Juvenile Mussel Propagation
Freshwater mussels are considered the most imperilled group of organisms in the world. In fact, over 70% of the species in North America are in significant decline due in large part to habitat loss and pollution in our nation's streams and rivers. Because of their complex life cycle, it can be difficult for freshwater mussel population numbers to bounce back from the effects of habitat loss and pollution. Through hatchery propagation, biologists at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery help bring mussels and their fish hosts together in the lab in hopes of reversing this trend in mussel decline. Hatchery biologist venture into the field, collect pregnant female mussels, gently remove the larval mussels and attach them to the proper fish host. After several weeks they collect the metamorphosed juvenile mussels (about the size of a pen head) and feed them a special algal diet that helps the shell grow large enough for a numerical tag to be attached. The juvenile mussels are then released back into the wild to help recover lost or declining populations. The numerical tags enable biologist to return to the site to monitor the growth and survival of the released mussels.