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The Pesky Zebra Mussel September 24, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Ecology.
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I noticed a recent article on the Chicago Tribune web site about an effort to clear Zebra Mussels from a local quarry. It was known at the outset that it would be a fruitless effort. There is no known way to clear an infestation. Even in Europe, where they are a food source to predators, the infestation is virtually unchecked.

One thing I didn’t know was that divers themselves are sometimes responsible for the spread of these pests, as their larvae will stick to diving equipment, especially wetsuits, even when they have apparently been dried. The recommendation is to wash them and dry them as much as possible if moving from an infested to an uninfested lake, making sure that no damp spots remain on any part of the equipment (almost impossible with my booties, which have no zipper).

While Zebra Mussels are certainly a nuisance as they cover everything in sight, they have improved visibility in the lower Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River by leaps and bounds. Without them, there would be very limited diving in the St. Lawrence due to poor (less than 5 foot) visibility.

The article also has a picture of a diver feeding Zebra mussel pieces to the local fish population. One way of passing the time on deco stops in the St. Lawrence is to carefully crush the Zebra Mussels between your fingers and feed them to the Gobies. Another Great Lakes invader, the Goby is everywhere, and you can gather quite a crowd of them in no time with a few well placed Zebras. It’s a lot more fun than playing rock-paper-scissors with your dive buddy, and while killing Zebras may appear cruel, they’re not supposed to be there in the first place.

Glove with Zebra Mussel Damage

Glove with Zebra Mussel Damage

Another downside of Zebra Mussels is that their shells are sharp and they cut your gloves, and then your hands. Technical Diving in the St. Lawrence River often involves clinging to rocks in a heavy current. And when those rocks are encrusted with Zebra Mussels, that can hurt a lot.

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Comments»

1. deepstop - October 2, 2008

The Duluth News Tribune reported today that the EPA has recently allowed ships to pick up ballast water in one place and dump it into the Great Lakes. Sounds like a recipe for more invasive species and environmental damage. 9 states and Canada are suing the Bush administration to have this administrative ruling quashed.

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2. Diving in the News, 2012/9/8 « Chronicle of an older diver - September 8, 2012

[…] I understand the reasoning having first-hand experience with Zebra mussels and Quagga mussels on my own dives in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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