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Zebra Mussels

1730 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Ouachita
(the following article was first posted on

First introduced to the Great Lakes by ships dumping their ballast water, non-native zebra mussels have become
somewhat controversial.

On the one hand they disturb native environments and aren't exactly friendly to fishing line. On the other hand,
they have been credited with improving bass fishing in some waters such as Lake Erie, where sight-feeding
smallmouths have thrived in the clear water caused by the zebra mussels' filter-feeding.

State and federal agencies have campaigned to stop the spread of the mussels, but that's about all they thought
they could do – until yesterday. That's when the Virginia Department of Game (VDGIF) and Inland Fisheries
confirmed that its only infestation of zebra mussels is gone. Exterminated.

"Eradication of this noxious species from the 12-acre, 93-foot-deep abandoned quarry is believed to be the first
successful eradication of zebra mussels from a large, open body of water in North America, and perhaps the
world," the agency stated.

Virginia secretary of natural resources L. Preston Bryant, Jr. said, "The price of eradication was small
compared to the potential millions of dollars that would have been needed to control zebra mussels had they
escaped into adjacent waters, not to mention the permanent impact on the environment of the Commonwealth.

"The VDGIF, which spearheaded this effort, along with the numerous partner agencies and organizations involved,
are to be applauded for doing what no other state in the nation has been able to do: successfully eradicate an
established zebra mussel population from a large open body of water."

The mussels were in Millbrook Quarry, a privately-owned, abandoned rock quarry now extensively used for
recreational and instructional scuba diving.

VDGIF worked with numerous federal, state, and local agencies, industry and conservation organizations, and
individuals to pursue eradication of the zebra mussel population – which took 3 1/2 years, thanks to a ton of

To kill the zebra mussels through exposure to potassium, the entire quarry was injected with 174,000 gallons
of potassium chloride solution over a 3-week period. Potassium concentrations throughout the quarry and in
adjacent surface waters were measured each weekend during the treatment. Water chemistry within Millbrook Quarry
and in nearby waters will be monitored.

The cost was over $400,000. Primary funding for the eradication was provided through various grants.
The $1 million question: What will Virginia do when the mussels show up somewhere else?
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Another question is what will the effect be on the rest of the species that would inhabit the water, such as plankton, phyto-plankton, fish, turtles, etc.?

I believe that it's a good thing that they have found a way to eradicate this problem, but to what end will it hurt the rest of the species that are already established?

Congrats to my birth-state for figuring it out. :cheers: :cheers:
Zebra mussels are native to waters that are considered polluted by US standards, particularly river systems that remain choked with sediments and organics. They thrive in those foreign places because little or no improvement of water quality is going on. Agricultural practices, unchecked logging, forest fires, industrial dumping and direct injection of human waste favor the mussels. In many of our waterways the mussel can't thrive consistently because of superior water quality, so becomes a temporary threat, actually further improving water quality by filtering out what muddies the water. Continued water quality measures ought to keep the Zebra within acceptable bounds, and we should expect self eradication once there isn't enough nutrient to sustain them. The price paid for that process is depletion of the same nutrients needed by zoo/phyto plankton, directly interrupting the vital food chain, reducing baitfish and crustacean populations below what bass would need, resulting in reduction of bass populations. But maybe a long term effect of excess potassium might upset the food chain, affecting some tiny link not thought about. It's a similar situation with another exotic, hydrilla, which naturally thrives for a period then declines, sometimes rebounding, unable to thrive in water that doesn't allow sufficient penetration of sunlight. But those same conditions can reduce native plants, though natives are better adapted to occasional poor light penetration periods. Nature is quite a dynamic machine, capable of making necessary adjustments to maintain populations of native species, though probably quite a random thing. We need time to let the forces work together, while preventing new introductions of the exotics. There was a yellow weed infesting pastures in Arkansas, an event that seemed to doom growing hay for cattle. It spread like fire. Millions of dollars were spent searching for a control, then suddenly, it vanished. Nobody knows why.

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