WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Looking forward to the 10th anniversary of the American debut of the zebra mussel and looking back at the tens of millions of dollars of damage the miniature mollusk has inflicted on industrial and municipal water users, it's no wonder aquaculture managers are wondering when it's their turn.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquaculture specialist LaDon Swann says "Anytime now."
The fingernail-sized mussel's ability to thrive in U.S. waters, its remarkable proclivity for proliferation, and its gift for hitchhiking in bilge water or on boat bottoms makes fish farm contamination a foregone conclusion, says Swann, who works out of Purdue University's animal sciences department. In response, Sea Grant has published a series of fact sheets to help aquaculturists prevent or control a zebra mussel infestation.
Commercial aquaculture operations, several of which operate in Illinois and Indiana, may be at risk, he says, because of the large amount of water that accompanies wild-caught fish, brood fish or fry stock that may be introduced to the operation. Undetected Zebra mussel larvae could be suspended in the water, Swann says, or the spat could be introduced though surface water supplies.
"Zebra mussels also can enter an operation through equipment such as nets, baskets and boots that have been used in infested areas," Swann says.
The problems start when the juvenile mollusks begin attaching to virtually any hard surface, including aerators, water supply valves and filtration systems. Because zebra mussels are filter feeders, they prefer settling in high-current areas which will bring a lot of food their way -- such as an intake pump.
Swann says the mussels pose two other potential problems: Some of their European ancestors
harbor organisms that can cause diseases in fish, and their American offspring may,
too. Also, a fish farm contaminated with zebra mussels could conceivably face quarantine measures or restrictions
Contact: Chris Sigurdson