular fish species. They blanket the bottom of the lake bed so carp can’t feed . . .

“They also seem to be advantageous to fish species that people like, like smallmouth bass.”