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Zebra mussels are an aquatic nuisance species introduced into North America and currently found in many states east and south of North Dakota.
"We are disappointed, but not surprised that zebra mussels have entered the Red River," said Lynn Schlueter, Game and Fish aquatic nuisance species coordinator. "The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found them in the Red River watershed in the Pelican Lake chain well upstream of Wahpeton-Breckenridge last fall. And again this spring new mussel infestations were documented in Minnesota upstream of the Red River, including in Lake Lizzie."
Zebra mussel veligers can float along in river currents for weeks before eventually attaching to hard structures and growing into dime-sized mussels. When established, these invasive mussels reproduce at rapid rates. One female can produce up to a million eggs a season and each egg has the potential to develop into an adult.
Adult mussels attach to hard surfaces such as rocks, submerged trees, bridge abutments, docks and industrial or municipal water intake pipes. When in dense colonies they can block water flow in pipes, causing costly damages annually in the United States.
Zebra mussels can also alter natural ecosystems. They are siphon feeders capable of filtering about one liter of water per day while feeding primarily on plankton. These exotic mussels have the ability to alter the food chain and eventually deplete native flora and/or fauna in the affected water.
Earlier this week Game and Fish personnel collected more samples that were sent off for further testing. In addition, department biologists, along with natural resources staff from Minnesota and Manitoba, will continue periodic sampling of the Red River during the open-water season, and will work with local government entities along the Red to monitor boat docks and other hard structures for the presence of adult zebra mussels. Game and Fish staff will also provide preventative and maintenance information to municipalities along the Red River within the next few weeks.
"Zebra mussels, like most aquatic nuisance species, are extremely difficult and costly to eliminate once they are established, but what we can do is minimize the potential for people to transport them elsewhere," Schlueter said. "We can't stress enough the importance of following the laws that are already in place to prevent introduction of ANS into new waters."
Existing ANS regulations include:
- All water must be drained from boats and other watercraft, including bilges and motors before leaving a water body.
- All aquatic vegetation must be removed from boats and construction equipment, personal watercraft, trailers and associated equipment such as fishing poles/lures before leaving a body of water.
- All aquatic vegetation must be removed from bait buckets when leaving the water.
- Live aquatic bait or aquatic vegetation may not be transported into North Dakota. Also, all water must be drained from watercraft prior to entering the state.
In addition, the Game and Fish Department has developed a potential rule change that would require draining all water from livewells and baitwells prior to leaving a water body. This would mean fish, including bait, may no longer be transported in a livewell containing water. If approved, this rule would likely become effective Oct. 1.
"We encourage anglers to implement this practice immediately," Schlueter stressed. "Zebra mussels are a real threat and we donít want them to move into any other waters."
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