California Sea Grant helps manage invasive quagga and zebra mussels

June 11, 2015
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As California enters another year of severe drought, protecting the state’s limited water supply from invasive quagga and zebra mussels has become more urgent. The mussels are freshwater invasive species that clog water pipes, foul boats and impact fisheries.

That’s why Extension Specialist Carolynn Culver is promoting early detection and tactics to eradicate and control these pests as part of California’s Invasive Species Action Week (CISAW) this June 6-14, 2015.

“Unfortunately, several years ago quagga mussels got into the Colorado River Aqueduct, and they’ve been moving into our Southern California waterways since then,” says Culver. Quagga mussels reach high densities that foul infrastructure and change water quality, and their water-borne, microscopic young – called veligers –have made their spread very difficult to stop.

Culver says that many people feel that nothing can be done once an aquatic invasive species makes California its home, but that isn’t the case. Water managers, landowners and citizens in Southern California do have ways to protect their waterways and lakes from damage.

As the California invasion began, Culver teamed up with the University of California Cooperative Extension, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create an early detection monitoring manual and training program for quagga and zebra mussels, as well as materials on methods for eradicating and controlling the mussels and other aquatic pests.

She also has been working with different groups to evaluate a promising new control method that uses resident fishes as biological control agents for mussel covered docks, water supply towers and other infrastructure.

“Invasive Species Action Week is a great time to remind folks that this threat is out there and action is needed to reduce the impacts and spread to other areas,” says Culver. “Early detection monitoring, clean boating practices (PDF) and effective control are ways people can help manage this and other aquatic invasive species.”

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.