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What are Aquatic Invasive Species?Aquatic invasive species (AIS) (sometimes called exotic, invasive, nonindigenous or non-native) are aquatic organisms that invade ecosystems beyond their natural, historic range. Their presence may harm native ecosystems or commercial, agricultural, or recreational activities dependent on these ecosystems. They may even harm our health.
In fact, aquatic nuisance species can be spread many ways including ships, boats, barges, aquaculture, aquatic recreation (fishing, hunting, boating, diving, etc.), water gardening, seaplanes, connected waterways and many other pathways. Through these and other means, thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species have been introduced into our country, costing us billions annually.
- zebra mussels,
- Chinese mitten crabs,
- Eurasian watermilfoil,
- sea lamprey,
- Asian carp, and
- New Zealand mudsnail.
Zebra musselsBrought here from Europe in ships’ ballast water; zebra mussels were first discovered in the Great Lakes region in 1988. Zebra mussels have inflicted tremendous damage to native ecosystems and to facilities using water, like power plants and municipal water suppliers. Millions of dollars have been spent by water users, to control and eradicate zebra mussels. And, as zebra mussel populations in an area increase, native mussels decrease; a strong indication that zebra mussels are the cause.
European green crabThese crabs invaded eastern North America in the early 1800s and were discovered in California around 1990. Green crabs probably entered the east by boats and the west in packing material of bait shipments. Females can produce an impressive 200,000 eggs annually. The European green crab eats such things as mussels, clams, snails, worms, and even other crustaceans. This diet has hurt New England’s soft shell clam industry. And, because they compete for the same food sources, they could damage commercially important Dungeness crab, oyster, and clam fisheries on the west coast.
Grants Respond to the Spread of Invasive Mussels in the West
The bottom of a boat encrusted with zebra mussels. Photo by
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that nearly $600,000 will be awarded to nine projects targeting three of the highest priorities from the Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan for Western U.S. Waters (QZAP) .
“As quagga and zebra mussels spread to the Western United States, they can have devastating ecological and economic impacts as already seen in the east and central United States. We must address the spread of these invasive aquatic species, which threaten our Nation’s natural resources, water delivery systems, hydroelectric facilities, agriculture, and recreational boating and fishing,” said Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior.
Once established these invasive mussels can clog water intake and delivery pipes and dam intake gates. They adhere to boats, pilings, and most hard and some soft substrates. The mussels negatively impact water delivery systems, fire protection, and irrigation systems and require costly removal maintenance. The spread of quagga and zebra mussels across the West brings the potential to extend devastating impacts into a geographic area already challenged with severe water-related problems.
The QZAP provides a common sense approach to guide collective efforts of those fighting the westward spread of quagga and zebra mussels. Efforts funded in this round of grants are in the list of projects below.
Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan for Western U.S. Waters